Civics courses: an opportunity to teach 21st-century skills

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Citizenship must be taught in schools to create a more just and equitable society.

Photo: Bigstock

Ethical and moral values through citizenship are crucial because they help strengthen the values and civic culture of new generations. Civics courses allow children to practice several power skills like critical thinking. Students learn to discern between good and bad behaviors as well as to be aware of their rights and duties with their community.

According to a 2016 study by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), those countries with an excellent civic education program are the best evaluated. The programs they offer focus on training students from kindergarten to higher education, as well as the preparation of specialized teachers.

Among the countries with the highest performance are Sweden, China, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. In Latin America, the countries that fared better were Chile and Colombia, followed by Mexico, although they are below the average.

Civic education at different stages

Civic education should start from kindergarten as it will help students understand the concepts of citizenship, dignity, responsibility, tolerance, and ethics. It begins by teaching them their citizenship duties and the importance of fulfilling them. Besides, the more the student studies the subject, the more opportunity she has to "live" the meaning of civic and human rights, and know her role in her community.

As the student progresses in education and the basics of citizenship are established, it will become easier to teach them more complex concepts. These issues can range from citizenship, justice, equity, legality, and institutionality.

Upon reaching high school, young people should already have the ability to learn and understand about the order and functioning of society and the role they play within it.

In high school and higher education, the student must master the issues of democracy, the rule of law, social equity, conflict resolution, and human rights.

The topics in any civics class should be approached methodologically, adapted to each student stage, and seen as a transversal subject since any other matter can be compatible. Joining courses with a citizenship focus offers different opportunities to learn about values and citizenship; as long as it goes hand in hand with a civics training program.

With the significant rise of power skills, subjects such as citizenship should be essential in the students' education at any stage. Not only because it will help them develop skills such as critical thinking but also because it helps them form model citizens in society.

The Observatory would like to know: How are ethics and civics courses applied at your school? Is there a program or law that seeks to teach civics in classrooms?