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Citizenship education: does it have a place in the curriculum?

Carol Mutch

The call for citizenship education as a compulsory part of the curriculum has met with a varied response worldwide. While everyone would espouse the ideals of ensuring our young people grow up to be active and fair-minded citizens, why does citizenship education not figure more prominently in our curriculum? This article discusses the past, present, and possible future of citizenship education in the New Zealand curriculum.

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Citizenship education: does it have a place in the curriculum?

Carol Mutch


The call for citizenship education as a compulsory part of the curriculum has met with a varied response worldwide. While everyone would espouse the ideals of ensuring our young people grow up to be active and fair-minded citizens, why does citizenship education not figure more prominently in our curriculum? This article discusses the past, present, and possible future of citizenship education in the New Zealand curriculum.


The call for citizenship education as a compulsory part of the curriculum has met with a varied response worldwide. In the United Kingdom it was made a compulsory cross-curricular theme in 2002 (see, for example, Kerr, 2002); in the United States (where it is known as civics) it is a curriculum area with a set of national standards (Pederson & Cogan, 2002); in Australia there is ministerial endorsement of Discovering Democracy (a programme that is federally funded and distributed to all states) and there are active citizenship programmes in most states (O’Brien & Parry, 2002); in Canada there has been renewed interest across the provinces (Hēbert & Sears, 2001); in New Zealand, it barely rates a mention.

This article takes the notion of citizenship education and discusses its relationship to the current New Zealand curriculum. Why has this concept not taken root? I will argue that although it is not specifically named as such, it does exist in a range of guises. I will also argue that there is huge potential for enhancing and strengthening the threads that do exist. This article begins with a general discussion of citizenship and citizenship education. I then examine the history of citizenship education in the New Zealand curriculum and discuss its current status before concluding with recommendations for strengthening its potential.

Citizenship: what is it?

If not born in New Zealand or of New Zealand parentage, an applicant for New Zealand citizenship must, under the Citizenship Act 1977, have:

•&;&;&;&;completed a period of permanent residency for three years (or two years, if married to a new Zealand citizen);

•&;&;&;&;the intention to continue to live in New Zealand;

•&;&;&;&;the ability to understand and speak English;

•&;&;&;&;a knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of New Zealand citizenship; and

•&;&;&;&;been certified to be of good character.1

So what are these “responsibilities and privileges”? Yvonne Hēbert and Alan Sears (2001), writing for the Canadian Education Association, define citizenship as “the relationship between the individual and the state, and among individuals within a state” (p. 1). Rob Gilbert (1996, p. 108), an Australian social studies educator, views citizenship as a contested term. He explains: “Some definitions emphasise the nation state as an entity to which people should give allegiance and loyalty. Other definitions emphasise individual rights or a sense of shared loyalty. Others focus on citizen participation in government.” Gilbert outlines four major views of citizenship:

•&;&;&;&;as a status implying formal rights and duties;

•&;&;&;&;as an identity and a set of moral and social virtues based on the democratic ideal;

•&;&;&;&;as a public practice conducted through legal and political processes; and

•&;&;&;&;as participation in decision making in all aspects of life.

When discussing citizenship in New Zealand elsewhere (for example, Mutch, 2005) I have adapted these categories as follows, with the second one being separated into two to make a total of five: citizenship as status; citizenship as identity; citizenship as the democratic ideal; citizenship as public practice; and citizenship as participation.

Citizenship as status relates to the legal rights and responsibilities that a person has as a member of a nation state and of a community within that political entity. Citizenship as identity is broader than purely national identity—it can include religious, political, ethnic, regional, or other affiliations, a notion that Kymlicka (1995) calls “multicultural” or “multiple citizenship”. Citizenship as the democratic ideal focuses on the Western view of citizenship and important notions such as democracy (that is, government by due political process), freedom, and human rights. Kennedy (2004, citing Fukuyama, 1995) talks of the four levels at which the consolidation of democracy takes place:

Level 1: Ideology. This is the level of normative beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of democratic institutions and their supporting market structures;

Level 2: Institutions. This sphere includes constitutions, legal systems, party systems, economic structures and the like. Institutions change less quickly than ideas about legitimacy, but they can be manipulated by public policy;

Level 3: Civil society. This is the realm of spontaneously created social structures separate from the state that underlie democratic political institutions;

Level 4: Culture. This deepest level includes phenomena such as family structure, religion, moral values, ethnic consciousness, ‘civic-ness’; and particularistic historical traditions. (p. 17)

Citizenship as public practice refers to all the formal statutes, laws, and processes (as well as customs, traditions, and informal cultural norms) that guide behaviour within that society. Citizenship as participation is about taking all the opportunities that living in a democracy provides to enhance the quality of life, from community-mindedness to participation in local organisations, from national activism to global awareness.

The Citizenship Education Policy Study, in which over 300 high-level international educational policy makers participated in an iterative process to determine the essential requirements for people of the future, outlines the skills or states of mind needed to be active or “multidimensional” citizens. The findings of this study (Cogan, 1997) highlight these skills as critical for coping with, or managing, the global trends of the next two decades:

•&;&;&;&;ability to look at and approach problems as a member of a global society;

•&;&;&;&;ability to work with others in a cooperative way and take responsibility for one’s roles and duties;

•&;&;&;&;ability to understand, accept and tolerate cultural differences;

•&;&;&;&;capacity to think in a critical and systemic way;

•&;&;&;&;willingness to resolve conflict in a non-violent manner;

•&;&;&;&;willingness to change one’s lifestyle and consumption habits to protect the environment;

•&;&;&;&;ability to be sensitive towards and to defend human rights … and

•&;&;&;&;willingness and ability to participate in politics at local, national and international levels. (p. 20)

New Zealand educator Hugh Barr (2005) summarises the variety of definitions, as follows:

Citizenship has traditionally been defined in terms of communities in general and in terms of the nation state in particular. Citizens’ social, political, economic, and linguistic identities have generally been formed within states. This process has always involved more than just legal status; the term ‘citizen’ also suggests particular attitudes and values towards the state and fellow citizens. Citizenship then embodies the ideals that represent what a citizen ought to be and how he or she ought to live in order to enjoy the rights that the states bestow on their citizens. (p. 56)

Citizenship education: what is it?

In a report on citizenship education in 16 countries, David Kerr (2000, p. 2) gives this definition: “Citizenship or civics education is construed to encompass the preparation of young people for their roles and responsibilities as citizens and, in particular, the role of education (through schooling, teaching and learning) in that preparatory process.” Hēbert and Sears (2001, p. 1) are more concise: “Citizenship education is the preparation of individuals to participate as active and responsible citizens in a democracy”. Barr (2005) states:

The educational process that leads to effective citizenship has therefore been concerned with learning about how the state functions, about citizens’ rights and responsibilities within the state, and about attitudes and values that help develop positive relationships between individual citizens and the state. (p. 56)

Veldhuis (1997, cited in Hēbert & Sears, 2001) describes citizenship as crossing four dynamic and interconnected domains: the civil, the political, the socioeconomic, and the cultural or collective. The civil domain relates to fundamental beliefs and goals about freedom of speech, equality before the law, freedom of association, and so on. Hēbert and Sears summarise the relationship of the other domains to education as follows:

The political domain requires knowledge of the political system, democratic attitudes, and participatory skills. The socio-economic domain requires knowledge of social relations in society and social skills; as well as vocational training and economic skills for job-related and other economic activities. The cultural domain requires knowledge of the cultural heritage, history and basic skills such as good literacy skills. (p. 2)

Citizenship education in New Zealand has not existed as a separate subject in our country’s curriculum history. The overall aims of the curriculum, however, have included notions of citizenship through the values to be upheld, the characteristics to be fostered, and the content to be covered in subjects such as history and social studies. In Kerr’s (2000) study, countries varied in their approaches and the study lists the variety of guises under which such preparation occurs: “citizenship, civics, social sciences, social studies, world studies, society, studies of society, life skills and moral education” (p. 2). In the current New Zealand context it could be argued that values, environmental, and health education could be added to that list.

As Kennedy (2004) states: “Citizenship education cannot stand by itself, independent of cultural norms, political priorities, social expectations, national economic development aspirations, geo-political contexts and historical antecedents” (p. 17). It is therefore useful to look back into history a little to seek some explanations for the current situation.

Citizenship education: a brief history

Notions of citizenship in New Zealand have been tied to the development of the nation’s identity and what it means to be a New Zealander. In an article elsewhere on the rising interest in values education in New Zealand (Mutch, 2000), I described curriculum history in New Zealand as falling into three broad eras, each characterised by prevailing tensions in which stakeholders vie for greater control over curriculum content and process. The stakeholders work from competing ideological positions underpinned by differing worldviews. The three eras are titled indigenous versus colonial, liberal progressive versus traditional conservative, and new right versus liberal left. This framework is equally useful to describe New Zealand’s developing identity and views of citizenship.

Indigenous versus colonial

Before European colonisation, identity in New Zealand was related to family and tribe. Physical and spiritual ties to the land were exemplified by the relationship to geographical features such as mountains and rivers. Through a strong oral tradition, Māori learnt to recite their genealogy, from their relationship to their canoe through their family lineage to the present.

In the 1800s, the mainly British settlers brought with them a different view of the world and of personal and cultural identity. Although one of the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi granted Māori the rights of British citizenship while retaining sovereignty over their land, the words and concepts did not translate easily. The differences in motivation and interpretation were one cause of the Land Wars of the 1860s and were to lead to the political and economic marginalisation of Māori by the end of the 19th century. A society whose identity had been interwoven with the people and the land around them now became fragmented and alienated.

The first formal national curriculum was written after the Education Act of 1877. This curriculum gives an insight into what it meant to be a New Zealand citizen at that time. If you were a primary-aged student, you studied English grammar and composition, reading, writing, arithmetic, science, geography, vocal music, and drawing, with needlework and domestic skills for girls, and history as a subject from which parents could withdraw their children if they wished. This was modelled, of course, on the schooling in the homeland of the more recent arrivals. The Act also included the suggested syllabus for those able to go on to high school as “all the branches of a liberal education comprising Latin and Greek classics, French and other modern languages, mathematics and such other branches of science as the advancement of the colony and increase of population may from time to time require” (Bailey, 1977, p. 3). The concept of “citizen” at this time was tied to the “Homeland” and the “Empire”. Education for Māori was covered by the separate Native Schools Act, but the intention was the same: as stated by a school inspector of the times, “to bring an uninitiated but intelligent and high-spirited people into line with our civilisation” (cited in Bailey, 1977, p. 5). Citizenship ideals were taught through history, geography, civics, and moral instruction. As McGee (1998, p. 47) states: “The dominant themes of character training and moral content which were offered to the masses in eighteenth and nineteenth century England were brought to New Zealand by the early colonists.” Along with these was a new theme, that of loyalty to the British Empire.

Traditional conservative versus liberal progressive

The view of the British Empire as the centre of the civilised world, to which her far-flung citizens were privileged to belong, continued into the next century. New Zealand’s world view was continually strengthened by her participation in, or the repercussions of, world events (world wars and more localised conflicts, economic depressions and booms, sporting and cultural events, social and educational movements, and the formation of military, economic, and political alliances). The school curriculum in the late 1920s included citizenship both as a topic in the history curriculum and as a diffusion of values through the content in this and other subject areas. As a topic, citizenship was to include: clubs; rules; “laws we all obey”; “care of public property”; “conduct in the street”; the flag; Parliament; mayors; councils and taxes; government departments; “the national debt”; and “the meaning of true citizenship”.

The “meaning of true citizenship” would have been a contestable item. The two main ideological views of the time were those of the traditional conservatives and the liberal progressives. A traditional conservative view of what it meant to be a New Zealand citizen looked back to Britain, to a more stratified society, and was proud that New Zealand provided raw materials for Britain’s manufacturing and young men to fight for the British Crown. Liberal progressives sought to establish a view of citizenship that focused on a more egalitarian society, on upholding democracy, on an international “brotherhood”, and on providing social and educational opportunities for all. The famous statement penned by Clarence Beeby, Assistant Director of Education for Prime Minister Peter Fraser in the 1930s (cited in Alcorn, 1999), exemplifies this view:

The Government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that every person whatever his [sic] level of academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has a right as a citizen, to a free education for which he is best fitted and to the fullest extent of his powers. (p. 99)

After World War II patriotic citizenship ideals were emphasised, as in the 1950s syllabus for social studies:

Each part of the curriculum contributes to the preparation of children for life in our society; but history and geography by virtue of their content, are particularly rich in opportunities for the development of the attitudes, the abilities, and the various kinds of appreciation that are necessary in a democratic society such as ours … Love of one’s country, willingness to serve it, and faith in its future are a complex growth which should begin in the primary-school child’s own emotional life.

(Department of Education, 1954, p. 1)

In the 1960s there was a shift from the postwar patriotic rhetoric to one with a focus on social justice and a more global view. The aim of social studies at this time was:

… to help children understand the world they live in and take their own place in it. In particular, social studies should help children to think clearly about social problems, to act responsibly and intelligently in social situations, and to take an intelligent and sympathetic interest in the various peoples, communities, and cultures of the world.

(Department of Education, 1961, p. 1)

New right versus liberal left

Trowler (1998) explains that there are two strands to “new right” ideology— neo-conservative and neo-liberal—and that, at times, they seem to make strange bedfellows. Neo-conservative values support strong government, social authoritarianism, a disciplined society, hierarchy, and subordination. Neo-liberal values focus on the individual, freedom of choice, a market society, a laissez-faire approach, and minimal government intervention. The view of the “liberal left”, as described elsewhere (see, Mutch, 2005, p. 194) is “a fusion of earlier liberal progressive and more recent socially critical perspectives”.

After a time of economic prosperity in the 1960s, with a high standard of living and full employment, the world economy worsened and New Zealand’s social cohesion began to show the effects of tensions. Women, Māori, and youth were raising their voices. Anti-war and anti-apartheid demonstrations were staged. Environmental concerns were raised. This heralded the third era—that of tension between the new right’s economic solutions and the liberal left’s cry for social justice. Feminists challenged entrenched patriarchal views of identity and citizenship. Calls were made for the recognition of Māori language and culture, both to ensure their survival and to acknowledge the contribution they made to the fabric of New Zealand society.

In 1993, the New Zealand Curriculum Framework was released after two previous, conflicting attempts to determine New Zealand’s curriculum policy directions. In the final, more centrist, document, Maris O’Rourke, Secretary for Education, highlighted the government’s view of what it meant to be a citizen of New Zealand and the world (Ministry of Education, 1993) with the following statement:

Today, New Zealand faces many significant challenges. If we wish to progress as a nation, and to enjoy healthy prosperity in today’s and tomorrow’s competitive world economy, our education system must adapt to meet these challenges … we need a workforce which is increasingly highly skilled and adaptable, and which has an international and multicultural perspective. (p. 1)

Citizenship education: recent curriculum documents

During the 1980s and 1990s, the view of a citizen as a skilled contributor to the economy was diffused through educational discourse. As the 1990s came to a close without the economic experiment bearing its anticipated fruit, other views of national and global citizenship resurfaced. A change of government in 1999 also signalled a change of rhetoric, as the newly-elected centre-left coalition talked of “social cohesion” and “closing the gaps”. These ideas were already emerging in the curriculum documents of the late 1990s.

As we have seen, there has not been a single dominant view in New Zealand of what it means to be a citizen, but rather competing views whose influence shifted according to the political climate of the moment. In the latter half of the 20th century, the focus appears to have shifted from one of citizenship as status and allegiance to our nation and heritage to a broader view of our position and participation in local, national, and global affairs. The next section examines how a selection of current school curriculum documents address concepts of citizenship.

I will illustrate notions of citizenship by examining three curriculum areas: social studies, health and physical education, and environmental education, all of which provide complementary views of the nature of citizenship education in New Zealand.

The social studies curriculum

There are several approaches in the social studies curriculum that are intended to equip students to become “confident, informed and responsible citizens” (Ministry of Education, 1997, p. 8). First, the content strands cover many concepts underpinning citizenship ideals. Examples of key concepts in the social organisation strand are: understanding how and why groups are organised; how leadership is exercised; making and implementing laws; exercising rights and responsibilities; maintaining social justice and human rights; and the impacts of reform. The culture and heritage strand looks beyond the concepts in its title to consider interaction between groups, the movement of peoples and ideas, and adaptation to change. Place and environment also considers change, movement, interaction, and resolving differences, but within the context of the physical as well as the social environment. Time, continuity, and change aims to help students to see patterns over time and to become aware of the ways in which the past affects the present and the future. Concepts other than those in the title of the strand include influences, causes and effects, points of view, and interpretations. In resources and economic activities, students examine the allocation and management of resources, participation in economic activities, the changing nature of work, and the social consequences of economic change.

Second, the process strands provide the means for teaching skills in a relevant context. In the inquiry process, students collect, analyse, and communicate information, reflecting on both the “process” and the “product”. This process is important in the preparation for the role of citizen, because it ensures that students collect relevant information on which to base their judgements and decisions. Through values exploration, students examine and clarify their own values and those of others in relation to selected issues. The document states: “When children explore values they are challenged to think about the nature of social justice, the welfare of others, acceptance of cultural diversity, and respect for the environment (Ministry of Education, 1997, p. 17). In the social decision-making process, students take the next step and decide on appropriate courses of action on the basis of the information and skills they have gained.

Third, the content and processes taught within any chosen topic are intended to reflect a range of perspectives. The importance of New Zealand’s developing identity can be seen in the bicultural, multicultural and gender perspectives. These ensure that teaching and learning look beyond the understandings and experiences of a dominant culture or group. Perspectives on current issues provide an understanding of how and why local, national, and international issues have arisen. The inclusion of perspectives on the future is a new and timely addition to social studies education. The purposes of this perspective, which are closely aligned to notions of citizenship (especially global citizenship), are to:

encourage students to practice creative problem solving skills;

develop in students the confidence that they can contribute to the future of their society and help shape it;

examine the possible future impact of current global trends;

develop understandings of how future changes in work patterns and in technology may affect society and individual people; [and]

examine a range of perspectives on the future.

(Ministry of Education, 1997, p. 21)

The health and physical education curriculum

Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1999a) promotes a very holistic view of identity and citizenship. Sharyn Pratley (1999), an adviser in health and physical education, claims that, as curriculum areas, health and physical education underwent major transformations between the 1980s and the release of the current document. The health curriculum had previously focused on individual responsibility for health and physical wellbeing. Physical education had taken a very scientific approach, establishing itself as an academic subject in the secondary school by teaching anatomy, exercise physiology, and biomechanics. In the primary school, physical education was very skills based. The current approach integrates health and physical education and views them as socially constructed notions. The document states that the curriculum is underpinned by four concepts—wellbeing (hauora), health promotion, the socioecological perspective, and attitudes and values that promote hauora (Ministry of Education, 1999a). The four strands expand upon these ideas and delineate the new areas of academic focus: personal health and physical development; movement concepts and motor skills; relationships with other people; and healthy communities and environments. The third and fourth strands, in particular, demonstrate key citizenship education concepts.

The environmental education guidelines

Currently, environmental education is not a compulsory part of the curriculum. As the new curriculum went through its various developments, environmental education was included in the 1998 and 1991 drafts as a curriculum area along with technology and science, but in the final curriculum framework of 1993 it was no more than part of a strand in the social studies curriculum. Schools were left to take their lead from the Ministry for the Environment’s (1998) Learning to Care for Our Environment document. This views environmental education as “a multi-disciplinary approach to learning that develops the knowledge, awareness, attitudes, values and skills, that will enable individuals and the community to contribute towards maintaining and improving the environment” (Ministry for the Environment, 1998, p. 9). It classifies three types of environmental education—education about the environment, education in the environment, and education for or with the environment.

This document was followed, in 1999, by the Ministry of Education’s Guidelines for Environmental Education. The guidelines open by declaring that “as New Zealanders, we value our environment for recreational, aesthetic, economic, cultural, and spiritual reasons. New Zealand’s future as a nation relies on our maintaining a quality environment” (Ministry of Education, 1999b, p. 6). The status of these guidelines is ambivalent, as they are not a compulsory part of the curriculum. They use an integrated approach and outline how each aspect of the compulsory curriculum is complementary. The views of citizenship inherent in the document promote individual and collective responsibility and global awareness, and are supported by an action-oriented approach to the topics studied.

Citizenship education: the role of the school

Schools play an important role in citizenship education. Reed (2004, p. 241) considers that schools are “the primary social institution charged with transmitting and perpetuating social values, civic values and for introducing the notion of global identity”. More important, however, is the way schools model democratic values and citizenship principles. The IEA Civic Knowledge and Engagement Study (Torney-Purta, Lehmann, Oswald & Schulz, 2001, p. 8) found that “schools that model democratic values by promoting an open climate for discussing issues and inviting students to take part in shaping school life are effective in promoting both civic knowledge and engagement.” Reed supports this: “although education is broadly conceived here to include non-formal and informal education as well as formal schooling, schools are acknowledged as official sites for the interpretation and transmission of values, the conservation of traditional values, and as potential sites for transformation” (pp. 240–241, my emphasis). Thus, as institutions, schools are charged with the transmission of societal values through curriculum content. They also have the opportunity to model the expression of those values through their structures and practices.

As the chief transmitters or transformers of knowledge, teachers also take a key role in citizenship education. Kennedy and Fairbrother (2004) state:

Teachers are central when it comes to the implementation of citizenship education in classrooms. Whether curriculum guidelines are centrally or locally determined, whether teachers have been involved or not in curriculum decision-making processes, and irrespective of the strength of the nation-state’s support for citizenship education, it is teachers in their classrooms who eventually determine the substance and direction that citizenship education will take. (p. 298)

Hēbert and Sears (2001, citing Sears & Hughes, 1996) place citizenship education approaches along a continuum from “conservative” and “passive” to “active”. Conservative or passive approaches emphasise loyalty to the nation state and rely on the accumulation of factual knowledge about history and tradition. Active approaches involve engagement with issues and participation at a range of levels, from local to global. New Zealand approaches are more at the active end of the continuum (see, for example, Barr, 1998), although some might argue that there is room for more learning related to our various histories and traditions in order to understand the present and the future (see, for example, Millar, 2005).

In a recent case study of a New Zealand school’s practices in relation to citizenship education (Mutch, 2003), I interviewed classroom teachers. One teacher defined citizenship as follows:

Citizenship is when you belong to a group, school, culture. Citizenship education is about how you can enhance relationships … like a big family. It’s about respect, values, interrelationships, how children are taught right and wrong. The ideal is paramount.

(Cited in Mutch, 2003, p. 175)

The teachers felt that in New Zealand the formal curriculum, with the exception of health and social studies, did not expressly outline citizenship ideals. One teacher commented that it was hard not to be superficial and tokenistic when approaching such important and complex ideas. Several participants felt that what was most important was how individual teachers approached the curriculum and made use of all the informal opportunities to reinforce these ideals. The teachers thought that showing respect for the children they taught—personally, as individuals, and for their cultures and beliefs—was the most important way they could model these ideals.

As the teachers in this school suggested, not all citizenship education happens in formal learning situations. Hugh Barr, in an article titled “Citizenship education without a textbook” (Barr, 1998), argued that New Zealanders are active citizens because of the pedagogical practices and informal curricular and non-curricular activities in New Zealand schools. He cited the various school-wide duties that students undertake, their participation in activities such as school camps, and the integrated and interactive learning undertaken in many classrooms.

The school in the case study demonstrated that democratic practices and citizenship values are being fostered, even if they are not articulated as such. The teachers highlighted the importance of those values being modelled by the school. My findings (Mutch, 2003, p. 178) showed “a high degree of congruence between the school’s vision, the practices and policies in place, the teachers’ stated beliefs and practices, the curriculum content selected, the pedagogical practices employed and the behaviour modelled.”

Kennedy and Fairbrother (2004), however, feel that until citizenship education has higher status in the curriculum it will not achieve its aims:

The dilemma can also be seen in the fact that citizenship is rarely examined in the same way as other academic subjects are. Educationally speaking, this is probably as it should be. There is little doubt, however, that more status is attached to examinable subjects especially where marks contribute to university entrance requirements. (p. 298)

Citizenship education: its current status

So what is the current status of citizenship education? Although I have shown that the threads of citizenship exist in the formal curriculum, and that schools and teachers are actively concerned about the principles that underpin citizenship notions, the rise in popularity of programmes that teach values or “virtues” in schools appears to indicate that something is missing from the curriculum.

This concern was also picked up by the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Stocktake Report. When talking about the purpose of the curriculum, it states: “Curricula help develop a creative and innovative citizenry, developing lifelong learners and safeguarding and promoting social cohesion” (Ministry of Education, 2002, p. 3). The report recommended that local and global citizenship skills be added to the essential skills and suggests the following future-focused, cross-curricular themes:

•&;&;&;&;social cohesion, including resilience and a sense of social connectedness;

•&;&;&;&;citizenship (local, national, global);

•&;&;&;&;education for a sustainable future;

•&;&;&;&;bi-cultural and multi-cultural awareness;

•&;&;&;&;enterprise and innovation; and

•&;&;&;&;critical literacy (including digital literacy).” (p. 7)

Claire Sinnema (2004, p. 13) an independent consultant investigating the possibility of renaming the social sciences area, makes the following comments: “There has been a revival of interest in citizenship education, and a move towards focusing on or including Citizenship in national curriculum.” She concludes: “Dialogue around the place of citizenship in New Zealand’s curriculum has begun to, and will continue to occur.”

One avenue for this dialogue is through the New Zealand Curriculum Marautanga Project (2005), which lists one of the key issues emerging in the social sciences area as the need for key concepts of identity and citizenship to be made explicit. Another form in which this dialogue is taking place is the feedback on discussion documents such as Making a Bigger Difference for All Students (Ministry of Education, 2004), which states that:

The New Zealand Curriculum takes a broad view of student outcomes from schooling. It emphasizes that outcomes for students as a result of their schooling include what they know (knowledge), what they can do (skills), and who they are in relation to self and others (values and attitudes, including a strong personal and cultural identity). (p. 4)

The social sciences essence statement, Tikanga-a-iwi (Ministry of Education, 2005), sums up what I would see as the “essence” of citizenship:

The benefit for individuals, communities, country and the wider world should be a shared passion for a richer, more cohesive, sustainable, and exciting society—and a willingness to embrace differing views of what is important, needed, and how it should be achieved. (p. 1)

Citizenship education: does it have a place in the curriculum?

The question posed in the title can be read two ways—first, should we have citizenship education in the curriculum, and second, does it already exist? Whatever we might choose to call the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to promote active, caring, inquiring citizenship, I am sure we would all agree that they must be fostered, for the good of our society, both today and tomorrow. In this article I have not delved into the role of the home, the community, or society in general, but clearly they each have a part to play as well.

Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model is a useful framework for considering the relationship of all the influences on a child’s or young person’s acquisition of citizenship concepts. Bronfenbrenner’s model uses the analogy of a set of nested Russian dolls with the child at the centre. The largest doll gives identity and shape to the structure. If we take the outer doll as society, then this could represent the overall question of what it means to be a New Zealand citizen. What are our rights and responsibilities? What are the values we hold dear? What are the outcomes sought through the education process? The New Zealand Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education, 1993) provides some clue to these aspirations. It states:

The school curriculum, through its practices and procedures, will reinforce the commonly held values of individual and collective responsibility which underpin New Zealand’s democratic society. These values include honesty, reliability, respect for others, respect for the law, tolerance (rangimarie), fairness, caring or compassion (aroha), non-sexism, and non-racism. (p. 21)

The next doll, or layer, could be seen as the formal curriculum. As we have already seen, the school curriculum does contain the opportunities to foster citizenship ideals, both in its present form and in its suggested revisions. These opportunities, however, need to be made more explicit to teachers and the community. Kennedy and Fairbrother (2004) suggest that recognition of citizenship education in the broader curriculum should start with the policy makers and cascade down:

Policy-makers need to develop an approach to school subjects that enables teachers to value legitimate academic objectives while at the same time pursuing other objectives that are part of the school’s broader purposes. Outcomes of schooling, other than academic outcomes, need to be legitimated if citizenship education is to be seen as a valuable part of school education by teachers, students and their parents. (p. 298)

The next layer is the individual school, which interprets the formal curriculum and models (explicitly or implicitly) the value it places on democratic organisational structures and citizenship practices.

The final layer surrounding the child or young person in the schooling setting is the teacher. Through their beliefs and behaviours, teachers are the major determinant of whether citizenship ideals are “taught” or “caught”, both by their explicit teaching in curriculum areas such as social studies and health, and by how they interact with others and set up patterns of activity and interaction in their classrooms.

Any recommendations about citizenship education need to be seen in the light of Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model, in which each layer interacts with the others, but which is shaped by the overall context in which the whole structure sits.

Policy makers need to agree on the place of citizenship education in the curriculum: does it have a place in the curriculum, now or in the future? If it is already included, it needs to be made much more explicit—not just in the social sciences area, but where appropriate right across the formal curriculum. We also need to consider its place in informal and extra-curricular areas. If, as the research tells us, modelling by schools and teachers is crucial to the adoption of active citizenship by students, this also needs to be made more explicit, and built in to pre-service and in-service teacher education, leadership training, and school development programmes. As Kerr (1999) concludes:

“As countries reconsider and revise their approach to citizenship education, in order to meet the impact of global change, there is a need to consider citizenship education as a whole package. This means not only examining definitions, aims and approach, but also ensuring that the curriculum that is drawn up and the curriculum that the students experience support the overall aims and approach. For this to happen, more consideration has to be given to the educative process, to teaching and learning approaches, to support structures and to the needs of teachers and students in terms of training, resources and attitudes. There also has to be much deeper thinking about what is meant by ‘effective citizenship education’. It is quick and easy to state as a defining aim of education but difficult, messy and time consuming to achieve and sustain in practice.” (p. 26)


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The author

Carol Mutch is currently a director at the Christchurch College of Education. Her portfolio includes oversight of research and academic developments. Her research interests are educational policy, curriculum development, and social studies education. Dr Mutch has written for international journals and edited books on citizenship education, social studies, educational policy, and qualitative research. Her latest book, Doing Educational Research: A Practitioner’s Guide to Getting Started, is available through NZCER Press.