Adolescents' ideas about citizenship and democracy

Year: 1995

Author: Bowes, Jennifer, Chalmers, Denise, Flanagan, Constance

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The paper will put forward a psychological perspective on education for citizenship by presenting the ideas on the characteristics of a good citizen and of a democracy.of a sample of Year 8 and Year 11 adolescents. Students were from a sample of government and non-government schools in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne taking part in a nine-nation study of adolescents' ideas about social justice and civic responsibility.

In addition to an analysis of students' open-ended responses, the paper will examine responses to closed questionnaire items about participation in and attitudes to social groups in their community, school and home. Students revealed a well-developed set of ideas about the fairness of different structural arrangements at school and at home, and a sense of responsibility for several aspects of their lives and of the wider social system, particularly for environmental issues.

While many Year 8 students were unable to define in abstract terms democracy and to a lesser extent, citizenship, their ideas and the responsibility revealed in their answers to other questionnaire items suggested that they have a set of ideas and attitudes which could be built upon in a curriculum focussed on citizenship. The attitude held by many students that immigrants were not entitled to full rights of citizenship in Australian society indicates that a multi-cultural approach to education for citizenship is a priority.