By Sanjam Kaur Sagar

India is a democratic country and as one of the few social institutions present in virtually every community across our country, schools can and should play an important role in catalyzing increased civic engagement. 

Without it, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people will not last.  Schools can do this by helping students develop and practice the knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors needed to participate in civic life. Schools can also directly provide opportunities for civic engagement as local institutions that can connect young and old people alike across the community. To do this, civic learning needs to be part and parcel of the current movement across many schools in Gurgaon to equip young people with 21st-century skills.

However, understanding how civic and citizenship education is currently being provided in some of the best schools in Gurgaon helps lay the groundwork for a broader understanding of how such instruction helps kids navigate the world. That might make a difference in confronting some of the biggest challenges that are being faced by our society.

Civic education encourages us to understand and be mindful of how the government functions, along with the civil law and civil code, particularly in democratic societies. It ensures we are aware of the values and principles of democracy. It teaches us to be well-informed as well as to understand the values of being a good and responsible citizen.

Civic education is more important than ever in our society today. The basics of civics help students understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and allow them to engage effectively in the democratic process. Civics education also teaches students how to be good neighbors and community members.

Civic education is not limited to participation in politics and society, it also encompasses participation in classrooms, neighborhoods, groups, and organizations. In civics, students learn to contribute to public processes and discussions of real issues. Students can also learn civic practices such as voting, volunteering, and joining with others to improve society. Civics enables students not only to study how others participate but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves.

Civic education empowers us to be well-informed, active citizens and allows us to change the world around us. It is a vital part of any democracy and equips ordinary people with knowledge about our democracy and our Constitution. For example, voting is a major responsibility every citizen should take advantage of.

We can sum up some of the advantages of civic education in schools:

  • It strengthens the basic understanding of our structures of government, along with related processes of legislation and policy-making.
  • Enhances “21st century-skills” that are valued by colleges, universities, and employers.
  • Closes the civic achievement gap across race, ethnicity, income, and parental educational attainment.
  • Creates a positive school climate that supports students feeling socially, emotionally, and physically safe.
  • Builds literacy skills necessary for gathering information to make reasoned decisions on critical issues affecting our country.
  • Increases volunteerism and work on community issues.
  • Enhances democratic accountability of elected officials.
  • Improves government transparency.
  • Increases voting and discussions of politics in the home.

The civics or political science curriculum has an enormous potential to be relevant in day-to-day life. However, keeping the interest of students alive is a key challenge faced by educators today. An innovative classroom practice like assigning a project on civic action that can be incorporated into the existing curriculum can help students to understand better through the application. These kinds of civic action projects can have two types of advantages. 

  • The first type concerns school education. Such a project-based learning approach enables social science teachers to create room for experiential education in social sciences – and that too, for a discipline like civics/political science where, unfortunately, rote-learning practices are widely prevalent. Projects around public issues that exist in their surroundings help students relate civics to their real-life situations and also underline the role that both the state and the citizens are expected to play. The hands-on experience with these concepts aids comprehension and helps in knowledge retention. It is also critical to note here that such project-based intervention not only enhances the civic knowledge of the students but also builds participatory civic skills. 
  • The second advantage of this project-based learning embodies the greater vision enshrined in the Constitution of India. In our democratic set-up, it is the local governments where citizen participation is regarded indispensable. One of the primary aims of civic education is to capacitate the students for this participation. Projects like the above ensure such a capacity building of students and are highly feasible when planned properly.

To begin with, the Constitution can be referred to and fundamental rights can be read in depth. Most of the time, issues chosen by the students come under the ambit of local governments only. Hence it is imperative to look at the Municipal Corporation Act or the Village Panchayat Act of that particular state. The acts made by the respective states for the governance of their local bodies also give a good insight into the overall functioning of the local set-up. 

While these initial pointers can help teachers run a project, facilitating such a civic engagement also requires specific skill sets on the part of teachers.