Citizenship education in divided societies: teachers' perspectives in Northern Ireland

Ulrike Niens, Una O'Connor, Alan Smith

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This article aimed to investigate in what ways teachers’ developing understandings ofcitizenship education in a divided society reflect discourses around national citizenshipand controversial issues. Based on thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with13 post-primary teachers in Northern Ireland undertaking an in-service programme incitizenship, findings indicate that the controversial nature of past conflict maintains itssensitivity in the educational context though other categories of potential exclusion,such as race and sexuality, compete for space in educational discourse and teaching.Few teachers used controversial issues identified as challenging hegemonic beliefs asan opportunity for role modelling citizenship. However, teachers rarely explored thecomplex interlinkages between traditional and alternative categories of exclusion. It isargued that this may render teachers’ understandings of citizenship and societal conflictdisconnected, which in turn may hinder the potential for citizenship education toaddress societal divisions and to promote active peace in the long term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-141
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2013


  • citizenship education
  • divided societies
  • controversial issues


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