With 'Citizen Studies' now a compulsory subject in Spain, teacher trainer and curriculum designer Lui García Gurrutxaga reviews a new course-book for teaching the subject through English.

The new educational law, the LOE, has made a new subject compulsory in Spain: Citizen Studies. It is the first time a democratic government in our country has realised the importance of civic and interpersonal values and skills and has included them in the curriculum, not without controversy and opposition from the more conservative echelons of society.

Interesting materials have also been offered for teachers and learners alike, and I'll try to analyse one of the most interesting of these, which is the new course-book by OUP to teach Citizenship Studies through English. I will try to review the book using CLIL parameters. The target audience for the publication is Citizenship Studies teachers and English teachers in general. The material can be used with secondary students aged 13-14. These students in the Spanish system are in the second year of ESO (compulsory secondary education).

Citizenship Studies in Spain: A new subject
In recent years, fostering social cohesion and more active participation by citizens in social and political life has become a key issue in all European countries. It is also an objective firmly supported by the European Commission.

The development of responsible civic behaviour may be encouraged from a very early age. Citizenship education, which includes learning about the rights and duties of citizens, respect for democratic values and human rights, and the importance of solidarity, tolerance and participation in a democratic society, is seen as a means of preparing children and young people to become responsible and active citizens.

In Spain with its 'younger' democratic tradition in comparison with some of our European partners is the first time that this idea of creating active and responsible citizens has been made an educational objective.

So it is only fair to ask ourselves some questions about this and the ones formulated in the 'Citizen Education at school in Europe' report, published by Eurydice in 2005, seem to be quite relevant:

  • What are the content and approaches used for citizenship education in the curriculum?
  • How do schools encourage participation by pupils in the life of the school and local community?
  • How does the evaluation of schools take such an action into account?
  • How are pupils assessed?
  • How are teachers trained to educate pupils for citizenship?
  • We can only try to address some of these questions; for example, by having a look at the kind of materials learners and teachers are going to use in the classroom.

Review of Citizenship Studies, Oxford Educación, OUP España 2008
As mentioned, the course-book is targeted at pupils in the second year of Compulsory Secondary Education, aged 13 to 14.

Treatment of subject content
As far as the subject is concerned, the book is based on a concept of civics and education that is modern, pluralist and open, and offers a comprehensive view of the moral and civic sense of the world and society

The approach to subject matter and the development of civic competence is straightforward and logical: it starts by proposing topics closer to pupils' experience and age, such as self-awareness, the environment…to little by little developing skills and knowledge to widen their vision of the world and the issues at stake:

  • You and your environment
  • Neighbourhoods, towns and cities
  • Democracy
  • Human Rights
  • Our world: globalised or divided?
  • Working for a better world

The topics are presented through a variety of texts, some of them authentic, taken from web pages and international organisations, and then the authors propose activities that take learners from merely understanding the text to some degree of discussion, analysis and debate.

The only thing missing is a wider variety of input; there are only written texts. It would be nice to supplement this with films, documentaries and audio material, including tasks for learners.

Treatment of language
Language-wise is where more shortcomings can be detected. Whilst there is language scaffolding provided by a sheet with expressions for speaking and writing and glossaries included in every unit which are very useful for learners, there is a lack of language related activities. As you browse through the units they lack opportunities for sophisticated production of language and more sophisticated tasks such as holding TV debates and role plays that take learners from merely knowing facts and things to the application of that knowledge in different contexts, so that they can become "competent" in the skills they have worked on in the Citizenship curriculum.

If we take into account Professor Do Coyle's (University of Nottingham) CLIL framework for planning, with regard to what she calls the 4 Cs:

  • Content: subject matter, project, theme
  • Communication: language
  • Cognition: thinking
  • Culture: Citizenship

We can see how she argues that CLIL teaching needs a reconceptualisation of language towards an integrated model that requires learners to use and develop language not per se, but to acquire:

  • The language of learning
  • Language for learning
  • Language through learning

As this is good quality CLIL, then the book we are reviewing here clearly qualifies as CLIL although some provision needs to be made:

  1. Providing more scope and more support for real and meaningful communication with real exchange of ideas and opportunities for learning from peers
  2. Self assessment and learning to learn activities, building learning and thinking skills

Further reading:

Citizenship Education at Europe, Eurydice 2005

Mehisto, P., Marsh, D. & Frigols, M. 2008. Uncovering CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning in Bilingual and Multingual Education Macmillan: Oxford. Published: 31 March 2008

Coyle, D, 2007. The English Perspective for CLIL Research and Practice in CLIL Matrix. European Commision. In: European Commission.

Lui García Gurrutxaga
Teacher Trainer & Curriculum Designer
The Basque Country, Spain