'Citizenship': what does it mean to trainee teachers in England and Hungary?

Ian Davies, M Fülöp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People growing up and living in different political systems and societies can
have different answers to the question: ‘What is citizenship?’ It is especially important to know how future teachers answer this question as they will be one of the main socializing agents of the young generation and will be involved in the transmission of cultural capital from one generation to the next. In this paper we describe the context for an empirical study by drawing attention to the increasingly high profile of citizenship and citizenship education that has been generated through claims of contemporary societal crisis, new forms of governance, and a heightened emphasis on identity. We discuss the findings of a research project in which 100 trainee teachers in England 100 trainee teachers in Hungary provided data through the use of the Associative Group Analysis (AGA) technique (Szalay and Brent 1967) about their understandings and perceptions of ‘citizenship’. This study took place at a critical point when in both Hungary and England new national curricula were introduced for implementation in 2008. We present our findings and discuss the greater attention given by Hungarians compared with the English sample to national issues and the significance of institutions. We note that the English respondents have a more expansive characterisation of citizenship in that they are more likely to draw attention to a wider range of issues than the Hungarians. English trainee teachers refer to the community more readily than the Hungarians. Both groups mention rights and duties. There is relatively little attention given by both groups to citizenship in relation to economic issues (including money and work) and diversity. We argue that particular political contexts are associated with different characterisations of citizenship; beyond rather broad labelling about democratic community, participation and identity that are used to characterise citizenship in the literature these ways of understanding may not relate precisely to the nuances that may be present in empirical data; and, that aspects of some contemporary debates about citizenship are not aligned with the perceptions of people in our sample about what citizenship means. We suggest that researchers could usefully further explore whether academic and policy-related commentators could frame their understandings of overarching notions of citizenship more closely to research-based data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-32
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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