Challenging times

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
Education for active participation means facing serious issues, says David Hicks.

Citizenship and the Challenge of Global Education. By Audrey Osler and Kerry Vincent. Trentham Books, pound;13.99. Learning to Teach Citizenship in the Secondary School. Edited by Liam Gearon. RoutledgeFalmer, pound;18.99.

These books should be read by anyone with an interest in citizenship, education or social change. Audrey Osler and Kerry Vincent look at the ways in which schools can integrate issues of citizenship, human rights and cultural diversity into their policy and practice.

To illuminate this, they draw on case studies of global education from England, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Global education, they argue, is characterised by "pedagogical approaches based on human rights and a concern for social justice which encourages critical thinking and responsible participation". Citizenship, they suggest, provides just the vehicle for global education to be accepted into the mainstream.

The book usefully explores educational responses to, and the impact of, globalisation on education itself. This is the wider context in which any debates about citizenship must be set. It would have helped to name neoliberalism as one of the main ideologies underpinning such change.

What is exciting about this book is its unequivocal emphasis on the need for education to embrace issues of human rights, social justice and cultural diversity. While there are differences in how the countries surveyed respond to these matters, what they illustrate is a growing interest from educators in issues of global citizenship.

This is a book for our times and a reminder of the important work being done by the Centre for Citizenship Studies in Education that Osler directs at Leicester University.

Learning to Teach Citizenship in the Secondary School is edited by Liam Gearon, who directs the Centre for Research in Human Rights at the University of Surrey, Roehampton. The latest book in a major series aimed at PGCE students and practising teachers, it is a comprehensive and illuminating resource on both citizenship and citizenship education.

Part One provides an excellent and thoughtful introduction to local, national and international citizenship. Part Two is more mixed, with chapters on the complexities of citizenship education, pupils' learning, the role of language, and special educational needs. Part Three provides the nuts and bolts of the book, with sound chapters on developing schemes of work, assessment and resources.

If active participation in the local and global community is to be really meaningful, some of the issues raised by Osler in her book need to be faced - those relating to the nature of democracy within schools, the need for an anti-racist perspective in school and community, how to handle controversial issues such as the war in Iraq.

Were secondary pupils demonstrating against the war displaying indispensable civic virtues or, as at least one school has suggested, should they have been given a detention for going in school time? While neither book can give an immediate answer to this question, they both, in different ways, provide vital underpinning for such a debate to begin in the classroom.

Professor David Hicks is director of the Centre for Global and Futures Education, School of Education, Bath Spa University College.

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