Young people’s experience of a democratic deficit in citizenship education in formal and informal settings in Scotland
Hong, Byulrim Pyollim
This thesis enquires into the kinds of citizenship taught and learned in formal and informal settings of citizenship education in Scotland. There has been a ‘perceived’ crisis in democratic citizenry in the UK and elsewhere across the world since the 1990s and this has brought about renewed interests in citizenship education whereby young people are a specifically targeted group. Yet, citizenship education is a fundamentally contested domain where conflicting and contrasting ideologies co-exist and the Scottish version of ‘education for global citizenship’ is an archetypal example of this. By exploring similarities and differences between accounts of ‘what adult practitioners do’ and ‘what young people learn’ in each setting, the thesis emphasises tensions and challenges of citizenship education and their implications for the wider debates about the complex relationship between citizenship, democracy and education. The thesis deploys a synthesised theoretical framework for differentiating and analysing the types of education and learning that are legitimate points of reference in citizenship education for democratic life. It distinguishes between approaches to education for citizenship that focuses on membership of the community (relationships and service work in communities), formal political participation (political literacy in terms of institutions, processes and procedures) entrepreneurial citizenship (employability skills and economic participation) and social and political activism (the commitment and capacity to think critically and act collectively to realise the inherent goals of democracy). These different approaches entail a broad ideological mix of civic republicanism, liberalism and neoliberalism which informs citizenship education. The increasing emphasis on economic participation in educational contexts resonates with what can be termed as a neoliberal version of ‘responsiblised citizenship’ that promotes an individualised and depoliticised conception of citizenship by equipping young people with knowledge, skills and experiences to get on and get into the labour market through their own individual efforts rather than being concerned with the collective needs and interests of young people. Formal education and, to some extent informal community education, tend to overlook the de facto issues, experiences and contributions of young people as engaged citizens and the need to focus on the commitment and capacity to think critically and act collectively in order to realise the inherent goals of democracy as an unfinished project. Consequently, the experience of citizenship education is one young people often feel marginal to or marginalised from. This thesis challenges the dominant assumption of ‘disengaged youth’ to focus instead on the democratic deficit at the heart of citizenship teaching and learning. Along with the ‘invited’ spaces of citizenship education, in both formal and informal settings, the goal of democracy should include the ‘invented’ spaces of citizenship learning which reflects the lived experience, concerns and aspirations of young people.