Recently, the development of global citizenship education (GCE) and the building of students’ global citizenship competencies has become a strong policy focus in international agendas, in particular in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (see Introduction chapter). Consequently, GCE represents a strategic area for UNESCO’s Education Sector Program (UNESCO 2019) and is the new buzzword in educational landscapes around the world (Akkari and Maleq 2019).

Worldwide, educators and policymakers increasingly seek to integrate GCE, in a bid to “prepare students to navigate and thrive in a modern global society” (Goren and Yemini 2017, p. 170). However, although GCE aims to provide answers to today’s global challenges, foster social change and empower global citizenship, its operationalization and implementation at national levels remains complex.

Indeed, despite the concept’s universal reach, GCE is largely context-dependent and subject to many interpretations. Goren and Yemini (2017) describe the variety of definitions and conceptualizations as a conceptual chaos. However, Dill (2013) suggests that there are two main approaches to GCE: the global competencies approach, aiming to develop the skills needed to compete in a global world, and the global consciousness approach, reflecting humanist values. Veugelers (2011) distinguishes between three categories of global citizenship: open global citizenship, which recognizes the interdependence between nation states in the global age and opportunities for cultural diversification; moral global citizenship, based on equality and human rights, which emphasizes global responsibility; and socio-political global citizenship, which is meant to shift the balance of political power to promote equality and cultural diversity. These categories are hierarchical, with open global citizenship representing a shallow form of GCE and socio-political global citizenship representing a more profound form.

The concept of citizenship itself is complex and must be understood in the light of historical, political and cultural contexts. With this in mind, this chapter aims to better understand how three Western European educational systems have incorporated curricular contents than can by associated with GCE and identify the current challenges and opportunities for GCE. To do so, we will provide a comparative perspective on GCE in France, Switzerland and England, countries which have historically adopted different approaches to citizenship education.

We have, therefore, chosen to adopt a comparative approach that enables us to understand how educational systems address global, national and local issues (Perez et al. 2002). It is important to note that although our work is inspired by comparative education, this chapter proposes a review of literature and educational policy documents rather that a comparative study.

Conception of Citizenship Education: A Review of Three Contexts

Since the understanding of the context is fundamental to comparative approaches to education (Groux 1997; Perez et al. 2002), this section begins with a brief review of contextual elements and provides an insight as to how citizenship education is conceptualized and developed in three national educational systems (France, Switzerland and England). We also analyze the current challenges for citizenship education related to sociopolitical and cultural changes such as migration and globalization.


In 1882, in a move towards the separation of church and state, moral and civic education replaced moral and religious instruction in French public schools (Bozec 2016). The mission entrusted to schools at the time was to create a nation composed of citizens with a shared sense of national belonging (Akkari 2009) and to ensure shared and common knowledge, believed to help emancipate the population (Mabilon-Bonfils and Martin 2016). In this respect, French public schools were seen as an instrument to consolidate national unity through the promotion of shared ‘French Republican Values’ (Ruget 2006) and civic knowledge (Bozec 2016).

A key aspect of the historical French conception of citizenship education is the division between individual and collective identities (Bozec and Duchesne 2007) in which the “abstract citizen has no age, sex, social, or ethnic origin” (Mabilon-Bonfils and Martin 2016, p. 7, translated from French). Mabilon-Bonfils (1998) described this process of favouring national belonging over individual identity as the denial of personal allegiances. It is important to note that this traditional French Republican model of citizenship is supported by the principle of secularity (Ruget 2006) that, to this day, plays a fundamental role in the French conception of citizenship education (Douniès 2018) and reaffirms the clear distinction made between the private and public sphere.

Historically, secularism on the one hand, and the centralization and homogenization of the national territory on the other, have both demoted to the private sphere two strong elements of differentiation between citizens, religion and local identity […] (Bozec and Duchesne 2007, p. 95, translated from French).

However, over time, conceptions of citizenship and citizenship education curricula have evolved significantly. While citizenship education has always been central in French educational policy, its importance in curricula has varied over time. Notably, after having been relegated to history and geography programs between 1969 and 1985 (Bozec 2016).

The first significant transformation can be seen in the paradigm shift that took place in the 1990s towards a more participatory approach (Chauvigné 2018b; Grimault-Leprince 2018) in which “argumentative debate” (débat argumenté) and building knowledge through “problematization of social realities” (Chauvigné 2018b, p. 46, translated from French) were promoted. In other words, the central focus of citizenship education moved from civic instruction, aimed at inculcating ‘French Republican Values’ and a sense of national belonging, to a more active approach that includes cognitive and emotional skills (Chauvigné 2018a).

The second shift can be seen in the acknowledgement of wider communities. Indeed, although citizenship education and history remain largely rooted at a national level, references to the larger European community have been gradually added since the 1980s (Legris 2010; Ménard 2017). This led to a wider debate on the importance given to the ‘French Republican Value’ of universality and the need to recognize student’s cultural diversity. This concern intensified at the end of the 2000, complexifying the conception of French citizenship (Legris 2010) and, to some extent, allowing citizenship education to be more inclusive and respectful of diversity.

In 2015, in response to the terrorist attacks committed in France and across Europe, a third shift in focus occurred, renewing the historical emphasis on ‘French Republican Values’ believed to build national unity and combat radicalism (Chauvigné 2018a). A remobilization of secularism as a “shield-value” of the French Republic became apparent in the political discourse (Prades 2019). However, the pressure toward the assimilation of these values and the practical application of the principle of secularism remains controversial and widely debated. The prime example being the controversy over the wearing of headscarves in schools (Diallo et al. 2016).

It is undeniable that citizenship education in France has become a topical subject that faces many challenges related to conceptions and teaching of morality (Kahn 2015), students’ participation (Grimault-Leprince 2018) and cultural diversity. Indeed, many authors (Chauvigné 2018b; Douniès 2018; Roux-Lafay 2018; Mabilon-Bonfils and Zoïa 2016; Mabilon-Bonfils and Martin 2016; Durpaire 2016) illustrate how the universalist approach to ‘French Republican Values’ could conflict with the respect for cultural diversity. Furthermore, studies have shown that despite curricula reforms, normative approaches to citizenship education are still present (Chauvigné 2018a).


As the specific nature of the Swiss context has direct implications for education, it is necessary to understand some contextual elements. Switzerland is a highly decentralized federal state, divided into 26 cantons and four linguistic regions (Swiss-German, French, Italian and Romansch), with a long standing tradition of participatory and direct democracy in which citizens play a large part in the federal, cantonal and municipal decision making process (Gianni 2019). An interesting feature is that, unlike many national states, Switzerland has used this internal diversity to build its unity (Choquet 2019). It is also important to note that since educational policies are regional, Switzerland does not have a binding national educational system which makes it challenging to analyze Switzerland as a whole (Haeberli 2007; Oser and Reichenbach 2000).

The Swiss historical approach to citizenship education was primarily patriotic (Oser and Reichenbach 2000), aiming to build a national identity (Pache et al. 2018) and develop a sense of belonging to the national community (Haeberli 2007). Taking the example of the canton of Geneva, schools historically represented a powerful tool to foster national unity and promote adherence to the state (Hofstetter 1998), focusing up until the 1960s, exclusively on Switzerland, its federal system and semi-direct democracy (Haeberli 2007).

Since then, the approach to citizenship education first evolved towards a focus on formal knowledge related to the national and cantonal political institutions, followed by, more recently, an emphasis on “supra-disciplinary” skills (Oser and Reichenbach 2000, p. 8) and active citizenship participation. In current curricula, a shift towards the empowerment of students and deliberative democracy is apparent (Fink 2016). Furthermore, as a direct response to present-day global challenges, Swiss regional curricula have gradually included globally oriented contents, especially related to issues of sustainable development (CDIP 2016; Ziegler and Schneider 2011). The influence of international organisations such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe can therefore be seen in the new policy directions. For example, the guidance outlined in the latest official reportFootnote 1 (CDIP 2016) is in line with the Council of Europe’s framework for “democratic citizenship” (Ziegler and Schneider 2011).

Following recent educational reforms, three major concerns related to citizenship education remain. First, although Switzerland actively promotes citizen participation through semi-direct democracy, young people paradoxically lack interest and evolvement in politics (Ziegler and Schneider 2011; Oser and Reichenbach 2000). Furthermore, studies highlighted the low-level of political education in curricula (Haeberli 2007). In the light of these findings, a national periodic review of the educational system emphasized the importance of strengthening the field of citizenship education (CSRE 2014).

Second, the debate regarding citizenship education mainly took place in a context of educational reform aiming to harmonize regional curricula. Following the reforms, authors criticized the new chosen orientations (Ziegler and Schneider 2011; Heimberg 2011) in which citizenship education was mostly integrated in a transversal way (Education 21 2019a, b) rather than as a specific subject. Although the relevance of a transversal approach to citizenship education has been recognized by researchers (Audigier 2011), concerns were raised about its practical application (Fink and Audigier 2008; Ziegler and Schneider 2011).

The third concern is directly related to social changes engendered by immigration and increased cultural diversity. Among the many issues related to the integration of migrants in Switzerland (Gianni 2019; Choquet 2019), Bolzman et al. (2001) point out that, in a context where naturalization in a long process, pupils who do not hold Swiss citizenship may feel excluded from political and civic participation. Consequently, Heimberg (2007) suggests that citizenship education should draw upon the school population’s diversity to define the conditions and principles of “living together”.


Citizenship education has developed in diverse ways throughout the United Kingdom (i.e. in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), reflecting the differing conceptions, outcome objectives and issues of national identity (Andrews and Mycock 2007). In this chapter, we have chosen to limit the scope of our review to England, with some references to the larger British context.

First, it should be noted that, there is no real tradition of explicit teaching of citizenship education in English schools (Kerr 2003). Mycock (2004) suggests that the British government’s lack of interest in this topic was historically related to a fear “that it could undermine patriotic loyalty and stimulate radicalism” (cited by Andrews and Mycock 2007, p. 74).

However, following World War II, social, economic and political instability, the decolonization of the British Empire, immigration, Scottish and Welsh nationalism, feminist movements, and political unrest in Northern Ireland brought the issue of citizenship to the center of public attention (Grant 2016).

Citizenship has been a key way of framing questions relating to the basic interactions between individuals and the state, and between individuals within society – but those interactions and relationships were changing in the postwar period, as was the value attributed to different articulations of citizenship (Grant 2016, p. 1188).

In the 1970s, organizations such as the Hansard Society and the Politics Association acted on this lack of citizenship education in national policies and advocated the teaching of political skills and knowledge in secondary schools (Andrews and Mycock 2007). Furthermore, the 1990s witnessed growing concern “about the rapidly changing relationships between the individual and the government and the decline in traditional forms of civic cohesion” (Kerr 2003, p. 3). However, it was not until 2002 that citizenship became a compulsory subject in the English National Curriculum (Crick 2007) following the Advisory Group on the Teaching of Citizenship and Democracy in Schools’ report published in 1998, often referred to as the Crick Report (McLaughlin 2000). This report called for stronger foundations for citizenship education in schools (Kerr 2003), on the assumption that British society suffered from a “democratic deficit” (Crick 2007). In other words, the political will to add citizenship as a compulsory subject to the National Curriculum was directly linked to a perceived erosion of the social, political, economic and moral fabric of society in England and inadequate levels of political understanding and involvement (Kerr 2003).

The report went on to advocate the introduction of ‘political literacy’, social and moral responsibility and community involvement in schools, with the aim of empowering students to participate in society effectively as active, informed, critical and responsible citizens (Pykett 2007) on local and global levels (Starkey 2018). The conceptual framework adopted by the Crick Report was deeply influenced by the Conservative political context of the 1980s and early 1990s (Kerr 2003). At that time, “the Conservative Government championed the individualism of the free market and placed an emphasis on the importance of civic obligation or active citizenship” (Hurd 1988; Macgregor 1990, cited by Kerr 2003, p. 3). The definition of citizenship education put forward in the Crick Report is also in line with the philosophy of ‘New Labour’ which placed emphasis on ‘civic morality’ and individual civic responsibilities (Kerr 2003).

Since its introduction in the National Curriculum, citizenship education has become a much-debated political issue which reflects the tension between multicultural and national perspectives. The eruption of racial tensions in Northern England in 2001 and the terrorist attack in London in 2005 lead to the publication of the Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review (Ajegbo et al. 2007) and a National Curriculum reform the following year that gave impetus to teaching about diversity (Davies and Chong 2016). The National Curriculum guidelines “advocated a global and multicultural dimension which incorporated to a limited extent the notion of a European dimension” (Faas 2011, p. 488). However, a policy shift took place in 2014 towards a more conservative approach to citizenship education which included the obligation to promote ‘Fundamental British Values’ of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs (Department for Education 2014) as part of the anti-radicalization ‘Prevent Strategy’ (Starkey 2018). A strong focus on character education was equally part of the reform (Davies and Chong 2016).

As confirmed by Kerr (2003), “the debates about citizenship education in schools in England are a microcosm of the broader debates about citizenship in society” (p. 3), as political agendas have direct implications for educational policy (Wilkins and Olmedo 2018). Since its introduction into schools as a matter of national policy, it has given rise to questions about the definition, purpose, and intended outcomes of such education (Heater 2001). More generally, this educational policy change has encouraged “debate about the meaning of nationality, national identity and citizenship and the extent to which individuals and groups from both majority and minority communities feel a sense of belonging to the nation and State” (Osler and Starkey 2006, p. 288). Subsequently, such debates have intensified, as the government is turning towards citizenship education as a means to fight against terrorism and radicalization. In this tense political context, “the constitution of British-ness has been an increasingly visible part of the political discourse throughout this century, in response to concerns about population movements, integration of minorities, cohesion and terrorism” (Vincent 2019, p. 17).


Overall, this section reaffirms that approaches to citizenship education are closely linked to their historical and political national contexts. As suggested by Osborne (2005) “historical struggles and political debates over its meaning have made citizenship an arena where competing interests and philosophies contend, to the point that one might reasonably claim that the essence of citizenship is to be found in the continuing debate over what it means to be a citizen” (p. 13).

In France, citizenship education has its roots in the need to consolidate national identity (Osler and Starkey 2001) and is closely related to the principles of universalism. However, in today’s multicultural society, the French educational system seems to struggle to find a balance between the desire to build national unity and growing demands to promote and recognize the country’s cultural pluralism, creating tensions connected to the design of citizenship education curricula.

Citizenship education in Switzerland has equally evolved from a patriotic perspective that emphasized the importance of formal knowledge about the state and its political institutions to a more active approach that encourages social and political participation as well as global consciousness.

In England, the more recent history of citizenship education is linked to a perceived lack of civil participation in society and the issue of the connection between citizenship and cultural identities in a multicultural society (Heater 2001). Indeed, in today’s multicultural European societies, traditional nation-centric conceptions of citizenship are requested to respond to the diversity of the school population.

In recent educational reforms, France and England have placed a strong focus on ‘national values’ in an attempt to prevent and counter Islamic radicalism. However, this has generated controversy and questions have been raised concerning the risk of intensifying “processes of ‘othering’ through the marginalisation and degradation of minority groups and communities (in this case young Muslims)” (Bamber et al. 2018, p. 437).

Providing a More Global Dimension in Citizenship Education Curricula

Although the concept of global or cosmopolitan citizenship transcending national boarders can be traced back to Ancient Greek philosophy, it has had up until now little provision in curricula. Indeed, “despite the way in which globalization is affecting traditional conceptions of citizenship within the contours of the nation-state, the notion of ‘global citizenship’ remains a metaphor” (Tawil 2013, p. 3).

In this section, our analysis shows that current global challenges seem nevertheless to exercise a certain influence on national educational policy with both national and global levels being catered for in national curricula.


As stated above, citizenship education in France is a sensitive issue and is in many ways shaped by political and social changes. In France’s current National Curriculum, citizenship education is structured around four curricular areas: (1) a common set of core skills and culture; (2) moral and civic education; (3) eleven measures for a broad mobilization of schools towardsFrench Republican Values’; (4) democratic bodies (in which students can participate). These areas contribute to the key objectives that Chauvigné (2018a) summarized as: capacity for judgement; critical thinking; engagement; participation; and sense of national belonging. She further states that France’s current National Curriculum is based on a “deliberate articulation between knowledge, values and practices” (Chauvigné 2018a, p. 4, translated from French) that reflects the difficult balance between the search for national unity and self-emancipation.

In line with Roux-Lafay (2018), Husser (2017) and Douniès (2018) work, the current National Curriculum has adopted an ethical approach to discussion (logique d’éthique de la discussion) based on Jürgen Habermas’ philosophical thinking which allows students to assimilate values through reflection, judgment and the development of ‘discursive competence’ (Husser 2017).

However, although the present National Curriculum seems to have moved away from the historical approach to citizenship education, authors such as Chauvigné (2018a, b) and Grimault-Leprince (2018) offer a more nuanced picture. Indeed, Chauvigné (2018b) notes that citizenship education in the French educational system still relies on transmissive instructional methods. Furthermore, Grimault-Leprince (2018) demonstrates that tensions between normative conceptions of citizenship and more active approaches that promote greater citizen evolvement remain present.

The new strategy to implement the eleven measures for a broad mobilization of schools towards ‘French Republican Values’ show a clear political will to restore the central place of ‛national values’ in the curriculum. This policy direction heightens tensions between the objectives of individual emancipation and political socialization.

Even though there is no explicit reference to the concept of GCE, related objectives such as solidarity, cooperation, responsibility, critical thinking and engagement are integrated into the National Curriculum (Ministère de l’éducation nationale 2015) and globally oriented aims such as the development of a global awareness and a global sense of belonging are included in the ‘Civic Path’ (Parcours Citoyen) framework of citizenship education (included in the eleven measures for a broad mobilization of schools towards‘French Republican Values’):

Schools are both the place where the knowledge and the skills required to live and be integrated into society are acquired and where common practices and habits are put in place, giving each child and adolescent the chance to become a free, responsible and involved citizen of the planet we all share (Ministere de l’Education Nationale, 2016, para. 1, translated from French).

[…] understanding of human-environmental interdependences and eco-responsible behaviors (Ministere de l’Education Nationale, 2016, para. 2, translated from French).

Nevertheless, despite France’s National Curriculum integrating to some extent global dimensions of citizenship, it still mainly “focuses on assimilation, encouraging all students to adopt the national narrative and culture” (Goren and Yemini 2017, p. 119) as well as civic knowledge about topics such as the role of the French military and the tax system.


As Switzerland has a decentralized educational system and regional curricula, approaches to citizenship education very across the country (Haeberli 2007; Audigier and Haeberli 2004; Oser and Reichenbach 2000). However, over the last decade, harmonization reforms have taken place in most Swiss cantons and regional curricula have been designed (‘Plan d’études Romand’ for the French-speaking part of Switzerland; ‘Lehrplan 21’ for the German-speaking part of the country Piano di Studio for the Italian-speaking part).Footnote 2

Despite their many differences, the ‘Plan d’études romand’ and the “Lehrplan 21” both integrated citizenship education as a transversal subject (Education 21 2019a; Ziegler and Schneider 2011). In the ‘Plan d’études romand’, citizenship education covers three subject areas: (1) citizenship and public institution; (2) citizenship practices in school; (3) citizenship and societal issues (Marc 2017). The importance given to each subject area varies depending on the level of schooling with a key focus on citizenship practices in school in the first years. In the second half of primary school, citizenship and societal issues is gradually introduced. In secondary school, there is a balanced approach that integrates all three subject areas into the curriculum (Marc 2017). Given that citizenship education appears as a transversal subject in curricula, it is developed in many subjects and disciplines (Audigier 2011; Fink and Audigier 2008).

As stated above, global dimentions of citizenship have mainly been integrated in Swiss curricula within the topic of sustainable development, which includes economic, social and environmental dimensions (Education 21 2019a). In this respect, SteinhäuslinFootnote 3 (2010) argues that the curriculum of the French-speaking part of Switzerland is in line with GCE objectives (even though the concept as such is not mentioned) and is designed to prepare pupils for a complex world (Steinhäuslin 2010). Cognitive and social skills such as openness to otherness, multi-perspectivity, debating skills and responsibility can be found in both the Swiss curricula (CIIPFootnote 4 2016) and UNESCO’s framework for global citizenship.Footnote 5 The focus on global interdependencies found in the objectives for sustainable development and citizenship education may therefore represent an opportunity to promote global citizenship in Swiss schools.

Nevertheless, despite these global orientations, citizenship education in Switzerland is still rooted at a national level (Marc 2017) and many authors have raised concerns about the gap between curriculum theory and practices, especially concerning matters of migration and cultural diversity, and the ability of teachers to effectively address cross-cutting issues (see: Ziegler and Schneider 2011; Fink and Audigier 2008; Heimberg 2007).


Although citizenship education was only introduced in England’s National Curriculum at the turn of the twenty-first century, it is important to note that global education and world studies have been promoted in British schools by funded curriculum projects since the 1970s. Although not directly referred to as GCE, these programs were designed to teach about global interdependence and cultural diversity through participatory learning and experimentation of values (Davies 2006) with a focus on many different though overlapping levels of reality (Ballin et al. 1999, quoted by Davies 2006).

In the same vein, Oxfam, a United Kingdom based charity, first designed a Curriculum for Global Citizenship: Oxfam’s Development Education Program in 1997. This pioneering project was aimed at promoting values and attitudes to build a more just and equitable world (Douglas and Wade 1999).

Ever since, there has been “a reasonable consensus on the importance of global citizenship, and on the listings of knowledge, skills, values and behaviors which would characterize the area” (Davies 2006, p. 22) and the Department for International Development has made funding available to NGOs, to provide support to schools on teaching about global issues (Hicks 2003). The practice of citizenship education in a globalized context has therefore been developed in thousands of schools in England that have adopted the NGO-initiated Rights Respecting Schools Award. This project asserts a commitment to global and cosmopolitan citizenship, placing international human rights standards at the center of the curriculum (Starkey 2018).

In England’s most recent National Curriculum, citizenship education is a compulsory subject for pupils aged 11–16 (key stage 3 and 4). The National Curriculum for citizenship aims to ensure that all pupils:

  1. 1.

    Acquire a sound knowledge and understanding of how the United Kingdom is governed, its political system and how citizens participate actively in its democratic systems of government;

  2. 2.

    Develop a sound knowledge and understanding of the role of law and the justice system in our society and how laws are shaped and enforced;

  3. 3.

    Develop an interest in, and commitment to, participation in volunteering as well as other forms of responsible activity, that they will take with them into adulthood;

  4. 4.

    Are equipped with the skills to think critically and debate political questions, to enable them to manage their money on a day-to-day basis, and plan for future financial needs (Department of Education 2014, p. 1).

The scope of citizenship education varies depending on the levels of schooling, with a focus on the United Kingdom for pupils aged 11–14 (key stage 3). References to Europe, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the wider global community appear in the last two years (key stage 4).

The recent decision to include ‘Fundamental British Values’ as part of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development seems therefore somewhat inconsistent with the country’s history of global education and appears as a strategic attempt to require schools to privilege national narrative over global dimensions of citizenship (Elton-Chalcraft et al. 2017). This situation “reflects the political debate as to whether the struggle against terrorism requires discussion of political options rather than the closing of space for considering identities and diversity in the context of living together in the UK” (Starkey 2018, p. 160).

As argued by Breslin et al. (2006), attempts to promote ‘British values’ without being able to reach consensus on the definition of ‘Britishness’ runs the risk of promoting a “narrow, fixed, uncritical and intolerant nationalism” (p. 21) and ethnocentric rather than inclusive conceptions of national identity.

The discourse of civic nationalism which purports to accommodate plurality (and herein lies the contradiction) serves to exclude the very members of its society that are constructed as the terrorist ‘other’ within and whose religious identity is racialised and conceived as the binary opposite against which the discourse of civic nationalism is constructed (Lander 2016, p. 276).

In the years to come, it will be interesting to see how the debate on citizenship education evolves following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Ross and Davies (2018) believe that an emphasis on national citizenship education will be strengthened at the expense of GCE.


Our overview of these three national contexts highlights that current issues related to student diversity, globalization and environmental sustainability are slowly transforming citizenship education curricula. Nevertheless, there is a strong political will to uphold ‘national’ norms and values, especially in France and England.

In France, the seemingly ethnocentric nature of citizenship education has nevertheless embraced wider global dimensions and integrated competency-based objectives associated with GCE. In Switzerland, citizenship is considered a transversal theme in current curricula with global citizenship being a core part of learning sustainability. In England, although global education and citizenship education have evolved separately, notions of multicultural identity and global views have been integrated into citizenship education.

Nonetheless, as GCE finds its place in school curricula alongside more traditional national approaches to citizenship education, it may encounter similar challenges. First, while modern conceptions of citizenship education are moving away from knowledge-based models, the complexity of its objectives call for a more transversal integration. However, despite the rich opportunities that transversal integration offers, it requires improvements in teacher training (Tsankov 2017). Second, more research is needed to effectively translate the intentions of empowering students to become active and responsible citizens in the school context. Third, GCE will have to rise to the challenge of not becoming dogmatic and overcoming normative discourse. Finally, the biggest challenge may be to overcome the opposition between global and national citizenship in what UNESCO (2018) qualifies as “taking it local”, allowing for a greater national and local ownership of GCE.

Educating About and for Global Citizenship

Although GCE has been put forward as a means of building competence for a democratic and inclusive society, it is nevertheless subject to divergent political and ideological views. In the current political climate marked by growing divides on questions relating to immigration and multiculturalism (Tarozzi and Torres 2016), there are opposing viewpoints and tensions between those who believe the primary purpose of citizenship education is to build national identity and those who wish to promote cosmopolitan citizenship and global solidarity.

It is important to realise that citizenship education is highly politicized and very much determined by the nature of national political agendas and public policy decision-making processes. Consequently, the introduction of a concept like ‘global citizenship’ in international education discourse is inevitably viewed with mixed feelings.

Nevertheless, with a growing need to prepare students for a rapidly-changing global world, we have seen that GCE related content has gradually been introduced in national curricula. Ross and Davies (2018) identify four significant trends of global citizenship in the overall European context: (1) developmental citizenship; (2) global environment issues; (3) universal human rights (4) global identities.

We argue that French, Swiss and English educational systems have to various degrees responded to the first three trends but show resistance towards global identity models that imply recognizing hybrid and multiple identities. This can be explained by the fact that the conceptualization of global citizenship is closely related to “the dynamic critical approaches that deconstruct identity and challenge a neutral conceptualization of citizenship and national identity” (Pashby 2018, p. 281). In other words, the concept of GCE challenges the very idea that national identity is the basis of citizenship. Keeping this in mind, a critical approach to citizenship and identity may be viewed as an essential prerequisite to implement socio-politicalglobal citizenship described by Veugelers (2011), promoting global social justice and respect for diversity.


Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, citizenship education has stimulated interest at both national and international levels (Banks et al. 2005), especially in nation-states characterized by diversity (Osler 2011).

The comparative approach adopted in this chapter has shown that although France and England have historically taken divergent approaches to citizenship education, their policy directions have converged in response to domestic terrorist attacks and show important similarities. In both contexts, education has been placed at the center of the government’s response to terrorist threats and has become an instrument in the fight against radicalization through the promotion of ‘national’ and democratic values labeled as ‘French Republican Values’ in France and ‘Fundamental British Values’ in England. This policy strategy raises questions about the politicization of the teaching profession and the expectation that teachers should become state instruments of surveillance (Elton-Chalcraft et al. 2017). Perhaps, in Switzeland, the tradition of direct democracy and the decentralization of educational systems allow for more flexibility in the debate on citizenship education.

More generally, this chapter has confirmed that citizenship education approaches in multicultural societies still strive to strike a balance between local, national and global belonging that ensure both national unity and a sense of global responsibility. In this respect, global citizenship may provide an opportunity to value multiple identities and cultural diversity and build competences to navigate cultural differences.

We hope this chapter will provoke a discussion on the need to carefully balance universalism and diversity in multicultural societies. In the three national contexts presented in this chapter, and more broadly in culturally diverse countries, there is a need to include citizens from all cultural, ethnical, linguistic and religious backgrounds. The diversity of society must be reflected in state-run institutions and political representative bodies in order to strengthen a culture of inclusive and participatory democracy. It is however essential to tie values of diversify with overarching values of unity such as justice and equality.

Multicultural societies are faced with the challenge of creating nation-states that recognize and incorporate the diversity of their citizens and embrace an overarching set of shared values, ideals, and goals to which all citizens are committed. Only when a nation-state is unified around a set of democratic values such as human rights, justice, and equality can it secure the liberties of cultural, ethnic, language, and religious groups and enable them to experience freedom, justice, and peace. Citizens who understand this unity-diversity tension and act accordingly do not materialize from thin air; they are educated for it (Banks et al. 2005, p. 7).