Transformative, Not Prescriptive
It remains difficult to estimate the long-term impact of citizenship education in Northern Ireland. However, the existence of multilayered and multidimensional policies, from Cross-Community Contact Schemes, to EMU, to the Community Relations, Equality & Diversity Policy is an impressive achievement.
A CCEA officer reflected that the introduction of local and global citizenship ‘slip[ped] by almost unnoticed’.146 Indeed, local and global citizenship and personal development and mutual understanding could be introduced because they aim ‘to be transformative without being prescriptive about the outcome’.147 In contrast to their Lebanese counterparts, curriculum drafters in Northern Ireland did not aim to shape an ideal citizen, develop allegiance and loyalty to the state, or encourage patriotism and nationalism. Rather than proposing overarching identifications to suppress communal allegiances, local and global citizenship and personal development and mutual understanding are, like the Belfast Agreement, underpinned by the principle of individual free choice between two equally legitimate and equally valued political, cultural and national traditions.
Citizenship education in Northern Ireland does not offer a solution to the fundamental question of ‘whether ‘our common future’ will be about ‘integration’ and ‘shared development’ or whether it will be about ‘peaceful coexistence’ and ‘separate development’.148 Rather, it aims to encourage students to imagine a future society, to stimulate their independent reflection, analysis and questioning of dogmas. Experts hope that, indirectly, this approach will contribute to fostering common belonging and a desire for shared future development.149