Fact Checked

What is Citizenship Education?

Susan Grindstaff
Susan Grindstaff

The term “citizenship education” can be used to describe two different types of education. In some countries, students take citizenship classes as a part of general education. Citizenship classes aim to help the students understand the meaning of good citizenship, in the hopes that they will someday take an active part in their communities. Citizenship education may also apply to the education process required of immigrants who want to become new citizens of their host country.

Citizenship education that is offered in public schools is usually a part of junior high or high school education programs. These classes are also sometimes called civics, and usually combine aspects of government and sociology. Students are encouraged to explore ways to become better citizens and to understand their rights as citizens.

Many countries require immigrants to take and pass special courses before they can become citizens.
Many countries require immigrants to take and pass special courses before they can become citizens.

Most of the time, the term citizenship education refers to immigrant education. Most countries have strict immigration policies, and one of the requirements to become permanent citizens typically involves citizenship education. They will typically be required to take and pass citizenship classes covering a wide variety of topics related to the host country.

Immigrants working toward citizenship are normally required to take classes that focus on the history of their new country. Most of the time, this type of history class is very comprehensive. New students will usually be expected to study and learn about important historic figures and the events that helped shape the country.

Citizenship education for immigrants usually involves learning about national laws. After completing these classes, immigrant applicants should have a basic understanding of some of the most important laws of the country and how these laws apply to individual citizens. In addition to learning about specific laws, they will also be taught about the application of law, such as judicial systems and punishments.

Most of the time, citizenship education includes the study of basic civil rights and government. Depending on the country, immigrants may be expected to learn about the voting process and how government officials are elected or appointed. They should come away from these studies with a clear understanding of their civil rights within the country and how the government operates to help protect those civil rights.

Most countries have a yearly cap on the number of citizenship applications they will accept. Often, the process of obtaining citizenship is a long and expensive process. In some countries, application fees are so exorbitant, that only those with a fair amount of wealth can enter into the process.

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Discussion Comments


@pastanaga - That's a pretty broad generalization and I do wonder if it's true of a lot of countries, or just a handful of the obvious ones. I feel like most of the people I know could answer the most important questions about how our government works.

Does it really matter what all of the fine detail is, as long as someone understands basically how the election works and what their part in it might be? And as long as they understand most of the basic laws they have to obey? I'd say the large majority of people do know that much.


@Iluviaporos - The problem is that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Most countries do have civics classes in high school, so everyone has the opportunity to learn about how their government works.

Often the government will even do a round of advertising during the election to further ensure people understand what's going on.

And education in history is available everywhere, from historical societies, to the internet. People just don't exercise their right to education.

I think they just don't know enough to know what they don't know. Most people would probably describe themselves as fairly well educated and well versed on their own country and would be sadly mistaken.


People use it as a joke, but it's true that often people who take citizenship classes in order to live in another country end up knowing more about the laws and history of the country than the people who were born there.

Which is a pretty bad thing, I think. Not that the new people should know so much, of course. But that those living in a country should know so little about it. It shows the importance of education. A well educated population is going to be much better able to understand and react to their government.

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    • Many countries require immigrants to take and pass special courses before they can become citizens.
      By: Monkey Business
      Many countries require immigrants to take and pass special courses before they can become citizens.