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.



Models of Citizenship and Civic Education

This well-known reflection by the seventeenth century English poet John Donne is a timeless expression of the idea we should feel solidarity not just with our immediate relatives, clan or nation, but with the whole human family. These ideas have a philosophical formulation in the idea of cosmopolitanism. Yet what is the basis of the idea that we should feel care for and responsibilities towards all human beings? Is it not right that our responsibility should be restricted to those closest to us, our family and friends or perhaps to our village, city or nation? These questions are central to discussions of ethics more broadly, but have come to the fore with the increasing prominence of debates around the concept of ‘citizenship’ in recent years. Citizenship has become a focal point for a variety of reasons, including the increasingly diverse nature of many formerly homogeneous societies through migration, debates over the granting of official residents’ rights to undocumented workers, as well as disillusionment with the conventional political processes and institutions and the consequent decline in voter turnout in some countries.


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