Scotland’s new curriculum, Curriculum for Excellence, places political literacy at the heart of citizenship education. By doing so it aims to ensure that young people acquire the skills, knowledge and understanding that will help them become responsible citizens who participate actively in society’s decision-making processes.
Political literacy is one of the foundations of modern democracy. It is the means by which citizens make informed choices about the kind of society they want to live in. Being politically literate helps everyone to understand political decisions and how they affect their own lives, and it ensures that evidence and reasoned debate trump unsubstantiated assertion and hyperbole. Political literacy matters in a society whose values are wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity, one which demands equalities and fairness for all, and in which the right of all citizens to develop and express their own views is respected.
In Education Scotland we are committed to helping educators develop young people’s political literacy to the full. Below is our position so that everyone understands our role and responsibilities which have been agreed with the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Management Board for Scotland and School Leaders Scotland as outlined in the briefing published jointly by us in June 2013. We want young people to engage in political processes in an active and well-informed way, whilst we are entirely impartial about how individuals’ might vote on any specific issue.
As Scotland’s 16 and 17 year olds will be eligible to vote for the first time in the Constitutional Referendum next year, it is now even more important to ensure that young people develop the skills they need to participate in an informed way. Young People need to be aware of the political process and the key issues at stake and have the confidence and skills they need to participate in a way which enables them to exercise an informed choice.
The development of political literacy should not be left to chance nor be dependent on the particular set of subjects that learners have chosen to study. Rather it needs to be mainstreamed into the curriculum for all. With that in mind Education Scotland is working widely with a range of partners to provide teachers with support for approaches that will enable them to help young people develop the skills, without guiding them towards any particular point of view.
We have already published ‘CfE Briefing 14: Political Literacy’ which provides clear guidance on approaches to promoting political literacy in an impartial way. In the coming months we will also promote more resources, guidance, case studies and links to information on the referendum which teachers and those working with young people will have the option to use for teaching political literacy, if they are appropriate to their context. We will only promote resources which support the teaching of political literacy in a completely impartial and unbiased way.
Our aim is to ensure that all young people acquire political literacy skills and are well prepared to engage constructively with democratic processes such as the forthcoming Referendum. In any political process our aim is to ensure that all eligible young people are prepared to cast a well-informed vote after engaging in balanced and well-informed consideration of the issues at hand. That is what being a ‘responsible citizen’ is all about.
For more information please visit The Electoral Commission website.