Educationist: Citizenship education vital for schools

Education, Normal

The National, Monday July 29th, 2013


SCHOOL fights and the recent killing of a Bugandi Secondary School student in Lae clearly point to a missing component in the education process. This vital and perhaps crucial element is civics education.

Why are students in secondary schools fighting against each other? What are the key issues that prompted these students to fight? Is it to show which school is the strongest; have more students who pledge allegiance to protect the name of the school, school motto or just plain machismo? Schools fights are common in urban schools and none more prominent than in the two biggest cities – Port Moresby and Lae. There have been disturbing reports in the media about the increasing cases of school fights.

These social issues in schools illustrate a crucial missing link in the education of the students. This link is citizenship education. It is an important component in educating young people about their roles and responsibilities.  

While it is worthy to note that schools sing the country’s national anthem, recite the national pledge, and church agency schools say their prayers and express their faith, but when fights erupt, these guiding principles are quickly forgotten.

The PNG education system should now consider introducing civics education to all levels of education. In fact civics education should be a process of spiral learning. For instance, at the elementary, basic principles of respect for self and others should be taught. At the lower primary level, concepts of responsibility and leadership should be introduced. In the upper primary, concepts relating to leadership should be expanded and governance systems are taught here.

At the lower secondary school, theories of politics and ideologies are then introduced. 

At the upper secondary level, students should develop a great understanding of civics and political systems and processes. There are observations of students at the tertiary levels of education who are still unfamiliar with concepts and terms relating to civics and citizenship, governance and leadership, political theories and applications. This is one scenario of the missing elements of civics education.

The other key component is to do with the parental upbringing. In another commentary a few weeks ago, I mentioned that parents were the first teachers and guided children in the socialisation process.

The flip side of this argument is that children are neglected by parents in their upbringing. I am referring to children in urban settlements and villages. 

Civics education is a key component in children learning social skills, behaviour and responsibility to themselves and others. 

For the PNG schools, there is little evidence of curriculum-inclusive training our children to act as responsible children and citizens. 

When civics education is introduced, it will promote students’ participation in our democratic process by equipping them with the knowledge, skills, values and outlooks of active and informed citizenship.