Citizenship Education from a Swedish Perspective

A citizen may be described as a member of a political community or state, who has certain legal, social and moral rights, duties and responsibilities. Citizenship is a political concept with a variety of rights and responsibilities in a given political community. These rights and responsibilities change over time as the result of social struggle, economic change and shifts in governing ideology. The idea of citizenship is built on the principle of equal value and equal opportunity for the people to take part in and influence public activities. Even though citizenship can mean different things in different nations, it also has a broader sociological and historical meaning that is universal (Petersson, Hermansson, Micheletti, Teorell &Westholm, 1998). It may also appear as an identity that is viewed as dynamic and elusive, and an object of continuous negotiation in a global world (Sandström Kjellin & Stier, 2008). For example, Vinken (2005) focuses on citizenship defined as the process in which young people develop trust in others and in society’s institutions and associations, which, to some degree, serve a public cause. Sandström Kjellin and Stier (2008) even argue that we live in a world that is more globalised than in any other historical era.

Inglehart (1997) and Giddens (1991) state that young citizens participate in society with “self-actualizing” or “self-reflexive” involvements in personally meaningful causes guided by their own lifestyles and shifting social networks. In the light of new knowledge and experiences, people constantly reconsider and redevelop their self (Giddens, 1991). A portfolio with skills for citizenship has been identified as to be able to show mutual respect to others, to have social awareness, to be able to take self-responsibility, and to have good self-confidence and self-worth (Hall, Williams & Coffey, 2010). Schreiner and Sjöberg (2007) argue that when young people choose an education, they simultaneously express important components of their identity. Education is seen as a means for self-actualization, for fulfilling and developing personal talents and abilities. Moreover, late-modern societies (Western modernised countries) attempt to develop citizens who are self-directed and self-expressive individuals. Consequently, Schreiner and Sjöberg (2007) claim that students in late-modern classrooms might reasonably expect their values and voices to be taken into account in one way or another.

Citizenship is not a school subject at Swedish schools. Aspects and perspectives of people’s citizenship are included as a part of different school subjects such as civics and history. Citizenship is a part of the Swedish school system expressed as “the Swedish school system’s value ground/fundamental values” that is supposed to permeate all activities in the elementary and secondary schools.

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(Author: Lisbeth Lindström

Published by Macrothink Institute)