Perspectives from local to global

1st December 2000 at 00:00
Alan Combes looks at the links to be made between the humanities and citizenship

Although citizenship does not become statutory at key stages 3 and 4 until September 2002, forward-thinking schools are using this academic year to audit what they already do in order to determine what needs to be imported into the curriculum. Both the QCA and the Department for Education and Employment have gone on record as saying that of the three integers - social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy - it is likely to be political literacy that requires discrete teaching. But, even here, schools may be doing more than they think and mapping of departments such as history, geography and RE could bring some positive outcomes.

All subjects have a part to play, but the humanities subjects will usually require only the lightest of touches to prepare them for a dual role within the secondary curriculum: to service their own syllabuses as well as that of citizenship.

Some schools are already making progress in giving pupils the responsibility for recording progress in citizenship. For example, St Aelred's Catholic technology college in Newton-le-Willows, St Helen's, produces a planner that requires the pupil to identify progress in particular subjects areas, such as PSE. This would easily transfer to citizenship and be of help when it comes to annual reporting of citizenship after 2002.

Not every pupil will take all three humanities subjects to KS4 level and this places a higher expectation on work covered in Years 7 to 9 for laying the foundations of important knowledge and understanding, concepts and skills.

The Crick Report made much of what history has to offer citizenship in the use of evidence and processes of enquiry, but it is in the development of British democracy and pluralist society that pupils are likely to build concepts essential to citizenship. The teacher will need to build on the parallels between historical and contemporary events, for example. An understanding of the rights of the child according to the UN Convention is integral to world study after 1900 and could be studied alongside the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In studying Britain between 1750 and 1900 (in particular the great reform movements of the Victorian era) pupils will come to know about local government and the opportunities to contribute at a local level. It will become the teacher's role to draw out and make explicit the links with citizenship.

The Crick Report explained that geography gives an opportunity to understand how people and places are interdependent, and illustrates citizenship from th local to the global.

One of the most effective ways in which geographers can trawl the possibilities open to them in this link-up is to obtain a copy of A Curriculum for Global Citizenship from Oxfam (Education Unit, 4th Floor, 4 Bridge Place, London SW1V 1XY). Bernard Crick's group had the highest regard for this document and it will help individual schools in laying a meaningful conceptual framework. A word of warning: the implications for geography as a subject through its involvement with citizenship issues are far-reaching. How can it be otherwise when social justice and equity, diversity, globalisation and interdependence, sustainable development and peace and conflict are the five themes for knowledge and understanding proposed by Oxfam? Helen Walkington of Reading University defines the geography teacher's role in such learning as "explaining patterns and processes and helping each individual learner to understand his or her role within this complex and dynamic system".

It is in its relationship with RE that citizenship is likely to have the most profound effect. If one of its three principal strands is social and moral responsibility then a natural partnership between the two subject areas is inevitable. That is likely to be reinforced through the channel of community involvement that many schools already organise through the auspices of RE departments. It is not a matter of one stealing the other's thunder so much as each drawing on the other's strength.

There has been some criticism of the Crick Report in matters of race in that its language talks of respect, understanding and tolerance of other races and faiths whereas the RE curriculum has been enjoying and celebrating these differences for many years. In that case, it is citizenship that will need to learn from RE, as it will need to in developing the skills of reflection, gathering information from various sources and organising reasoned arguments.

Lynne Broadbent in Values and Citizenship (edited by Richard Bailey, Kogan Page), suggests a KS3 theme of rights and responsibilities as ripe for mutual development in an empathic style. Using an RE focus of "Jewish and Muslim attitudes to the environment" she defines the key questions to be considered as: what is the relationship between human beings and the natural world, and how does human action affect the natural world in the present and for the future?

She goes on to suggest how, through discussion and a wide range of sources, pupils can produce materials that see the environment through Muslim and Jewish perspectives.

Alan Combes is a consultant and teacher trainer for citizenship

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