India is the world’s largest democracy with arguably one of the most thorough constitutions. Our constitution is written for a multicultural population on the foundations of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity. Traditionally, schools in India taught students about the constitution through a subject popularly known as ‘Civics.’ The Civics curriculum across Indian boards has focused more on the theory of our government bodies, their functions, and parliamentary processes. One of the primary limitations of the Civics curriculum is that it makes limited connections to the current lives of students. It is seen and taught as something students must know about how the government functions.
Citizenship Education is the more practical and experiential cousin of the Civics curriculum. It focuses on teaching students about their rights, duties, and responsibilities towards our constitutional values by engaging them in the world around them. For instance, in Civics students learn that Article 15 of the Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. In a Citizenship Education program, along with learning what the constitution says, students dive deep into what discrimination based on these factors look like around them. They engage in research methods such as looking at the literature of discrimination, conducting surveys and interviews, analyzing the data and then coming up with a solution.
In today’s world, Citizenship Education is a must for students across ages and boards not just in India but around the world. If we want to leave our children in a world better than what they inherited, they must learn to practically exercise their rights and duties through democratic and inclusive actions. For Citizenship Education to work effectively, schools need two important components: a solid foundational theory program and a project-based action program. For students to be change makers who solve complex problems, it is important for them to study the root of problems in the context of constitutional principles. Understanding the problem deeply, not only helps students to connect to it better, but they are also able to see its contextual reality. Additionally it gives them an opportunity to learn about what solutions have worked in the past and what needs to change. The action component of Citizenship Education allows students to build the skills required to create change. These range from goal setting and planning to advocating and presenting ideas to large groups of people.
Children who participate in Citizenship Education benefit a great deal from it. It makes children aware of problems around them at a community level that needs to be addressed. This could range from lack of infrastructure for people with disabilities in their vicinity, welfare of stray animals, ill-treatment of people from low-income communities and more. It also makes them better aware of our constitutional rights and duties and what we can do about them. Lastly, and most importantly, it helps them become active citizens. Active citizens are people who participate and engage in their communities, taking an active role in making positive changes and contributing to society through actions such as volunteering, advocating for causes they believe in, and participating in civic activities.
Overall, Citizenship Education is the beacon of hope that will enable our young students to be compassionate and driven individuals who operate with a strong purpose and commitment to their country and world.