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Jurisdictions Surveyed: Argentina | Australia | Brazil | Canada | Chile | Costa Rica | England | France | Georgia | Germany | India | Israel | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Saudi Arabia | Singapore | South Africa | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | United Arab Emirates
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Comparative Summary

This report surveys the models of civic education employed by the education systems of 22 selected jurisdictions around the globe, namely, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, England, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates.

Not surprisingly, the definition of civic education and the content of civics courses or modules vary among the surveyed jurisdictions. While in most countries constitutional basics such as the governmental system, the organization of the state, political rights and active citizenship are included in civics courses or related course modules, in some jurisdictions these are supplemented with topics related to moral education and traditional or national values. In some countries, special focus is made on topics such as peaceful coexistence and democratic tolerance and/or national allegiance and integration, which reflect the countries’ preferred social policies in the governance of pluralism, immigration, minorities, or indigenous peoples. In some jurisdictions, topics directly related to national security and defense are also included in secondary education curricula, such as in France and Turkey. In most jurisdictions, civics curricula include some topics related to digital literacy.

Most of the surveyed jurisdictions have included in their curricula for Grades 1 through 12 at least one course that features civic education components. In some jurisdictions, a stand-alone civics or citizenship course is included in the curriculum. In others, civic education is incorporated in a variety of different courses, including social studies, life skills, history, and geography. Most jurisdictions that have stand-alone civics courses have included them in lower and/or upper secondary education.

The structure of the administration of formal education varies widely among the surveyed jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, national curricula for primary and secondary education is prepared by a central authority that decides the format and content of civic education. The extent to which state authorities directly control the format and content of courses varies among jurisdictions; for example, in Singapore and Turkey, the state is closely involved in the design of the civic education curriculum. In most of the federal jurisdictions surveyed, the responsibility to create and oversee primary and secondary education rests with the federated entities and not the federal government, resulting in local governments deciding the structure and content of civic education. For instance, in Canada, where civic education is chiefly regulated by provincial-level curriculum documents, some provinces and territories have incorporated civic and citizenship education in history, social studies, and geography classes, while some provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec have introduced stand-alone civics and citizenship courses in secondary education. In Switzerland, where compulsory education comprising primary and lower secondary education falls within the responsibility of the cantons, civic education is generally integrated in courses such as history, politics, humanities, or social studies, while the canton of Basel-Stadt will be adding a stand-alone ”society and politics” course in the lower secondary education curriculum in the 2020-21 school year. In Australia, where the governments of the six states and two mainland territories are similarly responsible for regulating schooling, a national curriculum has been adopted that includes civics and citizenship achievement standards for primary school pupils and a civics and citizenship course for lower secondary school students.

Some jurisdictions have introduced civic education courses in postsecondary education. In Georgia, stand-alone civic education courses also are offered at the university level; in Turkey all undergraduate level programs must include a national political history course that discusses the foundational politics of the republic.

In a majority of the surveyed jurisdictions, civics education is included in the relevant curriculum by virtue of acts of administrative bodies mandated with overseeing formal education. In some jurisdictions, such as Chile, France, and Italy, laws explicitly require civic education to be included in the national curriculum. In many jurisdictions, however, civics-related objectives are included in laws and constitutional norms governing national formal education in the form of guiding principles.

In a majority of the surveyed jurisdictions, civic education included in primary and secondary level curricula are incorporated in, or offered as, compulsory courses. However, there is variance among jurisdictions in the weight given to civic education skills in assessments relating to graduation from primary and secondary education programs or entrance to higher or continuing education. For instance, in France, where civic education is included both in primary and secondary level education, civic education skills are tested in the final exams for middle school, but not in those for high school. In Israel, civic education is one of the skills that is tested in the examinations that students must pass to get the matriculation certificate, which is different from a high school diploma and is one of the requirements for admission to higher education. In Japan, students may choose from civics-related subjects in the standardized university entrance exams. In Sweden, where the social sciences course in secondary education includes a civics component, students in vocational training and some college preparatory programs do not need to obtain a passing grade in the civics component to graduate from these programs. The standards of testing also appear to vary widely; in Saudi Arabia, students in elementary and middle school must take a written standardized test on the subject of citizenship education by the end of each academic semester, while in South Africa, the life orientation course, which is the course in the secondary education level that includes civic education subjects, is mainly assessed on the basis of performance, and tests have lesser weight.

Some jurisdictions have introduced special assessment models for testing students’ civics-related skills. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates, students’ understanding of the moral education curriculum, which includes civics subjects, is assessed in each grade by administering MESA, a computer-based subject-specific standardized test.

In some countries, special teaching methods within and without the formal education system are employed to educate the population in civics-related subjects. For example, in Mexico, special methods, including dissemination of online content, are used by specific initiatives aiming at bolstering democratic culture and tax education among pupils. 

In the majority of the surveyed jurisdictions, civic education is funded under the regular national or local formal education budgets. In Georgia, initiatives for providing specific or extra funding for civic education have been undertaken by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In Switzerland, special funding for activities that encourage “political participation at a federal level” and “political integration” of children and adolescents is available from the federal government for NGOs, cantons (states), and communes.

The surveyed jurisdictions have varying standards on the training that teachers who will instruct civic education courses must receive. In the German state of Bavaria, teachers are required to take university classes that teach civic education and attend continuing education classes that deal with civic education. In England, teachers may receive specialized training in civic education to become a specialist educator in the subject, however the numbers of teachers who self-identify as civic education teachers appears to be dwindling, notwithstanding the fact that the national curriculum requires civics subjects to be taught to students from 11 to 16 years of age enrolled in certain public schools across the country. In Argentina, Israel, and the UAE, online programs exist for teachers to undergo teacher training in civic or moral education. Some jurisdictions limit the teaching of civics to a class of individuals: in Costa Rica, the law requires that civic education be taught by teachers of Costa Rican nationality.

Although many jurisdictions, such as Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Georgia, Mexico, Switzerland, and England (under the United Kingdom’s immigration law) require immigrants to pass a test including civics topic at various points in the immigration and/or naturalization process, not all require immigrants to take civic courses before taking the test. In Canada, France, Germany and Switzerland, civics courses are offered to immigrants by local or national governments, or by government-funded organizations.

 

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Prepared by Kayahan Cantekin
Foreign Law Specialist
June 2020


Last Updated: 12/30/2020