Is the dream still alive? what has happened to citizenship education in schools?

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There is paradox: never has citizenship education been more needed. The results of European elections, the growth of both populist and far-right parties, Brexit, the election of Trump, the challenges of terrorism, the developing fear of the 'other' and challenges to basic human rights have all begun to suggest society has fractured. Yet there is evidence that both the impact of citizenship education and indeed its place in the curriculum has been downplayed over recent years as other school and education priorities have taken the focus away from citizenship. Across Europe and wider there is research evidence to suggest that much of the impetus on citizenship education has been side-tracked - it remains on the agenda of the school, but much further down the list of priorities. However, the picture is not entirely gloomy. There is evidence that once teachers and student teachers are won to the idea of citizenship education, then the subject and more importantly the content of the subject continues to thrive. It is, though, a hard job for those of us committed to citizenship education to combat the imperatives of neoliberal education. Drawing on both large surveys and case study approaches, this paper looks at the dichotomy between the needs of a citizenship aware community, committed to human rights and the perceived needs of a competitive neoliberal economy.

The conclusions drawn are:
*There are significant barriers mitigating against successful citizenship programmes and learning;
*Where teachers are won to the idea of developing cross or inter disciplinary learning, then there can be significant gains in terms of learning and values;

The results from case study research suggests:
*Overall, there is evidence of a general improvement in values and attitudes after the pupils undertook the citizenship initiative;
*The two areas that may need some examination in terms of overall citizenship strategy are attitudes towards English people and gay people. Negative attitudes towards both are problematic and may not be challenged as forcefully as other aspects of discrimination are;
*There are significant gender issues, perhaps predictable from previous research from other places, but nonetheless stark. There is going to be no easy way to deal with this. Girls in this sample are not only outperforming boys academically but are displaying a more balanced and sophisticated outlook in general.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
EventScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference : Educational Futures in a Changing Landscape: Bridging Boundaries or "Mind the Gap"? - University of the West of Scotland, Ayr, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Nov 201724 Nov 2017


ConferenceScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleSERA Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • citizenship
  • neoliberalism
  • assessment driven agendas
  • policy priorities


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