Citizenship education in Northern Ireland and Israel within an educational rights framework

  • Helen Hanna

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis explores how international education rights obligations are reflected in the contested curricular subject of citizenship education in the two divided jurisdictions of Northern Ireland and Israel. Given the difficulties faced in developing and delivering a common citizenship curriculum to a diverse group in each jurisdiction, where conceptions of citizenship vary, this empirical research explores the unifying potential of an approach to citizenship education based on internationally agreed human rights law on education. The research builds upon the citizenship education typology of knowledge, values, skills and participation, overlaying it with a 2-A framework for education rights in citizenship education of ‘acceptability’ and ‘adaptability’, to provide a provisional literature-based conceptual framework. Data is approached from an interpretative perspective which involves consideration of policy and curriculum documents, qualitative semi-structured interviews with policy-makers and teachers of citizenship education, and focus group sessions with students of citizenship education in both jurisdictions. Analysis reveals that understandings of education rights can be oriented around three themes - minority group representation, dealing with difference, and preparation for life. Locating these themes within the 2-A framework proves problematic, and reveals wide and sometimes conflicting variety in interpreting the framework. Questions are raised regarding the ‘universality’ of international interpretative frameworks for education rights, and therefore the workability of such frameworks in the national and divided context. The original contribution to knowledge of this thesis relates to how its combination of the disciplines of education and law, and its comparison of two divided jurisdictions, illuminate this interpretative variety, offering a critique of the international human rights system of interpretation, and proposes the notion of ‘interpretative communities’ as a way of conceptualising the variety of understandings. It also underlines the continuing complexity of delivering a common citizenship education curriculum in a divided society.
    Date of AwardJul 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorJoanne Hughes (Supervisor) & Sylvie Langlaude (Supervisor)

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