The main focus of this blog will be on an aspect of citizenship, which is the family. The topic, family is a very broad subject and will therefore include a variety of issues which affects the implementation of citizenship education. Some of these issues are the problems surrounding the implementation of the topic, family, citizenship in the school and, the effect it has on the pupils and teachers.
Work on voluntary groups will be used as examples to explain some of the points put forward. This is indeed appropriate, because similarly to voluntary organisation, the family can be deemed as a local, national or international organisation. The family can be related as a community and once that relationship is positively engaged in the school, then there can be a good ethos and progression in the school. This type of positive relationship might not have been at the home and therefore the school need to take on this onus. I believe that the best medium through which can be done is through citizenship.
It was necessary to do a short history of citizenship in order to understand the developments leading to the introduction of citizenship into the curriculum. There was also some need to examine some aspects of the topic family in order to understand the impact that citizenship can and has had on the pupils.
In fact, the issues, topics, theories and implications will always be directed towards the pupils and to some extent the teachers.
The pupils and the teachers will be the main focus because, citizenship, as a subject will be mandatory in all schools in England. In light of the situation, it is crucial to show how such a new subject will affect them with the aims and objectives in mind.
History of Citizenship in the schools of Britain
There was little interest in the teaching of citizenship irrespective of its title, between 1950-1970. It is very important that the history of citizenship is understood, particularly since its history can give some insight into reasons for its re-emergence into the schools.
It has only been two years since the term ‘citizenship’ has started to become familiar and to feel important in schools. During its progression the makeup of citizenship was similar to Civics and the teaching about the British constitution. (Fogelman, (1991) has explained that there have, however been changes with the addition of a wider body of knowledge to citizenship, issues of attitudes, personal skills and participation.
He further explained the origin or cause for these changes.
“There has been concern about the political community knowledge, commitment and involvement of young people in our community” (Fogelman, 1991, pg 1)
Fogelman’s rationale for the cause of a more in depth curriculum of citizenship can be further explained with the negative impact of national life and decay in society. A moral panic represented by incidents such as the murder of James Bulger and Stephen Lawrence summarizes the need for social, moral, spiritual, cultural and political awareness by the pupils in the schools. This could therefore, be deemed as an example of Fogelman’s statement when he refers to the concern of the young people in the’ society.
There has also been a need for participation in democracy and the capacity to engage in current debates on issues such as the environment, sustainable development, health and genetic modification.
“Education for citizenship develops the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for exploring, making informed decisions and exercising responsibilities and rights in a democratic society”. (National Curriculum council, 1990, pg2)
The curriculum guidance as briefly outlined, gave some aims of citizenship education. The aim of citizenship which stood out clearly was that of making informed decisions and exercising rights in a democratic society. This is most appropriate because democracy is very much at the heart of citizenship education and if pupils are empowered to make informed decisions, then that in itself is democracy. It becomes helpful as well since some of the topics have no set answers, and if pupils are able to make their own decisions, then it could cause fewer conflicts in beliefs and also enhances a greater level of tolerance and respect for each other.
In the developments of citizenship education, the ways in which the new subject was to be delivered had to be taken upon board. The five cross-curricular themes were part of the whole curriculum and have been part of the developments in the delivery of citizenship.
“Although the National Curriculum itself is conceived in terms of the ten core and foundation subjects, it is only a part of the whole curriculum”.
(Fogelman, 1991, pg 2)
The point made by Fogelman is important since it made reference to the whole-curriculum, an aspect of the delivery of citizenship in the schools. Fogelman further explained the developments when h( showed that the cross-curricular elements makes up part of the whole curriculum. These elements include the five cross curricular themes which Fogelman highlighted as “economic and industrial understanding: Careers education and guidance; health education; environmental education and education for citizenship”.
(Fogelman: 1991, pg2)
The description of the curricular themes shows that careful planning will be necessary in citizenship education. An aspect of the theme, Health education with Family as the main area of study will be the main focus. It therefore follows that some aspects of the family in citizenship, the problems and solutions should be examined.
The effects of family, citizenship education on students.
A learning objective of family citizenship education has been that, pupils should be aware of the family life cycle, patterns of marriage, family structure and how they change. Another example of family learning objectives, (shown in Appendix two) was that pupils should be aware of the challenges facing family units, example, separation, divorce, domestic problems and single-parent families.
There are examples of family oriented voluntary groups, such as Barnados and UNICEF amongst others which play a vital role in providing a family for the children in need or protecting children who are vulnerable in society. Pupils need to be aware of these organizations. They also need to be aware of what responsibilities they, can take in nurturing a good family, since they too make up a family. This would be the main medium to correct the concern about community knowledge, commitment and involvement of young people in our society as highlighted by Fogelman, 1991.
It is in this way that citizenship can play a part, and in the process develop the backbone of society. There are, however, some problems which are contradictory to the very fabric of citizenship where the students are concerned.
” In studies of citizenship, the turn toward education is always a suspect because it often disguises a failure to understand and improve citizen interactions among adults”.
(Gusteran, H: 1998, pg 82)
Gusteran is therefore suggesting that the idea of citizenship being delivered in schools is wrong in that it could be deemed as a medium for the indoctrination of ideas upon pupils, when they are at the most vulnerable stage of their life. It follows here that instead of solving the problem through citizenship, it would escalate the problem.
Despite the negative effect highlighted, it has already been shown that there are positive effects, which citizenship can have on pupils and subsequently, future society.
“It helps them to examine their current roles and to anticipate future roles as partners and parents”.
(National Curriculum Council: 1991, pg 7).
The quotation makes reference to the positive effect that issues concerning the family, as is examined in citizenship can have on the pupils, and the reforndorses the positive influence of citizenship education.
“This component encourages pupils to understand the nature of family life in all its forms”.
(National Curriculum Council: 1990, pg 7).
The component is in reference to t health education, with the family being the focus. Different families have different values, beliefs and attitudes. These characteristics are emulated by pupils and are then demonstrated in the schools and society. The bad values which are many times demonstrated by the pupils can affect the ethos of the school and as a result, endorses the need for the family to be one of the nine mandatory components of citizenship. It is in this respect that I must agree with the group of which I was a part, that the whole school approach uplifts the ethos of the school.
The ethos of the school will certainly be dependent on the cooperation of the entire school’s body, including the pupils. “Education for citizenship is founded on the quality of relationships and respect for individuals”.
(Fogelman, K: 1991, pg 50)
It is with these qualities in mind that good effects of citizenship education will be reflected on the pupils and as explained before develop a positive influence on the ethos of the school. It is only by being aware of and having an understanding of the different aspects of family which affect society that students will be responsible and tolerant in their attitude towards different people around them. In order to examine the effect that citizenship can have on the pupils’ attitude, then some theories will be examined.
“Liberalism, communitarianism and republicanism, the three varieties of citizenship theory”.
(Gunsteran, H: 1998, pg 16).
Of the three theories identified, the communitarianism theory had some merit to the profile of citizenship in education, but was dangerous to the aims and objectives in the schools. Gusteran explained that communitarianism theory involves citizens belonging to historically developed community and acting responsibly when they stay within limits of what is acceptable in the community. The only advantage of this approach in the schools is that it enhances loyalty in education and hence its individual member will flourish. However it does not encourage change and this would certainly deviate from the essence of democracy and some aspects of citizenship.
It must, however, be recognized that its benefit also lies in the fact that it epitomizes the strength and relevance of family citizenship and if it means that one must conform and apply good and sustainable relationships m the community, then there should not be changes in this context. In application to the theory, it has been proven that pupils can be active and productive citizens through education. The education of citizenship in my mind is based on the agreement of the community and by that I mean support gained from some practitioners, parents, students and local government. The pupils however are usually the ones who sometimes rebel against these changes, although in some cases the rebellion is a reflection of outside influences such as parents and others identified before.
In order to address the issue of rebellion amongst pupils in order to create an organized society then further explanation and examples are necessary. It cannot be repeated too often, that the practice of democracy is the best way to teach citizenship and hence, the result is a more desirable society. The theory explained before can still be of some use in order to understand the point put forward. The communitarianism theory involves the citizens acting responsibly, once they stay within limits of what is acceptable in the community. Although democracy is not inclusive in this theory, the aim of democracy can be added to what has been chosen from the theory and becomes successful in creating an ideal community (School or pupils) without destroying the fabric of democracy. In reading a report of a school, I am convinced that this is achievable.
In order to show that this is achievable, it would be appropriate to use an example of County Primary School. This was where no pupil, was sent for exclusion for seven years. In this unusual case, pupils were able to act responsibly and stay within the limit of what was acceptable by taking an active role in the student council. Pupils were able to have their special meetings and discuss amongst the other students their shortcomings and other problems affecting them. This activity was supported by the school’s authorities, and empowered the pupils to voice their opinions in a respectable way and although many of the disagreements might have meant little to no change, the pupils must have felt recognized. Sometimes pupils only need to have a clearer understanding of the purpose of rules which have been made.
“Participants gain a new understanding of their connection to local and other levels of government”.
(Talbot, J: 1998, pg91)
Talbot’s statement can be put in the context of the pupils of Windsor County Primary, in that it was their participation and subsequently their improved awareness of the situations and their responsibilities that created a more disciplined and positive approach to the society or school.
Problems and solutions in Citizenship education.
Research carried out by NFER has shown that one of the main constraints on the delivery of citizenship was the lack of staff expertise and therefore, there was bound to be some related decline of confidence amongst teachers. This has been shown in the Appendix, (Figure one) with approximately thirty percent of the secondary teachers showing a lack of citizenship education. If a school is not careful, then they risk defeating the entire purpose of the programme.
It becomes worrying when another constraint, such as the pressure of the school timetables is included. Again, the appendix of figure one shows that the major constraint on the delivery of the themes in the secondary school has been the pressure on the school’s timetable. The height of this problem speaks for itself when in both cases of the Primary and the High School, the pressure on the school’s timetable for citizenship is respectively seventy and seventy five percent.
It therefore becomes appropriate to examine the overcrowded curriculum of some subject areas which would be affected, once the cross-curricular themes are put in practice in an area such as Geography. The problem with this varies and one only need to look at situations where, not only family, but at least five other topics will be included in Geography as cross-curricular themes. One of my real fears is that teachers can use this as an excuse to avoid teaching the main substance or topics of Geography. There is also the possibility of the teacher putting less emphasis on the themes of citizenship, particularly if this is not included in the syllabus of the curriculum. On the same note, the real problem is of teachers being burdened with more workload and in the end not achieving as much as he or she could.
The problems of timetables, commitment of teachers and lack of funding are only some problems which should be rightly taken on board. The well being of the teacher is in my mind of even more importance. By this I mean the problems of clash of beliefs, values and ideas. This is particularly of concern for two reasons. One of which, is that the rights of the teacher is being abused. The other reason is that this could create further tension and, consequently defeat the entire purpose of citizenship.
Not many teachers will be comfortable teaching certain topics which centres around debatable issues such as religion, race, nationality and even family patterns of marriage and structure. They can also open themselves to danger, particularly if they have not been experts on the areas of discussion or research.
” In the commission’s survey it was found that some schools taught citizenship as a separate subject within the curriculum”. (Jones: 1992, pg 137)
Jones’ findings extended to show that 95 percent of schools included citizenship education as themes in personal and social education. There has to be a good rationale for such a high trend and it is possible that the problems outlined could have been either foreseen or problems that they have experienced at the initial stage.
It is in this respect that I would join hands with the 95 percent of the schools described. However it would be naive to believe that the problems have been solved by this only method.
The investigation and findings for this blog has widened my knowledge and given a better insight of the makeup of citizenship and the expectations of citizenship as a subject or a cross- curricular element in education.
The presentation on voluntary organizations was very instrumental in looking at the possible ways of teaching citizenship and integrating citizenship in the education system. The main idea as portrayed by the group was of the whole-school approach, supported by the cross-curricular approach. The advantages in the subject areas were highlighted in the assessment. The problems were also highlighted and then, the entire picture of how the school, the teachers and the pupils would be affected was put into perspective.
It was based on the outcome of the findings that the conclusion was made that it would be best if citizenship was considered as a subject which was assigned to a teacher who was trained to teach such an area. There are advantages to cross-curricular themes added to the national curriculum. Although the cross-curricular elements as described in the assessment makes up part of the whole-curriculum, there are risks which can be proven to be detrimental in the long term. This possibility might not surface now, but some schools with poor management structure might be the first to see unfortunate results such as greater division in the society or the schools, a devastating knock on effect on the foundation and core subjects and an increasing number of teachers protesting against the added pressure forced onto them.
It is sufficient to say that the constraint of the time will always be an issue, likewise many other issues which have been raised. However, with a more focused trained teacher in the area of citizenship, the teachers of the core and foundation subjects left to teach those areas only, and good coordination and good management structure, then there would be less concern and greater result.