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Perspectives on the provision of education for citizenship in Scotland and France, including a small-scale comparative study of pupil experience in Brittany and Scotland

Harry Blee and Alan McClosky
University of Glasgow

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Hamburg, 17-20 September 2003

"Le civisme est à la mode"

Work in progress. Please do not cite without authors' permission


This paper is set in the context of recent developments in education for citizenship in Scotland and France. It also take into account the history and development of Education for Citizenship in each country, and considers some of the policy drivers lying behind recent initiatives, notably the advent of devolved government in the United Kingdom and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1999, and issues of national cohesion, integration and regional identity within the unitary French state. The paper combines a review of documentation relating to Education for Citizenship in the two countries, alongside a preliminary comparison of pupil perspectives on the provision of education for citizenship in Scotland and France.

Education for citizenship has been identified as one of the five national priorities in Scottish education. In 2000, Learning and Teaching Scotland, the national curriculum and technology advisory group, published a discussion and consultation paper on the future provision of education for citizenship in Scotland. The paper prompted a large number of responses from educational and civic groups, as well as individuals. An updated paper, together with recommendations for action, was published in June 2002. Scottish schools are now being encouraged to audit their provision of education for citizenship.

The Scottish path to citizenship education diverges very substantially from that identified for English schools as a result of the Crick Report of 1998. For example, there is no distinct subject entitled "citizenship". Rather, it is proposed that citizenship be delivered across a range of subjects, indeed all subjects, in the school curriculum, and through a range of whole-school, and school-community initiatives. Schools are also encouraged to provide opportunities for young people to participate in decision-making processes that impact on their education, and to encourage wider participation and volunteering by young people in their communities.

France has a long tradition of civics and citizenship education, dating back at least to the 19th Century, if not earlier. Despite this heritage, the approach to citizenship education has recently been adapted and updated in the light of rapid political and social change in France, and in particular the increasingly complex multicultural profile of the French population. It has been argued that French education for citizenship has traditionally emphasised respect for, and strict adherence to, centralised state authority embodied in the Republic, while failing to recognise or celebrate the regional and social diversity of the nation, and the existence of multiple ethnicities and identities in France. Indeed, it has been suggested that the civic instruction elaborated under the 3rd Republic was essentially about the formation of a patriotic mindset among the Republic's children as soldiers-in-waiting (Schnapper).

The new programmes are designed to shift the emphasis from values of "nation" to "civic" values, within a broader contextualisation of belonging, taking into account, for example, the deepening of the European ideal, and grounding this learning ultimately in the principles of democracy. They are also intended to encourage critical and reflective learning among French pupils, as well as a respect for democracy.

This paper explores both the content and delivery of Education for Citizenship, and by asking school pupils in the two countries what they have learned, and what they think is important to learn, we are able to draw some preliminary conclusions about the extent to which schools are actually delivering the recommended programmes. The authors can thus at least begin to assess their impact on young people's knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, by comparing the approaches taken to Education for Citizenship in Scotland and France, we hope to point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of each system, and suggest some of the ways in which these two countries might learn from each other.

As a historical aside, it is interesting to note that there is a long tradition of strong political and cultural links between Scotland and France. During the reign of Edward I in England, John Balliol of Scotland and Philip IV of France drew up an offensive and defensive alliance that became a treaty in 1295.  Robert the Bruce renewed the alliance with the 1326 Treaty of Corbeil.  During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the countries assisted each other against the English on six occasions, while the Jacobites of the eighteenth century relied heavily on French support during their renewed struggle for Scottish independence.

The authors

Alan McClosky is the Stevenson Lecturer in Citizenship at the University of Glasgow. He is also a member of the national Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship in Scotland. Before taking up the Stevenson Lectureship he was Head of the Scottish Parliament Education Service. He taught in France for a year as a foreign language assistant in 1986-87. Harry Blee is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Glasgow, having previously taught in secondary schools for many years. Both authors are Project Managers on the Learning and Teaching for Global Citizenship in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Project. This is a three-year project, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), to build the principles of global citizenship into the philosophy and practice of ITE courses.


Over the past few years Alan McClosky has undertaken study visits to a number of European national parliaments, regional assemblies, and European Union institutions in order to obtain a pan-European perspective on political education and education for citizenship. In March 2003 he undertook a week-long placement at the Université Catholique de l'Ouest, Vannes, Brittany, France. This placement was supported by the E.U. Socrates/Erasmus Fund for academic exchange, and provided some of the research information contributing towards this paper. Alan would like to acknowledge the support of the EU, as well as the help of Barbara Whitton, at UCO Vannes, who provided a great deal of practical and technical support during and after the placement. Dr. Mary Boyle from Edinburgh also greatly assisted with initial translation of the pupil questionnaire into French. The development of this paper has been assisted by members of the Learning and Teaching for Global Citizenship in Initial Teacher Education Project, which is based at the University of Glasgow {especially Dr Robert A Davis and Claire Duncanson (IDEAS)}. David Whitcombe of The SCRE Centre, University of Glasgow, developed the statistical analysis for the Scottish returns.

A note on terminology

Education for citizenship is the term used in official documentation and the wider current discourse in Scotland. During this paper, the authors may also use this generic term in references to the French context, where it is deemed to equate to the wider concept. In French documentation, various terms have been used at different times and in different contexts: Instruction Civique - Éducation Civique - Éducation à la citoyenneté. The authors have provided direct translation of these terms where appropriate.

Scottish schools and their French equivalents

Nursery school École maternelle
Primary School  École Elementaire/Primaire
Secondary school  Collège (lower secondary)
Lycée (upper secondary)


The questionnaire (see Appendices 1 and 2) was designed to find out about some of things that young people learn about in schools, and what they think about citizenship. It was piloted with six young people in Scotland, some revisions made, then distributed. It was translated, as directly as possible, into French. It asked some general background questions then attempted to find out what young people did in school in terms of action, participation, learning but also what they thought they should be learning. The structure and questions emerged from contemporary UK and Scottish literature on citizenship education, especially Oxfam's Development Education Programme A Curriculum for Global Citizenship (1997), The Global Dimension in the Curriculum (2001) published by Learning and Teaching Scotland, together with the same organisation's papers, Education for Citizenship in Scotland: A Paper for discussion and consultation, (2000) and A Paper for discussion and development, (2002).

The authors also considered using the Octagon Model for the IEA Citizenship Education Study as a framework for research. Kerr (2003) offers one possible framework for classifying and considering citizenship education. However the authors decided that, for the purposes of this relatively small-scale study, the IEA framework required a far wider range of data gathering than would be possible.

Contact was made with teachers in schools in Scotland and France who agreed to distribute the questionnaires to young people in their schools. The questionnaires were all completed during class time and collected at the end of a period. The questionnaire was sent to nine schools in Scotland (four secondary schools and five primary schools) and, through an intermediary in France, to four schools in Brittany (1 Collège, 2 Écoles Primaire and 1 Lycée). A total of 588 questionnaires were collected in Scotland and 107 in Brittany. The following points should be noted: there was a smaller sample in France -107 compared to 588 in Scotland; the age range in France was wider - 10-18 year-olds compared to 10-14 year olds in Scotland; and some translation issues made it difficult to make direct comparisons in every category, e.g., mayoral visits. The research complied with the research code of ethics of the University of Glasgow.

Developments in education for citizenship in Scotland

Peters (2002) stated that education for citizenship is a response to globalisation, trans-national corporations, the development of ICT and the knowledge economy, the collapse of high culture, growth of a media culture, decline of the nation state and collapse of the socialist alternative. His view that: "... globalization without citizenship is politically blind and citizenship without globalization is theoretically naïve" provides a reminder that the Education for Citizenship documents in Scotland does not accord due emphasis to this observation and its implications for education.

He also argued that recent developments in education for citizenship in Scotland have their roots in the Scottish Enlightenment period in the 18th and 19th centuries. Herman (2001) and Devine (1999) agree. Scotland at that time was not only an important driving force of the industrial revolution but also an intellectual centre. The former suggests that a combination of Scottish philosophers (e.g., Adam Smith, economic understanding and philosophy, and David Hume, political and legal thought) and writers (e.g., Robert Burns and James Boswell) linked to a Scottish diaspora of engineers, doctors, missionaries and businessmen created a "contemporary world shaped by technology, capitalism, and modern democracy". He describes (p185) a "free and open sophisticated culture (which) was compatible with, even predicated on, a solid moral and religious foundation". This is the Scottish Enlightenment's characterisation of a civilised society (p213) and Herman summarises it as a society which feeds everyone, relieves the poverty and misery of the least productive, recognises the sovereignty of the individual and his rights, encourages people to treat one another kindly and recognises that it is better to trade with other countries rather than go to war with them.

Internationally, these sentiments were evident in 1992, when the UN held "The Earth Summit", a conference on the environment and development, in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. In its newsletter, Connect - UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) The Earth Summit (June, 1992), it was reported that delegates from more than 170 countries had agreed on an 800 page action programme which included twenty seven principles. The Earth Summit recognised that environmental issues were best considered when there was the participation of all concerned citizens (Principle 10) and where the creativity, ideals and courage of youth of the world were mobilized to ... ensure a better future for all (Principle 21).

In United Kingdom terms, the first significant Government policy emerged from two White Papers (the first in 1997) where the Government declared its commitment to development education and the elimination of world poverty. It set out an agenda for action by Government, civil society and the research community. Underlying these policy commitments was a strong emphasis on international social justice.

Part of this strategy is the promotion of citizenship education in schools, currently a national priority both north and south of the border. The impact of global forces, whether in terms of markets, industry, culture or technology indicate that we can no longer make sense of our lives locally unless we set them in the context of living in a global society.

In 1997, continuing this process, David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment of the "New" Labour Government asked Bernard Crick, emeritus professor of politics at Birkbeck College, London, "to strengthen Education for Citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools". When he reported one year later, Crick asserted that citizenship and the teaching of democracy was so critical that it must be a statutory obligation for all pupils. Part of the rationale presented included a need for young people to become involved in community and public life and to think of themselves as active citizens who were willing, able and equipped to have an influence in public life and with the critical capacities to weigh evidence before speaking and acting. (QCA, 1998, p.22).

The policy experience in England was not replicated in Scotland. It should be noted that although citizenship education was part of "New Labour" policy and had a UK dimension, it evolved in Scotland in a different way largely because of the impact of devolution and the advent of the new Scottish Parliament in 1999.

The Scottish experience and response is based on a special political and cultural identity. Although the Scottish and English Parliaments were united in 1707, Scotland continues to have different educational and legal systems, its own established church (Church of Scotland), media and arts profile. It is different albeit that, importantly, the Scottish Parliament takes its power and authority from the United Kingdom Parliament. Since the setting up of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Scotland has had greater decision-making powers, mainly over social issues such as education, health and care of the elderly. However, it is important to recognise that the "reserved powers", including tax, social security and foreign policy, are retained by Westminster. This was illustrated recently when the Scottish First Minister declined to comment on asylum seekers being held at Dungavel (in Scotland), claiming that this was the responsibility of the Home Secretary in Westminster not of the First Minister in Edinburgh.

Education for Citizenship in Scotland

Towards the end of 2000, Jack McConnell announced five national priority areas for education. Priority number 4 focused on values and citizenship and echoed developments in England under Crick but with a distinctively Scottish interpretation, not least the emphasis on education for citizenship, rather than citizenship education. For this, schools were encouraged to work with parents to teach pupils respect for self and one another and to experience the duties and responsibilities of citizenship by supporting pupils to achieve the foundation skills, attitudes and expectations necessary to prosper in a changing society and to encourage creativity and ambition. In 2001, McConnell said: "Scottish education must increasingly enable young people to acquire a thorough knowledge and appreciation of international and global issues and the necessary skills to enable them to participate actively and responsibly in the affairs of the 21st Century."

In relation to this, Professor Pamela Munn was asked by the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum (now Learning and Teaching Scotland) to chair a group looking at citizenship in Scotland. In September 2000, Learning and Teaching Scotland published her group's Working Group's paper for discussion and consultation, which attempted to set out the nature, importance and aims of education for citizenship in Scotland and some of the characteristics of effective practice. The follow-up paper for discussion and development was published in June, 2002, which included more detail of how education for citizenship might be implemented in Scotland's schools. More recently, these papers have been supported by internet-based self-evaluation tools for teachers and school managers.

In Scotland, Education for Citizenship (2002) attempts to provide a framework that will enable young people to develop, "capability for thoughtful and responsible participation in political , economic, social and cultural life". The framework has four components: knowledge and understanding; skills and competences; values and dispositions; and creativity and enterprise. The authors would not disagree with this framework, but would suggest that there is a tension between allowing schools freedom to interpret the documentation and providing a more structured approach, based around entitlement at all stages of a pupil's school career. Also missing is a commitment to identify where responsibility lies, other than vague notions of responsibility for all. The expertise of certain subject areas, and existing good practice in relation to education for citizenship are acknowledged. However, in an already crowded curriculum, combined with a lack of teacher confidence and training, and in a culture still dominated by measurable performance and exam attainment, there remains a danger that delivery by all will become delivery only by those with an interest and a commitment to the citizenship agenda.

Delivery is the responsibility of all. Schools are advised to audit and self-evaluate. The Schools Inspectorate will soon publish a "How Good is our School: Citizenship" document, which is likely to be the standard for citizenship provision by which schools will be inspected, although it is interesting to note the very "light touch" applied by the national bodies in relation to implementation thus far. There are four broad areas for implementation: pupil participation in decision-making; provision of learning in all areas of the curriculum; cross-curricular experiences and community links and involvement

The LTS documents state that young people should be regarded as citizens of today albeit that as they grow they acquire new rights and responsibilities. Participatory activities are recommended, not only political but also volunteering in such as, neighbourhood watch schemes. The curriculum should be shaped to enable young people to make informed choices and decisions and to take action individually and collectively. The education system should produce thoughtful, responsible, respectful, caring and active citizens who can exercise choice as consumers and producers, and contribute to economic and cultural life. Other features include the linking of rights and responsibilities, the need to recognize conflict in different forms and to be able to deal with controversies by negotiation and compromise, while appreciating the importance of limits to compromise. From a corporate and institutional perspective, young people are urged to achieve economic goals that are consistent with sustainable development and the health and welfare of communities. More generally, they are advised to develop capability for thoughtful and responsible participation in political, economic, social and cultural life.

Developments in citizenship education in France


Citizenship Education in France: a timeline

1791 Assemblée Nationale Rapport sur l'Instruction publique (Talleyrand)
Education should teach all citizens of the Republic about the constitution, and should teach them to defend and to perfect it, within a framework of sound moral principles.
1880-82 Civic and Moral Education becomes a compulsory subject in Primary schools. Religious education is removed from state schools, as part of the process of secularisation and the introduction of free Primary education (The Jules Ferry laws). Emphasis on Republican and moral values.
1948 One hour per fortnight of "instruction civique" introduced in lycées. Usually taught by history/geography teachers, or sometimes French teachers. Generally neglected in schools.
1977-78 Haby Reform. "Civic and Moral Education" replaced by "civic education". Without a formal, timetabled place in the curriculum, this initiative does not take hold in schools.
1985 Chévènement introduces a new programme of "éducation civique" to Elementary schools and the Collèges, involving one hour of compulsory instruction per class per week. This programme did not apply to Lycées.
1995-96 New programme of civic education, with a new emphasis on the cross-curricular and whole-school nature of this form of education.
1999 Extension of citizenship programme through to Terminale (final year of Lycée), delivered as éducation civique, juridique et sociale.
2002 Publication of detailed guidance, including learning outcomes, relating to education for citizenship in schools.

The current French model and structure of citizenship education

The French approach to citizenship education is designed to form a coherent and progressive pathway from the école maternelle to the baccalauréat. This pathway is summarised below. It is worth stating at this stage that this is an overview of the prescribed provision in French schools, rather than assessment of actual delivery, and thus, the experiences of the pupils during their school career.

Citizenship education in the École Maternelle

Citizenship education is identified as one of the cross-curricular components (domains transversaux) of education at this stage, although there is a specific emphasis on the development of socialisation, of living and working together harmoniously, and the elementary skills of debating and listening to others. A half-hour weekly slot is dedicated to debate in the classroom. The pupils are also expected to acquire knowledge of what it means to be a citizen in a democratic nation, and what the core Republican values are. They also learn about some of the fundamental human rights frameworks, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Citizenship education in the École Primaire

The emphasis on core skills of effective communication and co-operative working is maintained and deepened. Pupils are encouraged to negotiate and formulate their own rules for the classroom environment. They also learn about self-respect and respect for others.

Learning outcomes by end of Cycle2 (from the Ministerial Order of 25th January 2002) (Author's translation)

Pupils should:

Be capable of:

Have understood and learned:

Learning outcomes by end of Cycle3 (from the Ministerial Order of 25th January 2002) (Author's translation)

Be capable of:

Have understood and learned:

Citizenship education in the Collège

During their time at lower secondary school, the pupils should learn 3 core strands:

This process is both subject-specific and interdisciplinary, and is delivered around certain key concepts, which are explored at each successive stage of lower secondary as follows:

Sixième Individual rights and duties, including consideration of the place of school within society, school as a community of learning, and pupils' responsibilities to their environment and heritage (patrimoine).

Cinquième Equality, solidarity and safety, including equality before the law, non-discrimination, the spirit of solidarity, and personal safety, both at school and outwith school.

Quatrième Freedoms, rights, and justice, including the judicial system, national identity and a "European citizenship".

Troisième Citizenship and democracy, including detailed consideration of the Republic, its institutions, the EU, the role of public opinion and the media, social and political citizenship, national defence and international co-operation. There are also some optional strands, including a look at the role of women in society and politics, and the role of science and technology in a democracy.

The intention is to have a vertical spine of citizenship education throughout pupils' time at college. The documentation makes it clear that this learning is neither about "lessons in morality", nor "lessons in constitutional law"; it should be anchored in reality and everyday experience, and should move progressively from the familiar to the more remote and complex.

The citizenship element is delivered via timetabled classes, normally taught by history-geography teachers. It is also tested as part of the Brevet des Collèges.

Summary of knowledge and skills to be acquired by end of Collège

Citizenship education in the Lycée

The new, compulsory ECJS programme for Lycées is designed to build on the knowledge acquired in the collèges. It is normally allocated 2 hours per month, or one hour per fortnight, within the Lycée timetable. This two hour slot often takes the form of a debate, for which students are expected to prepare in advance. Despite the goal of interdisciplinary approaches to citizenship education, research indicates that there is little evidence of this, and that it is predominantly delivered by teachers of History-Geography (Académie de Nancy-Metz 2003). The key themes at each stage of upper secondary education are set out below (NB there are very similar programmes in place for Lycées Professionnels/Cycle BEP):

Classe de seconde Living in society to citizenship

Theme Topic
Civility Citizenship and civility
Integration Citizenship and integration
The law, human rights Citizenship and work
Political and social rights Citizenship and changing family life
Classe de première Institutions and the practice of citizenship


Theme Topic
Power The exercise of citizenship, representation and legitimacy
Legitimacy Forms of participation and collective action
The law The Republic and identity
The Republic
Democracy The duties of the citizen
Classe Terminale Citizenship and the challenges of the modern world


Theme Topic
Equality Citizenship and changing science and technology
Sovereignty The renewed emphasis on justice and equality
Collective interest
Security the construction of the European Union
Responsibility Citizenship and globalisation

  Preliminary findings, including analysis of questionnaire results

Postscript: towards a universal framework for Education for Citizenship

In conclusion, the Scottish approach to education for citizenship can be characterised by the development of types of knowledge and understanding which explore themes such as "globalisation and the interdependence of the modern world", "exploration of just and sustainable futures", "issues of injustice and discrimination" and "issues of poverty and inequality". It should also encourage the development of skills such as "critical thinking", "creative thinking", "language and communication skills", "numeracy skills" and skills that promote "co-operation with others" and enable members of society to have the "ability to challenge injustice and inequalities".

Attitudes, values and dispositions which promote "a sense of belonging, identity and self-esteem", "respect and care for self and the rights of others", "respect for diversity", "empathy", "commitment to democratic processes" and a "belief that people can make a difference" should be supported. Also ones which encourage people to "join a community organisation", "volunteer in the community or overseas", "stand for election (at any level)", "take part in events designed to raise awareness of injustice", "forge international links, partnerships, etc. with other schools" should be a central principle of the curriculum. However, these themes, skills and values should be studied across the curriculum, e.g., in maths, in science, in language and expressive arts as well as the social sciences.

In summary, education for citizenship should address:


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This document was added to the Education-line database on 13 February 2004