Citizenship Education in Commonwealth Countries

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Commonwealth countries face a range of significant challenges in contemporary times, relating to conflict, HIV/AIDS, gender inequality, threats to social cohesion and disengagement of young people. The 2007 Civil Paths to Peace report gave education a central role in promoting a ‘respect and understanding’ agenda and responding to these challenges.

This study assesses the role that education – and citizenship education in particular – can play in developing respect and understanding. Citizenship education aims to develop learners’ capacities to participate in the political sphere, and to understand and defend their own rights and the rights of others.

The book outlines the concept of citizenship, its multiple orientations and the complexities of promoting political visions through education. These challenges are further explored through five case studies of Canada, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu, and through examples of best practice from around the Commonwealth and beyond.



Conclusions and Recommendations

The central dilemma for education in divided societies lies in the way its schools engage with issues of difference. The historical role of education systems has been to promote social cohesion either by inculcating children into the national community through a process of assimilation, or by preparing them for their appropriate station in life within the ordered hierarchy of society, or, perhaps more often, both at the same time. Conflict arises when elites have to work hard to maintain a position of domination or when oppressed groups see a possibility of change; violent conflict emerges when there are no alternative routes to prosecuting these claims. What then of the role of education?


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