Active citizenship in a global world: opportunities in the Australian Curriculum

  • Ruth ReynoldsEmail author
  • Suzanne Macqueen
  • Kate Ferguson-Patrick
Research article


The Australian Curriculum (ACARA 2017) was born out of the Melbourne Declaration of 2008 which urged the need to teach ‘active and informed’ citizens. However, in the primary school area of the curriculum, examples of active citizenship, and especially active citizenship in a global world, are not easily found. This article exposes some of the complexities of espousing active global citizenship, and then interrogates the primary school Australian Curriculum documents in Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS), English, and Science to find instances of guidance for teachers in promoting these ideas. It was found that learning ‘about’ active citizenship was an opportunity explored in the curriculum documents much more often than learning ‘to be’ active citizens. If our younger citizens are indeed seen as requiring an active globally oriented citizenship education in our schools, surely our key curriculum documents should lead this focus by providing real opportunities for teachers to engage in it.


Active citizenship Australian Curriculum Citizenship Intercultural competence 



  1. Active Citizenship Foundation Hungary. (2011). International conference report: a Europe of active citizens. Retrieved from
  2. Arthur, J., Davies, I., & Hahn, C. (2008). In J. Arthur, I. Davies, & C. Hahn (Eds.), SAGE handbook of education for citizenship and democracy. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2011). Consultation on general capabilities. Retrieved from
  4. Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2017 Version 8.3). Australian Curriculum F-10. Retrieved from
  5. Australian Government. (2015). Review of the Australian Curriculum. Final report [Donnelly-Wiltshire review]. Canberra: Australian Government.Google Scholar
  6. Australian Primary Principals Association [APPA] (2014). The overcrowded primary curriculum: a way forward. Retrieved from
  7. Bartholomaeus, C., Gregoric, C., & Krieg, S. (2016). Young children as active citizens in local government: possibilities and challenges from an Australian perspective. International Journal of Early Childhood, 48(1), 79–93.Google Scholar
  8. Belas, O., & Hopkins, N. (2019). Subject English as citizenship education. British Educational Research Journal, 45(2), 320–339.Google Scholar
  9. Brett, P. (2018). Retrieving the civic dimension in history: creating meaningful and memorable links between History and Civics and Citizenship in primary classrooms. The Social Educator, 36(2), 15–29.Google Scholar
  10. Buchanan, J., & Burridge, N. (2016). Education for human rights: opportunities and challenges arising from Australian Curriculum reform. Curriculum Perspectives, 36(2), 41–51.Google Scholar
  11. Council of Europe. (2018). Council recommendation of 22 May 2018 on promoting common values, inclusive education, and the European dimension of teaching.Google Scholar
  12. Crick, B. (2007). Citizenship: the political and the democratic. British Journal of Educational Studies, 55(3), 235–248.Google Scholar
  13. Cushner, K. (2011). Intercultural research in teacher education: an essential intersection in the preparation of globally competent teachers. Action in Teacher Education, 33(5–6), 601–614.Google Scholar
  14. Davies, I. (2007). Science and citizenship education. International Journal of Science Education, 26(14), 1751–1763.Google Scholar
  15. Davies, I., & Chong, E. (2016). Current challenges for citizenship education in England. Asian Education and Development Studies, 5(1), 20–36.Google Scholar
  16. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, being & becoming. In The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  17. Dyer, J., & McNicol, C. (2015). Global education: past present and future. The Social Educator, 33(1), 4–13.Google Scholar
  18. Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing discourse. Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Ferguson-Patrick, K., Reynolds, R., & Macqueen, S. (2018). Integrating curriculum: a case study of teaching global education. European Journal of Teacher Education, 41(2), 1–15.Google Scholar
  20. Goodson, I. (1983). School subjects and curriculum change. London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  21. Goren, H., & Yemini, M. (2017). The global citizenship education gap: teacher perceptions of the relationship between global citizenship and students’ socio-economic status. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 9–22.Google Scholar
  22. Henderson, D. (2010). Civics and Citizenship in the National History Curriculum: conducting the same music or rehearsing an incomplete tune? The Social Educator, 28(1), 18–26.Google Scholar
  23. Hoepper, B. (2011). Promises to keep…potential and pitfalls in the Australian Curriculum: history. Curriculum Perspectives, 31(3), 64–71.Google Scholar
  24. Keating, A. (2009). Educating Europe’s citizens: moving from national to post-national models of educating for European citizenship. Citizenship Studies, 13(2), 135–151.Google Scholar
  25. Kennedy, K. (2007). Student construction of ‘active citizenship’: what does participation mean to students? British Journal of Educational Studies, 55(3), 304–324.Google Scholar
  26. Kisby, B. (2009). Social capital and citizenship lessons in England. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 4(1), 41–62.Google Scholar
  27. Krutka, D., & Carpenter, J. (2017). Digital citizenship in the curriculum. Educational Leadership, 75(3), 51–55.Google Scholar
  28. Lingard, B., & Keddie, A. (2013). Redistribution, recognition and representation: working against pedagogies of indifference. Pedagogy, culture & society, 21(3), 427–447.Google Scholar
  29. Macqueen, S., & Ferguson-Patrick, K. (2015). Where is the action in global education? Employing global education for lasting change through teacher education. In R. Reynolds, D. Bradbery, J. Brown, K. Carroll, D. Donnelly, K. Ferguson-Patrick, & S. Macqueen (Eds.), Contesting and constructing international perspectives in global education (pp. 115–124). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  30. Mellor, S., Meiers, M. (2009). Civics and citizenship education. The Digest, NSWIT, 2010 (3).Google Scholar
  31. Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs [MCEETYA]. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians. Retrieved from
  32. Nicoll, K., Fejes, A., Olson, M., Dahlstedt, M., & Biesta, G. (2013). Opening discourses of citizenship education: a theorisation with Foucault. Journal of Education Policy, 28(6), 828–846.Google Scholar
  33. OECD & Asia Society. Center for Global Education (2018). Teaching for global competence in a rapidly changing world. Retrieved from
  34. Osler, A. (2011). Teacher interpretations of citizenship education: national identity, cosmopolitan ideals and political realities. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43(1), 1–24.Google Scholar
  35. Perry, L., & Southwell, L. (2011). Developing intercultural understanding and skills: models and approaches. Intercultural Education, 22(6), 453–466.Google Scholar
  36. Peterson, A., & Bentley, B. (2016). A case of cautious optimism? Active citizenship and the Australian civics and citizenship curriculum. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 37(1), 42–54.Google Scholar
  37. Peterson, A., & Knowles, C. (2009). Active citizenship: a preliminary study into student teacher understandings. Educational Research, 51(1), 39–59.Google Scholar
  38. Phillips, L. (2011). Possibilities and quandaries for young children’s active citizenship. Early Education and Development, 22(5), 778–794.Google Scholar
  39. Phillips, L. (2016). Human rights for children and young people in Australian curricula. Curriculum Perspectives, 36(2), 1–14.Google Scholar
  40. Pike, G. (2015). Re-imagining global education in the neoliberal age. Challenges and opportunities. In Reynolds, R., Bradbery, D., Brown, J., Carroll, K., Donnelly, D., Ferguson-Patrick, K., & Macqueen, S. (Eds). Contesting and constructing international perspectives in global education (pp.1124). Amsterdam: SENSE Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  42. Reynolds, R. (2008). The use of historical fiction to promote a critical citizenry. Curriculum Perspectives, 28(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
  43. Reynolds, R. (2012). Teaching history, geography and SOSE in primary schools. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Rinaldi, C. (2013). Re-imaging childhood: the inspiration of Reggio Emilia educational principles in South Australia. Adelaide: Government of South Australia.Google Scholar
  45. Ross, A. (2007). Multiple identities and education for active citizenship. British Journal of Educational Studies, 55(3), 286–303.Google Scholar
  46. Ross, A. (2012). Education for active citizenship: practices, policies, promises. International Journal of Progressive Education, 8(3), 7–14.Google Scholar
  47. Schulz, W., Ainley, J., Kerr, D., & Losito, B. (2010). Initial findings from the IEA International Civics and Education Study. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: IEA.Google Scholar
  48. Syed, G. (2013). How appropriate is it to teach citizenship through main curriculum subjects? Citizenship. Social and Economics Education, 12(2), 136–142.Google Scholar
  49. Tudball, L., & Henderson, D. (2014). Contested notions of civics and citizenship education as national education in the Australian Curriculum. Curriculum and Teaching, 29(2), 5–24.Google Scholar
  50. United Nations (1989). UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from:
  51. Wood, B. (2012). Scales of active citizenship: New Zealand teachers’ diverse perceptions and practice. International Journal of Progressive Education, 8(3), 77–93.Google Scholar
  52. Wood, B. (2014). Participatory capital: Bourdieu and citizenship education in diverse school communities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(4), 578–597.Google Scholar
  53. Wood, B., Taylor, R., Atkins, R., & Johnston, M. (2018). Pedagogies for active citizenship: learning through affective and cognitive domains for deeper democratic engagement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 75, 259–267.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Australian Curriculum Studies Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationThe University of NewcastlePort MacquarieAustralia
  2. 2.School of EducationThe University of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia

Personalised recommendations