Active Citizenship in INCA Countries: Definitions, policies, practices and outcomes

David Kerr, Julie Nelson

01 October 2006

In the course of its work on the 20-country International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Internet Archive (INCA,, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) in England finances occasional thematic studies. This thematic study on active citizenship included four main processes and outcomes:

  • A background paper (published in 2005)
  • An issues paper (produced in early 2006)
  • An international seminar (hosted by QCA and NFER which took place in Oxford, England in March 2006)
  • A final thematic study report which draws on data collected through a questionnaire survey of INCA countries in 2005 and 2006, and on findings from the international seminar.

Fifteen countries, from the 20 in the INCA network, took part in the thematic study. They are Australia, Canada, England, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, the USA and Wales.

Key Findings

The final thematic study report concluded that:

  • The term 'active citizenship' is not yet clearly understood or defined within and across the INCA countries. However, a series of definitions is emerging, often closely entwined with understandings, views of purpose, and progress of citizenship education in respective countries.
  • Current views that active citizenship is about engagement and participation; involves the active development of citizenship education dimensions; and is not just about knowledge and understanding, but also about skills and behaviours, is not yet shared across all countries. Indeed, the development of active citizenship is in its early stages in many countries.
  • In countries with a holistic approach to citizenship education (incorporating a range of citizenship education concepts, components and contexts), active citizenship is coming to be seen as the process by which an education for citizenship can be made active.
  • A number of implementation measures need to be put in place in order for active citizenship to become embedded in schools and communities. These relate to the challenges of ensuring that effective teaching and learning, assessment, teacher education and inspection strategies are in place.
  • Considerably more development work needs to take place before active citizenship becomes embedded in policy and practice and its outcomes identified and measured. Reaching a shared definition of active citizenship also remains a key challenge. This study is a contribution to that work and it is hoped that the outcomes will prove useful not only to those countries that participated but to all those with an interest in this area.

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