IN THE new millennium all children must learn how to be good citizens and know how democracy works, a Government advisory group has recommended.
The group, chaired by Bernard Crick, emeritus professor of politics at Birkbeck College, London, says that five to 16-year olds should know about the nature and value of democratic institutions and the skills needed to join discussions on social problems and moral dilemmas.
The final report of the advisory group on education for citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools identifies three main strands: social and moral responsibility; community involvement; and political literacy.
"There are worrying levels of apathy, ignorance and cynicism about political and public life and also involvement in neighbourhood and community affairs, " the report concluded.
It recommends that a new statutory order should be included in the revamped national curriculum to fill a vital gap in education. Professor Crick said:
"I'm very conscious of the heavy load on teachers." Much depends on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's reduction of the core curriculum, he added.
Citizenship does not mean indoctrination, he said. It would be insulting to the professionalism of teachers to think they would deal with the subject in any way other than they taught other subjects.
The subject could be covered in personal, social and health education (PSHE) at primary level, and the whole school should be involved in promoting active citizenship which would be inspected by the Office for Standards in Education.
David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, said the programme would build on existing good practice and would be following the example set by other EU and Commonwealth countries.
Michael Brunson, ITN's political correspondent and a group member, said the group was not issuing a prescriptive curriculum. Feedback from three "roadshows" in the country showed teachers were enthusiastic about the recommendations, he said.
Mr Blunkett welcomed the report's recommendation of a commission, or a standing body, to ensure the proposals were carried out, to guard against political bias and monitor progress.
Platform, page 17
* The statutory order should declare citizenship teaching to be: the knowledge, skills and values relevant to the nature and practices of participative democracy; the duties, responsibilities, rights and development of pupils into citizens; and the value to individuals, schools and society of involvement in the local and wider community...both national and local and an awareness of world affairs and global issues, and of the economic realities of adult life.