Citizenship Education in the Post-Primary Curriculum Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE): CSPE is a mandatory post-primary Junior Certificate course in Citizenship Education based on Human Rights and Social Responsibilities. It is concerned with developing in students their full potential for active participatory citizenship at a personal, local, national and international level. It is based on the notion that students will only choose to become active participants in their communities if they feel a sense of attachment to them.
Course Content CSPE develops knowledgeable students who can explore, analyse and evaluate, who are skilled and practised in moral and critical appraisal, and capable of making decisions and judgements through a reflective citizenship, based on human rights and social responsibilities. Through the units of study students should come to understand how the seven course concepts: rights and responsibilities; human dignity; law; development; interdependence; stewardship; democracy; serve collectively, though not exclusively, to inform and clarify the concept of citizenship.
CSPE is divided into four units of study: Unit 1: The Individual and Citizenship; Unit 2: The Community; Unit 3: The State – Ireland and Unit 4: Ireland and the World. The syllabus is an enabling one and provides endless opportunities for students and teachers to explore together the contemporary society (local, national and global) within which they live. Through this exploration students and teachers may encounter issues which are controversial and/or sensitive in nature.
Active Learning Methods and Action Projects There is an emphasis both in the course documents and in the in-service training provided for CSPE on active learning methodologies. A key element of the course is the Action Project. An Action Project is where the students are actively involved in developing an issue or topic which has arisen in class beyond the usual limits of textbooks and course materials. For example, students might research, organise and invite a guest speaker to talk to the class on a particular topic and thereby develop the skills of how to gain access to information and structures. Alternatively, they might run an election or become involved in a campaign at the same time that this is happening locally/nationally thereby developing and practising the skills of participation in the democratic process.
These teaching and learning approaches enable young people to engage with controversial issues through activity, discussion and possibly even action.
Assessment The importance of active participation is reflected in the allocation of 60% of the final assessment grade to this area. This percentage should also be reflected in the time spent by the students in active learning and on their Action Projects. The remaining 40% of the marks are allocated to a written terminal examination.
Training and Support Support and training is provided by the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) through a CSPE Co-ordinator and CSPE Associate. It is funded by the Teacher Education Section of the Department of Education and Skills. The work consists of some cluster-based in-service, school-based in-service and workshops organised by several of the non-governmental organisations. Almost all of the third level institutions are now offering courses in CSPE methodology and some post-graduate research is taking place.
New Junior Cycle to be introduced in 2015 The current Junior Cycle structure has been redesigned and will be based on twenty four Statements of Learning. Schools can cover the Statements through a mixture of full subjects (200 hours), Short Courses (100 hours) and other learning experiences. Most assessment will be a school level, rather than by state examination.
The following four of the 24 Statements of Learning refer to citizenship education and form the basis for the specification for a CSPE Short Course produced by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
The student: Statement 7: Values what it means to be an active citizen, with rights and responsibilities in local and wider contexts Statement 9: Understands the origins and impacts of social, economic, and environmental aspects of the world around her/him Statement 10: Has the awareness, knowledge, skills, values and motivation to live sustainably Statement 23: Brings an idea from conception to realisation
The course aims to inform, inspire, empower and enable young people to participate as active citizens in contemporary society at local, national and global levels based on an understanding of human rights and social responsibilities. It has three strands:
Strand 1 Rights and responsibilities (foundational strand) Strand 2 Global citizenship Strand 3 Exploring democracy
Collaborative and active learning and the development of skills in citizenship, research, reflection and action are integrated across each of the three strands. Study of strand one is essential for their successful engagement with strands two and three.
Politics and Society This will be an optional Leaving Certificate subject that will complement a number of existing subjects and also bring a social science perspective that is entirely new to senior cycle education. Politics and Society aims to develop the student's ability to be a reflective and active citizen, in a way that is informed by the insights and skills of social and political sciences.
Teachers and students will work with key themes and ideas in the social sciences. They will apply these to their local environment, as well as explore how they apply in other places. For example, through looking at the changes in their own local community over the last few years, they will have an opportunity to discuss whether or not these changes constitute development, and whether or not they are sustainable. Through making links to the global context, students will be able to identify the roles of groups such as multinational companies, governments and intergovernmental bodies, as well as the role of cultural factors in enabling or preventing development in Ireland and around the world.
Politics and Society is organised around key ideas in the social and political sciences, including democracy, culture, conflict, globalisation, equality, diversity and sustainable development. Students will come at these ideas in an active way, through applying them to the world they know. They will explore, for example, democracy in their local sports club and in their school, the potential for conflict between part-time employees and their employers, and the global reach of television and of video sharing sites such as YouTube. Through this, they will be exposed to the ideas of key social and political thinkers like Kate Millett, Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, John Locke, and Edward Said. They will also get an opportunity to complete a Citizenship project, which will enable them to apply their learning in action. Their report on this Active Citizenship Project will account for 20% of the final examination.
The Politics and Society syllabus (2011) includes topics such as:
Origins of social solidarity
Cultural and normative accounts of social order
Divisions in society
Diversity in contemporary society
Understanding the relationship between equality and diversity
Perspectives on Development
The final draft of the Politics and Society syllabus was accepted by the NCCA Council in 2011 and has been approved by the Minister for Education and Skills. Opportunities for introducing the new subject to schools are currently being explored.
Citizenship Education in the Primary School Curriculum The subject areas of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) help children to prepare for active and responsible citizenship. Strand Three of the SPHE syllabus ‘Myself and the Wider World – Developing Citizenship’ provides opportunities for pupils to engage with controversial issues, e.g. discrimination, the travelling community, etc.
Citizenship Education in the Non-formal sector Citizenship education features quite strongly in programmes offered to young people by the many organisations involved in youth work. Strong amongst these are programmes such as the Young Social Innovators (Transition Year in second level schools), the National Youth Council of Ireland’s work around One World Week and Foróige’s Citizenship Education Programme for young people, to name but a few.
Adult and Community Education Citizenship education also features in the Further Education and Adult and Community Education sectors. The Vincentian Partnership for social justice coordinates a National Citizenship Education Network within the community sector through their voter education programme. The National Adult Literacy Association has published a Plain English Guide on Citizenship Terms and a Plain English Guide to Political Terms.