Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrews Congregations once stated, “Freedom begins with what we teach our children.” His sentiments could not be truer in the education of Religion and Citizenship. Within the setting of these classrooms students should be given the opportunity to explore that freedom with free expression, but unfortunately this is not always the case. The overall aim of Citizenship education is to enable students to explore the meaning of being a citizen and through the course of this paper the limitations of this approach will be discussed and the possibilities of how Religious Education could enhance Citizenship will be outlined. Nelson (2004) suggests that the uniformity and diversity in the delivery of Religious Education across the different sectors in Northern Ireland may have an effect upon the delivery of Citizenship Education. Therefore, as a teacher of both subjects it is important to reflect upon the potential synergies and tensions between Citizenship and Religious Education in order to inform practical methodologies and pedagogies. There are numerous tensions and synergies that could be discussed between these subject areas but this paper will focus on moral and ethical systems and promoting active citizen participation. The aim of these discussions is to discern a pathway in which a teacher of both subjects can remain consistent to their practice and values ensuring that education is liberating students to wrestle with these issues for themselves.
The Implementation of Citizenship Education
Local and Global Citizenship Education is attached to Learning and Life and Work in Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 (Northern Ireland Curriculum 2007). Citizenship education is compulsory and in Northern Ireland has four main parts: Human Rights and Social Responsibility, Diversity and Inclusion, Equality and Social Justice, and Democracy and Active Participation. Citizenship Education has been welcomed with various degrees of enthusiasm as it can pose potential tensions with Religious Education. In my previous essay that focused upon the nature of a good Religious Education Lesson, I concluded that the method of Religious Education that I find most satisfying is the ‘Interpretative Approach’. Further reason for reluctant enthusiasm towards Citizenship education is the fear that it will take priority over R.E. within school timetables, as this has been the case in England. Some religious educationalists argue that Citizenship education ‘further undermines the educational contribution that RE is making...’ (Grimmitt: 2000, p.11) this could lead to the expanding concept that RE has little value within the wider curriculum. However, not all religious educationalists have drawn this conclusion, but rather have seen the task of RE to ‘make a vital and distinctive contribution to education for citizen- ship’ (Jackson, 2002, p. 162) because RE encourages similar curricular aims as Citizenship by promoting engagement of dialogue with religious and cultural diversity. Kallioniemi (2005) is in agreement with Jackson stating that “RE as a school subject gives opportunities to study and understand the meaning of different values in society and to develop the capacity of children to be members of society as active citizens.” (p.67) Jackson and Kallioniemi present positive positions in which Citizenship and Religious Education could potentially integrate.
The Aims of Citizenship Education
In assessing the potential synergies and tensions it is important to define the aim and purpose of Citizenship Education. For England and Wales the aims of Citizenship Education have been defined by the Crick Report (1998) Great debate surrounds the definition of citizenship as...