Citizenship: Teaching In Schools

Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 27th November 2000.

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Photo of Kieran McCarthy Kieran McCarthy Alliance

asked the Minister of Education what plans he has to introduce the teaching of citizenship in schools.

(AQO 356/00)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I am aware of the importance of citizenship education for our young people. The Council for the Curriculum, Examination and Assessment (CCEA) is currently undertaking a review of the curriculum here, taking into account the changing needs of pupils, society and the economy in the new millennium. The council has highlighted the issue of citizenship education as part of this review and has been given approval to begin development work on a programme covering education for democracy and citizenship. It is proposed that that programme will focus on years 8 to 10, and it will cover diversity and interdependence, including community identity, conflict and reconciliation, and social and civic responsibilities. It will also deal with the issue of equality and justice, including human rights, inclusion and sustainable development, democracy and active participation.

Photo of Kieran McCarthy Kieran McCarthy Alliance

As we live in an era of citizens’ rights, does the Minister agree that young people should be taught at an early age that respect for law, justice and democracy — among other things — are fundamental elements of decent living? Does he agree that society as a whole would benefit from such an addition to the curriculum?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I agree that our young people would benefit from a comprehensive approach to the issue of citizenship and to the effective provision of processes to enable young people to appreciate their environment. The most important thing of all is the valuable contribution that they have to make to the community. I have often said that our most valuable resource is our children. There is no doubt about that. We have a responsibility to provide the best and most wide-ranging education that we can.

As I said in response to an earlier question, our young people are tremendous. The more that I visit schools and meet young people from right across the community, the more it becomes clear that young people appreciate the transformation that our society has undergone recently. They appreciate the Good Friday Agreement and understand the challenges that it poses, not just for politicians, but for themselves. They have risen to that challenge and accepted that the new way forward is for them. The more that we encourage that in the school curriculum, the greater the benefits will be for all of us in the longer term. That is why the review of the curriculum is so important.

Photo of Patricia Lewsley Patricia Lewsley Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the recommendation of the CCEA to include the issue of citizenship in the new curriculum. How will that be delivered, and what type of training and funding will be put in to ensure that teachers will not be put under any more pressure than they are already?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

The issue of how teachers deal with the considerable change caused by new measures that may be put in place as a result of the review is important. I am conscious of the need for teachers to receive appropriate training that will assist them in preparing for the introduction of the revised curriculum. The CCEA and the curriculum advisory and support services of the education and library boards have a responsibility for the provision of in-service training and are in discussion with my Department on how to plan for and meet those training needs. It is important that we manage all such matters in a way conducive to making life as easy as possible for teachers, who are presently under great strain.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

One of the rules for good citizens is the upholding of law and order. Will the Minister of Education call on school leavers to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland as part of the practice of good citizenship?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

No one in the House will be under any illusion as to where I stand on the matter. I do not want to go into a debate on the issue, but it is important to point out that I accept absolutely that we need a new beginning to policing in this part of Ireland. We need a policing service to which all in the community can give its allegiance. The jury has sat on that — [Interruption]