Being an Active Citizen was developed as part of a project completed in March 2010.
The goal was to provide enhancements to the BC curriculum on law and citizenship to better prepare students to be informed citizens who understand the structure and operation of Canadian political and justice systems, so they can actively participate in the life of their community.
This program introduces students to the fundamentals of law and how the justice system works, and the structure and operation of our governments. It encourages students to participate in their community as active citizens. This approach is important as it allows students opportunities to engage in active citizenship activities over a number of years and, in doing so, builds their interest and skills. It also allows for the coordination of this teaching to coincide with citizenship week, local government awareness week, one world week and law week every year.
The main purpose of the program is to allow students to go beyond learning in the classroom and become actively involved in their community. This active engagement within different aspects of the legal system, government and civil society will animate the concepts learned in class, and highlight for the students the importance of these subjects within their own lives.
The grade seven to eleven teaching resources compliment and reinforce citizenship education from year to year. It would be ideal if a high school, through the social studies department, adopted these resource packages in all grades for the same two to three week period each year.
Why was this project necessary?
In 2007, the Ministry of Education conducted a Needs Assessment for Grades 8-12 Social Studies Curriculum. The summary report identified issues such as citizenship (and law), with a recommendation that these be addressed more fully in the curriculum. The assessment included interviews with social studies experts; a literature review of current research in social studies education; reviews of curriculum in all 10 Canadian provinces; and questionnaires for educators, students, parents, and other stakeholders regarding curriculum content.
What were the important issues from the assessment?
The assessment found that:
"Fewer than a quarter (22%) of educators feel that students have ample opportunity in required social studies courses to practise active citizenship, and many feel that the curriculum does not adequately help students feel connected to Canadian politics or develop the attitudes and abilities to be active participants in democratic society." (p.4)
"Fewer than half of parents feel that adequate time and attention are devoted to developing students' citizenship skills or that students acquire a good grasp of how government works in our country from the social studies grades 8 to 11 curriculum." (p.4)
The Advisory Committee began its work on this project by undertaking a grade-by-grade analysis of the existing social studies curriculum for grades 7 through 11 (including a review of Civic Studies 11 and BC First Nations Studies 12). Areas where enhancements could be made to material on law and citizenship were identified.
Community stakeholders and the public were also asked to support the Justice Education Society in this project, and several organizations and municipal governments have sent letters of support for this important initiative.
The Advisory Committee also explored how to incorporate cumulative learning into the existing curriculum in order to improve the outcomes identified in the Ministry of Education’s Social Studies Curriculum Needs Assessment. Several options were considered but there was unanimous support for the following approach:
- Inclusion and/or enhancement of law and citizenship learning in the Grades 7 to 11 Social Studies curriculum, where aspects of law and citizenship are currently lacking or weak
- Students will acquire and build on what they have learned about law and citizenship from grade 7 through grade 11. It is expected that by Grade 11, students will have acquired an in-depth knowledge about law/government, as well as the necessary skills for participating in and promoting active citizenship.
- Up to 10 lessons on government, law, and community engagement components will be included.
- A focus on 5 main questions about those components: What is it? How does it work? Is it important in my life? Why should I care? and How can I participate?
- Curriculum support materials (e.g., teacher guides and student handouts) supporting law, government and citizenship in grades 7-11 Social Studies.
- Incorporating information about law, government, and/or citizenship type events held during designated weeks such as Citizenship Week and One World Week into the curriculum to enhance opportunities to engage students and teachers in community events.
What was developed?
Resource Packages for grades 7-11 which include 10 lessons per grade on the three components of law, government, and community engagement.
Some new and/or re-worded Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs) were developed in the current Grades 7-11 Social Studies (Integrated Resource Packages (IRPs). These were presented for consideration and implementation by the Ministry of Education.
A website was created for teachers and students to use throughout the program and was enhanced to include posting of their activities through facebook or JES.
The Advisory Committee included the Justice Education Society of BC and other important stakeholders such as the BC Civil Liberties Association, BC Ministry of Attorney General, BC Ministry of Community and Rural Development, BC Ministry of Education, BC Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association, BC Social Studies Teachers' Association, BC Teachers’ Federation, Canadian Bar Association, Local Government Leadership Academy, Oak Bay Youth Committee, Provincial Court of BC and The History Education Network.