Citizenship and Social Studies Curricula in British Columbia, Canada: Contemporary Realities and Alternative Possibilities

Citizenship and Social Studies Curricula in British Columbia, Canada: Contemporary Realities and Alternative Possibilities

Catherine A. Broom
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1978-3.ch004
Chapter PDF Download
Open access chapters are freely available for download


This chapter begins by reviewing the history of citizenship education in social studies curricula in British Columbia (BC), Canada, as a way of framing how the topic has been understood. It then discusses the latest curriculum revision in the province, which is in the process of being implemented. This new revision has dramatically changed the style of the curriculum in comparison with previous revisions, while also maintaining continuity in some areas, such as its conception of citizenship education. After this review, the author discusses issues related to the new curriculum such as its specific focus on particular concepts or theories which can limit teacher views and practices related to citizenship education. The chapter concludes by discussing alternative curriculum-framing and teaching ideas for citizenship education and social studies in general that connect into contemporary work and contexts.
Chapter Preview


Public schools were established in a number of Western nations during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Prussia was one of the first nations to develop public schools. This state closely connected public schooling to the development of nationalistic citizens who were supportive of the nation (Broom, 2012; Cordasco, 1976). The United States, England and Canadian provinces such as Ontario followed this pattern. BC, Canada’s most Western province situated along the Pacific Ocean, established public schools in the later nineteenth century following Ontario’s lead. BC joined the Confederation of Canadian provinces in 1871. Shortly after, in 1872, the new province passed a School Act that stated that public schools were to be free and administered by a Board of Education.

BC’s Department of Education (now Ministry of Education), under a Superintendent, was responsible for establishing and managing public schools throughout the province. Government schools were set up around the province with the use of money (grants to schools) and the development of certification requirements for teachers at these schools (Broom, 2016a). That is, the government provided grants to communities that wanted to establish schools. However, the schools had to be accountable to the government, and school inspectors were set up to visit schools and report on them. Inspectors evaluated teachers and schools based on a number of categories including teaching performance, using standardized forms. For example, one teacher’s inspection report of 1928 commented on the “tone” of her room, discipline, and teaching ability-methods (Brough, 1928, p. 1). The government (under the Superintendent of Schools) issued varied types of teaching certificates based on teachers’ achievements on tests. Normal Schools were established to train teachers. The first Normal School in BC opened in 1901.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Citizenship: Citizenship defined as engaging in positive behaviors towards other community members, such as being a good neighbor.

Meliorists: One of Evans’ (2004) categories of social studies reformers who viewed Social Studies from a progressivist (or Deweyian) perspective, in which they aimed to teach students to improve society through an issues or problem-based approach.

Reconstructionists: Another of Evans’ (2004) categories of Social Studies reformers who view Social Studies through a social justice lens. They aim to remake a more socially fair and equitable society through critical teaching.

Rationalization: A process focused on efficiency, which connects modernization to economic means of production such as as Capitalism. It studies processes, such as assembly lines, in order to find ways of making them most efficient (cost effective).

Citizenship Education: Citizenship education can be understood in different ways, depending on the aims and perspectives that frame the subject. It can be divided into “traditional” conceptions of citizenship education, focused on political behaviors such as voting, or more “transformative” conceptions ( Sears, 2009 ; Sears & Hughes, 1996 ; Sherrod, Torney-Purta, Flanagan, 2010 ). Besides its common political education element, citizenship education may also include attention to social citizenship, such as being good neighbors, and civic citizenship focused on civil rights and their protection ( Marshall, 1950 ).

Transformative Citizenship Education: More transformative conceptions of citizenship education associated with changing the ways in which individuals think about and participate in their societies, often with a focus on social justice ( Freire, 2000 ; Giroux, 2011 ).

Traditional Citizenship Education: Conception of citizenship education focused on teaching traditional activities associated with political life, such as following political news and voting.

Bureaucratization: Increasingly complex administrative structures and policies developed by governments as they took control of the management of schools and other social institutions in the nineteenth century.

Civic Citizenship: Citizenship focused around legal and civic rights and responsibilities.

Citizenship: Belonging to a national or social group as a member, which entails rights and responsibilities to and within the group.

Political Citizenship: Citizenship in the traditional political sense of knowledge of political structures and institutions and of participation in political processes such as following the news and voting.

Modernization: A concept related to European’s Scientific Revolution and to industrialization that humanity will improve or progress through the use of science. Using scientific means, machines and processes can be developed that will be more efficient and effective.

Mandarins: One of Evans’ (2004) categories of Social Studies reformers who largely promoted a disciplinary or subject-based view of Social Studies during the 1960s. These social scientists promoted an academic, discipline and inquiry-based view of what Social Studies encompassed. Students were to follow the methods and processes that social scientists use.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: