Citizenship education from a multicultural perspective

The case of Malaysia

Authored by: Vishalache Balakrishnan

Routledge International Handbook of Schools and Schooling in Asia

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138908499
eBook ISBN: 9781315694382
Adobe ISBN:


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Citizenship education is an emerging focus in many Asian countries. According to UNESCO, citizenship education can be defined as “educating children, from early childhood, to become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens who participate in decisions concerning society”. To work well, such education should include contributions that acknowledge the diversity of cultural groups within a particular nation or state. One of the major hurdles for citizenship education in Asia is the perception that democracy in life and in schools is a westernised concept of limited global value. In traditional schooling, which can be found throughout Asia, there can be a focus on enunciating principles and learning about the rule of law within a particular nation. Instead I argue for a theoretically informed focus on democratic citizenship in action from a multicultural perspective, where students can give opinions and openly discuss issues of culture and controversy in classes that include students from different cultures, religions, genders and beliefs. A danger for traditional citizenship education is that students lose interest in its relevance, becoming sceptical about a perceived mismatch between what is prescribed and the reality of what is happening in their countries. Based on Malaysia as a case study, this chapter analyses the opportunities and challenges of citizenship education from a multicultural perspective.

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