2015 Volume 2015 Issue 50 Pages 45-65
Since 1990, promoting citizenship through education was recognized as an important educational issue in many countries. In England, education for citizenship was introduced as one of the cross-curricular themes after introduction of the national curriculum following the Education Reform Act 1988. Later, citizenship education became a statutory subject in the national curriculum for secondary education from 2002. However, in the process of secondary national curriculum review from 2005, there was much debate on how to promote ‘shared’ values among pupils, based on British national identity, through citizenship education.
This paper examines the discussion over national identity in citizenship education policy in England, focusing on the National Curriculum introductory period. In 1990 the Commission on Citizenship published a report, “Encouraging Citizenship” making recommendations on citizenship education in schools. After that, “Curriculum Guidance 8: Education for Citizenship” was published by the National Curriculum Council.
The link between citizenship education and national identity under the Conservative government has not received a great deal of attention. Previous work has pointed out a lack of common core of civic principles and values that command national allegiance and are transmitted to students through schools and elsewhere in society. Through an analysis of the discussion of the report, it is shown why it was difficult to find a connection between citizenship education and national identity at that time.
First, this paper explains the impact of the introduction of the national curriculum in the English context. The aim of the introduction was to raise pupils’ performance. At the same time, the Education Reform Act 1988 brought much authority to the Secretary of State for Education and Science to decide the contents of national curriculum subjects. The decision of the contents in the curriculum became a national policy agenda. In this period, the transmission of British heritage and culture was debated in relation with history, English and religious education. Arguments about national identity have begun, if not been perpetuated, since education for citizenship was incorporated as a new curriculum element.
Second, from the discussion in the Commission meetings, it is evident that the Commission became interested in legal aspects of citizenship such as the rights and status of citizens when considering the definition of “active citizenship”. During the period from January 1989 to July 1990, the Commission held seven meetings and two seminars, and the Commission Working Party met regularly. The main aim of the Commission was to consider how to encourage and recognize active citizenship in society. At the Commission meetings, it was suggested that as a starting point the Commission should adopt the theoretical framework of T. H. Marshall. Through the review process of legal aspects of citizenship, the Commission faced the origin of citizenship in the British Empire that was beyond the framework of United Kingdom (UK). The Commission’s chairman thought that a legal aspect was essential, and that substantive rights should be made clear as a basis for social and political participation for people in the UK.
Third, this paper explains that discussion had widened the definition of “active citizenship” to the definition of “citizenship” in the final version of the Commission’s report. The Commission recommended that education for citizenship should be implemented through the framework of international recommendations on human rights education as proposed by the Council of Europe. This suggests that there was a position to recognize the similarity between the principles of the British system and those of basic human rights. The plurality of the legal framework was also admired. On the other (View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)