Citizens crusade;Opinion

8th May 1998 at 01:00
The British do not tend to think of themselves as "UK citizens" - except when they are shuffling towards an airport's passport inspection desk in their flip-flops and beachwear. Citizenship is a concept that the French and Americans may have embraced, but it is alien to us. Perhaps that helps to explain why the periodic attempts to establish school citizenship classes have generally failed.

Most recently, schools were asked to adopt education for citizenship as one of five cross-curricular themes; but less than 20 per cent are thought to have heeded this advice. As researchers have noted, the history of education for citizenship in England is a curious mixture of noble intentions, which become general pronouncements, which, in turn, are translated into minimal guidance for schools.

This pattern may be about to change now that the Government has indicated that this topic should receive much more attention (see page 3). But the old stumbling-blocks remain: pupils' low interest in many citizenship issues, teachers' understandable reluctance to touch anything that could be construed as indoctrination, and a lack of suitably trained teachers. Citizen Blunkett will need to be patient and determined.

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