Why citizenship isn’t being taught to young people properly


Emily Pemberton is one of 15 UK 15-year-olds who launched the action/2015 movement to end extreme poverty and a young ambassador for the Send My Friend to School campaign. The campaign lobbies for equality in education and the right for every child to go to school. Below Emily explains why she thinks schools should go much further in their approach to Citizenship classes.

Having a wide and varied knowledge on global issues is something that takes time, but even in the 21st century, citizenship isn’t being taught to young people properly.

In schools across the UK, maths and English are prioritised. They are the main skills a person needs to be able to thrive in the working world, and are usually the subjects that cause teenagers sleepless nights during their GCSE years. I agree with the importance of maths and English, but I also agree that another vital topic gets constantly undermined and overlooked by the nation when it comes to our education: citizenship.

My school, along with many in the UK, don’t offer citizenship as a GCSE, or anything remotely close to a subject focusing entirely on the welfare and rights of others within our global community. This is because we don’t have teachers with the qualifications, learning resources or the curriculum. It isn’t ingrained in our education system like languages and science, and is often taught on PSHE days or through extra-curricular clubs. The overall message is simple: it isn’t important.

As a young ambassador for the “Send My Friend to School” campaign, spending time in Ghana for a week helped me realise the importance of an education where teaching children their rights and role in the community is paramount. Of course it’s important for children in richer countries to know their rights and how to behave like a good citizen in their own part of the world, but learning about the contrast between nations is essential.

Luckily, I developed a flair for humanitarian issues through my love for geography. Learning about poverty and development enhanced my overall sense of empathy, and educating myself on these issues came naturally. Being exposed to the challenges facing communities a million miles away from home made it able for me to see and value what another person is experiencing. This further helped me to develop a great wealth of knowledge, and it’s a concept I’d like to share with every young person. Obviously, we all need people skills to survive in our competitive and hustling society, and communication plays a huge part in developing empathy.

Our main message as young ambassadors for our particular campaign is the importance of schooling, regardless of your social situation or location, and this is just one example of a global issue. Plunging into articles, blogs and campaigns makes me feel a lot closer to a school student in Ghana, or Bangladesh, and suddenly the fight for global education doesn’t seem impossible to me.

Global citizenship is something every young person needs to cherish to be able to form well-rounded judgements, and that’s why I think it should be taught in schools more than it is. We cannot isolate our nation from those less fortunate, because living in a global community means their challenges are as great as ours.

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