Abstract

Citizenship has become a major topic for debate and the subject of public policy in recent years, as academics and policy-makers across the Western world have tried to understand and respond to what is widely seen as a weakening of democracy. In the UK, the increasing alienation of citizens from electoral politics has manifested itself in a sharp fall in electoral turnout, membership of political parties and levels of public trust in the political class. In this context, citizenship education provides an opportunity to address the demand-side of political participation by helping a diverse citizenry make sense of a complex political world and by strengthening democracy through the promotion of active citizenship. This article explores the differences between the approaches to citizenship education that have been adopted in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and, in so doing, highlights policy lessons that can be drawn from these varied experiences. It argues that the evidence suggests a common framework for citizenship education across the four home nations based on four key principles—political literacy, experiential learning, appropriate institutional structures and supply-side measures—would help promote active involvement by citizens in forms of political participation.

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