In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Citizenship Education

  • Introduction
  • Handbooks and Encyclopedias
  • Journals
  • Bibliographies
  • Renowned Philosophers on Citizenship Education

Education Citizenship Education
Juha Hämäläinen, Elina Nivala
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0298


Citizenship education can be defined as educational theory and practice concerned with promoting a desired kind of citizenship in a given society. Citizenship is a contested concept that refers to membership in a political community. This membership has different dimensions that can be characterized as status, identity, and participation. Each dimension presents different challenges to citizenship education, and thus creates different understandings of what citizenship education is all about. The first relates to the formal status that differentiates between members and nonmembers and defines the rights and responsibilities that the members have toward the community. Education in this respect is about knowledge and skills that citizens need to learn in order to be able to understand their status and to use the rights and fulfill the responsibilities attached to it. One particular form of citizenship education involves the civics courses offered to immigrants, especially if they are applying for formal citizenship status. The second dimension, identity, refers to feelings of belonging and togetherness among the members of the community. Education in this area aims at supporting these feelings as well as loyalty and solidarity toward the community. Historically, citizenship education has intertwined with national education. The third dimension, participation, is, on one hand, about civic virtues—what are the desired behaviors and attitudes of good citizens—and, on the other hand, about agency—what amount of critical reflection, engagement, and independent action is expected. This is probably the most obvious area of citizenship education: to support the development of abilities and attitudes so that citizens are able and willing to participate in the society in a desired manner. However, different political ideologies contain different perceptions of what a good citizen is like, and embody different perceptions of the implementation of citizenship education in practice. Citizenship education is tightly connected to different ideals of citizenship, and more generally of human nature and good life. Thus, citizenship education is loaded with normative conceptions and differing educational ambitions. Moreover, the term “citizenship education” involves various country-specific features that are related to national educational, political, social, and cultural systems. In many countries, such as the UK, the US, Spain, France, etc., the term and its variants refer to a subject that is taught in schools. However, in the big picture, citizenship education is not reduced only to school education. It can take place in the contexts of formal, nonformal, and informal education. Formal education refers first and foremost to schools, where citizenship education is implemented primarily in accordance with the curriculum. Nonformal citizenship education takes place in the framework of out-of-school youth work, liberal adult education, and other contexts of activities based on voluntary participation. Informal citizenship education happens in the everyday life within the family and outside of home in mutual coexistence, interaction, and peer learning. In these different educational contexts, citizenship education is understood and practiced in very versatile forms. In this bibliography, we will only use literature in the English language, which somewhat limits the variation in the use of the term “citizenship education.” We are aware that the limitation to English-language literature excludes many significant publications on the subject that are not available in English. However, we think this is justified in a bibliography intended for the international community of scholars. We are also aware of the multitude of related concepts, such as civic, political, and democratic education, which are partly synonymous with citizenship education and partly act as specifying determinants. In our reflection on how to use the term “citizenship education,” we have concluded to use it as a wide concept that refers to a particular but functionally complex field of education. Thus, this bibliography presents literature addressing various related concepts, all referring to this wide field and function of education that takes place within and beyond schools and concerns all ages: education of the members of political communities based on different political orders—i.e., education of the citizens.

General Overviews

General overviews that attempt to define and describe citizenship education, providing the reader a broad understanding of it, are categorized into two groups: The first group includes texts that look at the historical and philosophical roots and development of and ways of understanding citizenship education. The second group consists of texts that have a more conceptual perspective, attempting to define the concept and exploring its connections with other concepts. The field of citizenship education is not only reduced theoretically, politically, and practically to the discussion and to the research that use the exact concept of citizenship education, but also includes discussion that operates on various related concepts. Like many other concepts in the humanities and social sciences, the concepts in the field of citizenship education are diverse and the relationships between them are not clear.

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