Active and Democratic Citizenship Education and its Challenges in Social Studies Classrooms

Arife Figen ERSOY
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anadolu University, Faculty of Education, 26470, Eskişehir, Turkey.


Problem Statement: Turkey’s passive and task-oriented approach to citizenship education, which has endured since the Ottoman Empire period, has begun to change into more active and democratic citizenship education since Turkey joined the European Union. Identifying the practical problems as well as describing the challenges when practicing the Social Studies curriculum will contribute to citizenship education and its development, both in Turkey and in similar countries.

Purpose of Study: The purpose of the present study is to explore the active and democratic citizenship education procedures in Social Studies course in Turkey and to determine the challenges encountered in active citizenship education.

Methodology: The study was conducted using a holistic, multiple-case study design. Data were collected through interviews, classroom observations and documents. In this study, extreme or deviant case sampling was used. The study was conducted in two schools: a state school with a low socioeconomic background and a private school with high socioeconomic background. A total of six volunteer teachers and 30 students from both of the schools participated in the study.

Findings: The study found that the citizenship perceptions, political views and educational backgrounds of the teachers had an effect on the citizenship education in their lessons. Furthermore, the age, maturity level, gender and social environment of the students had an effect on implementing citizenship education. Also, the test-centered educational system, traditional school organizations and culture, and the relevant legislations and regulations limited the ability of teachers to handle political issues and had negative effects on citizenship education.

Discussion and Recommendation: The findings of the present study revealed that the students’ task-based and passive perception of citizenship did not demonstrate any change at the beginning and end of the Social Studies course. The findings from this study suggest that, in general, citizenship education in Social Studies courses tends to offer, in part, a set of social moral values that focus more on theory and exams and lack opportunities for practice. At the end of this course, students are raised as apolitical citizens with low political literacy who lack effective thinking and participation skills. Therefore, teachers should be trained in active citizenship education, democratic school culture should be developed and the relevant legislations should be readjusted to provide teachers with more freedom in their academic concerns along with active citizenship education.

Keywords: Citizenship education, active citizenship, democracy, human rights, social studies.