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Formulating and Implementing Personal Development and Mutual Understanding and local and Global Citizenship

A 2001 consultation report found only limited support for the introduction of citizenship education in Northern Ireland.103 Educational practitioners also worried about the commitment of the controversial Sinn Fein Education Minister McGuinness ‘to support lessons in citizenship when they [Sinn Fein] were quite clear that ... at that time they didn’t support the state’.104 An officer involved in the debate over the introduction of citizenship education recalls that it was ‘an interesting discussion, but it wasn’t a difficult discussion’: there was a broad consensus on the need for students to understand their rights and responsibilities, to appreciate the issues dividing them and to respect different cultures and identifications.105 In contrast to his outspoken position over the 11-plus test, Arlow recalls that McGuinness avoided expressing explicit support for citizenship education: ‘he was perceptive enough to realise if Sinn Fein was seen to be pushing this, then it would just immediately get opposition from the Unionist parties’.106

Thus, compared with the introduction of EMU in the 1990s, the introduction of local andglobal citizenship at the secondary level and of personal development and mutual understanding at the primary level were ‘astonishingly uncontroversial’.107 Arlow argues that the Belfast Agreement established a new political context and stimulated a political will to enact change. The introduction of citizenship education thus reflects both the genuine desire to contribute to the newly established peace and the political need, with exclusive local control of education policy for the first time since 1974, ‘to show that they really did address peace and social cohesion’.108

The local and global citizenship curriculum was based on models developed by the University of Ulster’s Social., Civic and Political Education Project and adapted according to the results of extensive consultations and piloting.109 To address the substantial criticism that there had not been enough training for EMU, approximately five teachers from each postprimary school were trained on local and global citizenship.110 Trainings for personal development and mutual understanding were also offered to primary school teachers.111 During the piloting phase, the contents of the curriculum were criticised only once in a political forum and, despite the worries of teachers and educational authorities, there were no complaints from parents. In fact, Arlow admits that ‘sometimes I wonder if actually we were pushing things far enough’.112

Local and global citizenship recognises that the population of Northern Ireland may not have a ‘shared history, but we’ve got to have a shared future’ and that citizenship education may encourage students to contribute to the society they are part of.113 Personal development and mutual understanding and local and global citizenship were introduced in schools between 2003 and 2009. Citizenship is also implemented through crosscurricular themes, including EMU and the cross-subject aim of ‘developing pupils as contributors to society’.114

In the early curriculum drafting stages, the University of Ulster and CCEA had called for the allocation of dedicated time for local and global citizenship to ensure that it didn’t ‘fall between the stones’ as EMU had. Ultimately, personal development and mutual understanding and local and global citizenship were introduced as statutory requirements, but their mode of delivery is not specified. Thus, schools can allocate a specific period, embed them as modules within another subject (generally Learning for Life and Work at the secondary level and The World around Us at the primary level) or teach them as cross-curricular themes.115

At the primary level, personal development and mutual understanding deals mainly with community relations and with the handling of con- flicts.116 Reflecting the developmental stage of children and their understanding of groups and individuals, it avoids abstract notions, focusing on identities, attachments and personal relationships.117 At KS1, it introduces children to the local and wider community, discusses group similarities and differences and relationships with family and friends, and debates appropriate behaviour in conflict situations. At KS2 it discusses how to develop and nurture relationships and debates human rights, social responsibilities and the many causes of conflict. Some have suggested that this may put ‘sectarianism into children’s heads’, but teachers argue that controversial issues can be discussed with primary school children sensitively and by focusing on children’s immediate experience.118

In contrast, local andglobal citizenship at the post-primary level considers four themes: inclusion and diversity, human rights and responsibilities, equality and social cohesion and democracy and active participation.119 It aims to investigate each issue in the local, European and global context, in an effort to ‘avoid parochialism but maintain a local focus’.120 It is flexible enough to allow students and teachers to explore their areas of interest, and to discuss the more legal and political aspects of citizenship only when they impact on individual rights and citizens’ interaction with institutions. Local andglobal citizenship is to be process-oriented: the values underpinning it ‘cannot be taught, they must arise from experience’.121

At KS3, the minimum requirements of local and global citizenship are usually taught as part of the compulsory module Learning for Life and Work. They include analysis of expressions of group identities, the impact of conflict on prejudice and racism and ways to manage conflicts. By encouraging students’ understanding of human rights values, equality and power relations, and teaching them how to influence their immediate environment, local and global citizenship aims to encourage the construction of superordinate overarching identities.122 At KS4, in preparation for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), Learning for Life and Work is neither a compulsory subject nor a popular one and encompasses areas such as local and global citizenship, but also employability and personal development.123

When compared to EMU, local and global citizenship is more structured, less focused on conflict and reconciliation, less concerned with national and cultural identities and more focused on ‘moving beyond the conflict... to active citizenship’.124 In contrast to the Lebanese citizenship and civic education, it reminds students of the multiplicity and layering of identities, including global and European identifications.125 Indeed, Northern Ireland’s curriculum drafters recognised that excessive emphasis on a common identity can be perceived as a threat to communal belonging. In contrast to their Lebanese counterparts, they maintained that it was neither possible nor desirable to ‘draw up a specification for an ideal citizen and frame that as a curriculum objective’.126 Thus, similar to history education, local and global citizenship attempts to sidestep patriotism, national belonging and loyalty to the state, referring primarily to international human rights instruments. Citizenship is defined in terms of equal rights and responsibilities rather than religious, national or cultural identity.127

Curriculum drafters admitted that ‘it has yet to be tested whether a concept of citizenship based on equal rights and responsibilities can help transcend these deeper, emotionally based loyalties’, but they hoped to construct democracy as a viable alternative to violence.128 Indeed, Arlow reflects that local and global citizenship was ‘a product of its time’: during the piloting phase, in the early years of the peace agreement, ‘it felt like nothing was fixed’. Through local and global citizenship, students are encouraged to imagine ‘a perfect world’ and provided with instruments to ‘narrow the gap’ between their ideals and reality. Local andglobal citizenship aimed to move beyond politically correct answers and debate students’ sincere opinions, to employ critical thinking, access emotional dimensions, and deconstruct the culture of avoidance and silence.129 Despite the limits of hierarchical school settings, students are to be trained for life in a non-violent democracy, for active participation and for activism on local issues.130 In sum, local and global citizenship aimed ‘to be transformative without being prescriptive about the outcome’.131

 
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