International comparison on Citizenship education

Scientific report

Cnesco published a scientific report realized by Géraldine Bozec, professor of Educational Sciences at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, on learning citizenship in schools in France and around the world : how is this topic taught in France? Abroad? what does research tell us about the impact of this education on students?


Citizenship education : what International comparisons reveals on the topic

  • When most European countries have decided to integrate Citizenship Education to other classes (sometimes with the addition a specific class), France devotes a specific class to this domain.
  • With 12 years of specific courses on Citizenship Education, France is the country that spends the longest time on this domain.
  • On an international level, few teachers consider students’ involvement in school activities as an important goal in Citizenship Education.
  • Abroad, a vast majority of students considers that teachers encourage themselves to get and talk about their own opinions.

Une matière séparée ou intégrée à d’autres matières ?

France differentiates itself in that it is the only European country where Citizenship Education is considered a discipline itself during the whole academic path.

In Europe the most common view consists in teaching Citizenship within other classes. It is sometimes combined with a specific teaching at certain times in the academic years.

Time devoted to Citizenship Education (Eurydice, 2012)

In France, specific education starts from the age of 6 years old and ends at the age of 12.

The time period dedicated to this specific teaching varies according to the country:

      1 or 2 years  Netherlands, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Bulgaria
      3 or 4 years  Spain, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Romania
      5 or 6 years  England, Finland
    9 years and more

 Portugal, France

The annual average for the time period dedicated to Citizenship education is higher in France than in other countries; it reaches 36h in primary and middle school, 18h in general high school and 14h in vocational school. Other countries only spend a few hours on the subject.

Citizenship Education’s goals

Goals declared by teachers around the world as being the most important are mostly dealing with the learning of knowledge and skills (Schulz et al., 2010).

  • More than one teacher out of two declares that goals of Citizenship Education at school are first: « the promotion citizens’ knowledge of their rights and responsibilities » (60%), « the promotion of critical thinking and students’ independence » (52 %).


  • The promotion of student’s involvement in class has been decreasing both regarding students’ involvement in their school’s life (19%) or in their local community (16%).

Feeling of expertise in the domain of Citizenship Education

When in most countries, initial or complementary trainings exist in Citizenship Education, they are usually not mandatory. Around the world, teachers can feel more or less self-confident in the teaching of Citizenship Education (Schulz et al., 2010).

  • At an international level, teachers feel more at-ease with subjects regarding citizens’ rights and responsibilities (94% are very or rather confident in this domain), human rights (93%), equal opportunities for men and women (93%) and the environment (92%).


These results can reflect the frequent lack of mention of Law in programs both addressed to the students and teachers in training.

Involvement of students in debates and community life within school

A vast majority of students considers that during debates about social and political stakes in class, teachers do encourage them to express their opinions (82%) and to make-up their own minds on the subject (76%). However according to the 2009 ICCS[1] study, 60% of students declare they rarely (37%) or never (23%) talk about current political events in class.


According to the 2012 EURYDICE study, all European countries included in the study, adopted regulations in order to encourage students to take part in their school governance through class representative elections,  students Council or thanks to their students representative participation in School governance. This involvement is all the more spread in official texts as we go far in the academic system.