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Lebanese American University


A letter to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education
Zeena Abdulsalam Amkieh

14
Dear Sirs/Madams at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education

As you have issued the new education strategy for enhancing the quality of education

in Lebanon, I would like to shed light on one of your plans, the development of a new

citizenship curriculum. To begin with, citizenship is defined as the state of accepting

others by accepting differences and recognizing factors that bring people together thus

creating national pride, abiding by ones’ obligations such as respecting laws and

having interest in public affairs such as national sports events, and acting responsibly

such as taking care of the environment and making improvement on the national level

by first believing that one can make a difference by participating in community service

programs such as helping people with disabilities. (Frayha, 2003; Sink, 2002a; Smith,

2007). Allow me, being a passionate citizenship teacher to introduce you to my

personal philosophy on citizenship education and how it can be implemented in

Lebanon. After my experience and research I have come to believe that citizenship

education should be an important subject to be taught in Lebanese schools. It

comprises a teaching of belongingness, rights, responsibilities, conflict resolution and

awareness not only toward the nation but also to the world because citizens are part of

it as well, so there must be a global view. Moreover, the curriculum should integrate

character education along with citizenship as it is fundamental in shaping students'

personality and enhances their societal performance. Hence, I believe that the new

Lebanese citizenship education program ought to be a "Global citizenship and

Character education".

A Global Citizenship

The promotion of "Global Citizenship‟ has emerged as a common feature of school

curricular reform around the world, reflecting a shift away from conceptions of
citizenship based wholly on the national. Global Citizenship Education is. Therefore, a

broadening field manifested in both academic and policy contexts. The term global

citizenship education‟ is entwined with a large number of overlapping educational

arenas including development education, education for cosmopolitan citizenship,

peace education and human rights education. (Johnson, 2010). Having a global

citizenship education will help enable students to develop the core competencies

which allow them to actively engage with the world, and help to make it a more just

and sustainable place. It is about recognizing one's responsibilities towards another

and the wider world. The outcome will be the children and young people as global

citizens, able to take up their place in the world, contribute to it confidently,

successfully and effectively, understanding the rights and responsibilities of living and

working in a globalized world. Equally important, citizenship education can promote

social cohesion and lead to high levels of civic participation (Heyneman, 2000).

In that sense, I am against limiting the pedagogy of citizenship to only the nation, In

Lebanon students learn citizenship academically through the "civics" subject from

grade one through grade twelve. After working with the Lebanese civics textbooks for

many years, I concluded that belongingness, rights, responsibilities, loyalty, and

welfare are well promoted and established, however they are somehow restricted to the

Lebanese community. Civics alone can limit the development of identities and skills

for active participation since it primarily focuses on political participation at the

nationalistic level (Akar, 2012). So, I suggest that global citizenship with teaching

civics in Lebanon on account of the incorporation of the global dimension into

citizenship education will help students understand issues around them such as racism,

refugees, and the impact of migration be initiated. It will also help our students

develop a balanced and informed view of these issues enabling them to respond in

active and responsible ways to what is happening in Lebanon and the wider world. The
global dimension to citizenship education is more than learning about other countries.

It is a vital part of every aspect of the school curriculum, the life of the school and its

teachers and pupils. Global citizenship is also about the global dimension to local

issues, which are present in all our lives, localities and communities, the jobs we do,

the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the music we listen to, the people and faith in our

communities, and the students in our schools. It affects the decisions we have to make

about everyday life from what to buy to where to go on holiday.

”…the importance of involving young people - all people - in political decision making is

greater than ever. Globally and locally we face new and complex challenges, it is important

that everyone takes part in the debate"

http://www.citizen.org.uk/

Character education

As far as the pedagogy of character education is concerned, it includes and

complements a broad range of educational approaches such as whole child education,

service learning, social-emotional learning, and civic education. All share a

commitment to helping students become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens.

Because students spend so much time in school, our schools offer a critically

important opportunity to ensure that all students get the support and help them need to

reach their full potential. To be effective in schools, character education must involve

everyone, school staff, parents, students, and community members, and be part of

every school day. It must be integrated into the curriculum as well as school culture.

When this happens and school communities unite around developing character,

schools see amazing results.

Character education emphasizes the interconnectedness of the core values, social and

emotional competencies, and civic literacy, and global awareness that are critical for
character and citizenship development of our students to achieve personal well-being

and effectiveness.

Objectives of the new curriculum

Being inspired by the citizenship education programs of the United Kingdom, Korea,

Canada, and Finland which, are considered as top countries in education according to a

report developed in 2014 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, I suggest the following

objectives be taken into consideration while setting the new Lebanese citizenship

curriculum: belongingness to the Lebanese community, awareness of the wider world

and development of a sense of an own role as a world citizen, respect and value of

diversity (especially with Lebanon being a plural country), ability to think about

topical political, spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues, comprehension of the

legal and human rights and responsibilities underpinning the society, being an active

part in the democratic and electoral processes, acquisition of self-awareness and

application of self-management skills, being resilient by turning challenges into

opportunities, and the willingness to act to make the world a more sustainable place.

To implement the new citizenship curriculum, three strands should be regarded

The first strand is the political literacy in a global dimension. Students are entitled to

develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need as adult members of the

global society. Society needs its citizens to contribute to an informed public opinion

(Brownlie, 2001). Including the global dimension to citizenship education, students

will be assisted to understand international conventions, such as the UN Convention

on the Rights of the Child, the connections between the Lebanese law and

international law and the global dimension to topical issues. I think it will provide
students with the convenient skills that enable them to identify issues that are

important to them and to participate in the democratic process at a range of levels.

The second strand is the social and moral responsibility also within a global

dimension. A myriad of issues important to students in Lebanon are also relevant to

other students everywhere. These include issues such as children’s rights, human

rights and sustainable development. Pupils need to develop the knowledge, skills,

understanding and values to participate in decisions about the way we do things

individually and collectively. Decisions, for example, that will improve the quality of

life locally and globally without damaging the planet for the future. Incorporating the

global dimension will help our Lebanese students understand how these concerns are

shared with their peers elsewhere in the world. It will help them respect the rights of

others to fulfill themselves and encourage them to take action for the common good.

The global dimension emphasizes the moral imperative to understand and empathize

with fellow human beings. It provides students with a sound foundation on which to

base and build their value system. It helps them to make decisions and take action –

based on knowledge of the world – which respect the nature of the world we live in,

and the rights and dignity of others in an interdependent world.

The third strand is community involvement in a global dimension. Citizenship is based

on a sense of belonging and identity. Many students or their parents were born in

another country. The acknowledgement of the global dimension in students’ lives can

be addressed by looking at issues such as migration, religion, culture and identity. This

can make a positive contribution to students’ understanding of themselves and their

sense of social inclusion. The global dimension meets the need to prepare all students

for life in a multicultural society as Lebanon. Sink (2002a) defined a multicultural

citizen as a person who has the knowledge, attitude and skills to deal with ethnic,

cultural, racial and religious differences The Lebanese citizens represent a multitude of
different inheritances, backgrounds, influences, perspectives and experiences.

Therefore, the global dimension helps develop recognition of how interdependent the

world is.

The program

The program of study for global citizenship and character education should provide a

framework from which we as teachers can develop and build our lessons. This will

pave the way toward a considerable scope for devising activities in methods that are

relevant and interesting to students and are appropriate to their local communities.

This can also allow us to build on our own experiences and interests. Within this

framework there are both explicit and implicit references to the global dimension of

citizenship education. The global dimension is not only applicable where it is explicit

in the framework, but is relevant to all aspects of the curriculum where it has a

unifying function. (Johnson, 2010).It should embrace a set of activities that promote

citizenship alongside with the textbook. In other words; I suggest the implementation

of activities that cater for active citizenship such as community service. A sixty hour

of community service in one academic year would be enough to actively engage

students in society. According to CNCS (2006) students who participated in

volunteering activities, and especially service-learning courses, were found to have a

strong positive relationship with civic engagement, including the probability of future

volunteering, a high sense of personal efficacy, and interest in current events and

politics. The strongest of these relationships are the future civic behaviors and

attitudes. In order to become responsible, students should be helped, among other

things, to respect others and act with integrity, challenge injustice, live peaceably with

others, sustain the environment, take account of the needs of present and future

generations. Thus the aims of the curriculum are far more than knowledge-based. As
far as the making of citizens is concerned, this is not to be regarded as an open-ended

project. There is a very definite kind of citizen in mind, who needs to be possessed of

the kinds of virtues which will result in the maintenance of our democratic institutions.

Every citizenship curriculum in the world contains an element of ‘nation building’,

and social reproduction and ours is no different.

Pedagogy

I believe that citizenship should be taught not only in the civics subject but to be

integrated in the holistic curriculum because of its vital importance in shaping students

personality). For instance, in geography, students can follow how governments

respond and work together on global issues such as climate change. Besides, students

can apply their mathematical skills to interpret statistics relevant to international

current affairs (Brownlie , 2001)This means approaching the subject in ways that

enable students to recognize the relevance to their own lives. Subjects should be

diversified, local and international so that students can build an awareness of what is

going on worldwide. The depth of coverage within different aspects can be varied; it

can be woven into citizenship or other strands in the curriculum (OXFAM, 1997).

Many subject areas already include a global dimension that can be made citizenship-

rich by emphasizing the relevant elements – for example, looking at domestic fuel

consumption in a worldwide context and discussing action that the individual can take.

Due to the prevailing trend were students in Lebanon learn civics one hour per week

on average, global citizenship and character education can be taught within this

session with a bunch of interesting activities. For active citizenship engagement I

recommend that teachers use various approaches in teaching other than lecturing such

as giving students case studies and letting them come up with inferences. Citizenship

education is more than a subject. If taught well and tailored to local needs, its skills
and values will enhance democratic life for all of us, both rights and responsibilities,

beginning in school and radiating out. (Crick, 1999)

The textbook

As for a textbook for teaching citizenship education, the Lebanese curriculum should

include topics related to national and international awareness, respecting the laws,

rights and responsibilities, environmental awareness, peace education, and character

building. Indeed topics should be arranged with relevance to students' level grades. I

propose including critical thinking questions in the textbook that can enhance students'

thinking and allow for further inquiry and debate. Moreover, global controversial

topics such as global warming, healthcare, illiteracy or stem cell must be provided so

that students practice debating and enhance their negotiation skills.

Conclusion

Citizenship education is more than a subject. If taught well and tailored to local needs,

its skills and values will enhance democratic life for all of us, both rights and

responsibilities, beginning in school and radiating out.Lebanon is in need for proper

citizenship as it will enhance the performance of students, hence the overall

development of the Lebanese society and economy. This can be achieved through

educating our fellow students. Education is a potent instrument that can be used to

foster peace and unity. (Yusuf, 2000) Therefore the Lebanese Ministry of Education

and Higher Education should take into consideration implementing a special

curriculum for "Global Citizenship and Character Education" that will inculcate in the

learners the ideal of national and international consciousness and awareness.


References

Akar, B. (2012). The space between civic education and active citizenship in Lebanon.

Notre Dame University-Louaize

Brownlie , A. (2001). Citizenship Education: the global dimension, guidance for key

stages 3 and 4. London, UK: Development Education Association.

Citizenship and Character Education Syllabus: Student Development Curriculum

Division. Ministry of Education, Singapore. Retrieved from

http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/syllabuses/character-citizenship-

education/files/2014-character-citizenship-education-eng.pdf

CNCS. Corporation for National and Community Service. (2006, March).

Education for active citizenship: Service-learning, school-based service, and civic

engagement. Brief 2 in the Youth Helping America Series. Washington, Dc

Frayha, N. (2003). Education and social cohesion in Lebanon. Prospects, 33, 1


Heyneman, S. (2000). From the Party/State to Multiethnic Democracy: Education and

Social Cohesion in Europe and Central Asia. Educational Evaluation and Policy

Analysis Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 173-191

Johnson, L. (2010). Towards a Framework for Global Citizenship Education.

Retrieved from

https://www.ioe.ac.uk/about/documents/About_Overview/Johnson_L.pdf

OXFAM. (1997). A curriculum for global citizenship. Oxford, UK: OXFAM.

Citizenship education: The Global Dimension .Retrieved from

http://dspace.africaportal.org/jspui/bitstream/123456789/11288/1/Citizenship%20educ

ation%20the%20global%20dimension%202001.pdf?1

Sink, C. (2002a). Comprehensive guidance and counseling programs and the

development multicultural student- citizens. Professional School counseling, 6(2) 130-

137.

Smith, M. (2007, April 20). Improving community involvement and citizenship among

elementary school students through service learning experiences

The Learning Curve: Education and Skills for Life, 2014 REPORT. The Economist

Intelligence Unit. Pearson. Retrieved from


http://www.tc.columbia.edu/centers/epe/PDF%20articles/Davis_ch13_22feb08.pdf.

2014

Yusuf, A. (2000). Citizenship Education: An Instrument for Unity and Stability in Nigeria

Department of arts and social sciences education, university of Ilorin, Nigeria

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