My debate with a German student; the case for more Citizenship education

If you had not already guessed it, I am a teacher of Citizenship education.  I have a group of fantastic GCSE Citizenship students who I more than enjoy teaching.  In my view my subject is the best on the curriculum, but I won’t bore you with that.

I attempted to debate the case for a second EU referendum with them, obviously after asking them to do some research into the issue and watching and reading the news and social media, etc.  When we held the debate it was obvious to me that they were just regurgitating things they had heard in the news or from family and friends without critically analysing the opinions and coming up with their own arguments with reasoning.  There seemed to be no depth or conviction to the things they were saying (something I will be working on with them).  They can easily debate other topics, but this issue seemed in some way different.

However, there was one student who seemed to understand the argument and give me a run for my money.  One of my students is German and was extremely clued up on the referendum debate.  He really wanted to engage with me about the positive case for remaining in the EU.  We discussed the economy, immigration and sovereignty.  We were debating amongst ourselves so hard that the other students lost interest.

That’s when it occurred to me that our young people cannot compete with other European students.  Many don’t speak a second language, their interest in politics is lack lustre, unless they are studying Citizenship (with a Citizenship trained specialist) or have parents who regularly discuss and encourage politcal engagement.  For many the benefit of free movement and the possibility of working abroad may not be open to them because they just don’t stand out as well as our European brothers and sisters who are engaged in politics and speak additional languages.  In my experience, students from other European countries outperformed British students consistently, even though English was their second language.

What’s the point I am making?  I am saying that Citizenship education must be extended, even in academies.  Many schools have decided to tone down Citizenship and PSHE and increase English or Maths lessons due to pressure of league tables.  Some schools offer ‘Citizenship/PSHCE days’ which in my opinion do not suffice.

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More Citizenship education please!

What do you think?


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