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.



Intervention, Innovation and Inspiration

This chapter highlights examples of best practice in the development of respect and understanding. Most do not come under the label ‘citizenship education’ as such, but represent innovative ways of working towards political empowerment and intercultural understanding, and so share the same aims. There is also an extended discussion of school linking at the start, given its potential importance for respect and understanding. The examples are diverse in terms of the countries represented, with some taken from outside the Commonwealth – countries such as Kuwait and Mexico – since it is important to maintain awareness of practice elsewhere in the world, and learn from it. There is also substantial diversity in terms of the level of education, with some examples taken from school level and others from higher education and adult learning, as well as diversity in the provider and form of education, involving governmental and non-governmental initiatives in formal and non-formal education. Most of the examples involve transformation of the curriculum or educational environment, but importantly in some cases also involve extending access to marginalised groups. Needless to say, this is not an exhaustive account of best practice, and many other cases (such as UNICEF’s child friendly schools) could also have been included.


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