Social science teachers on citizenship education: A comparative study of three European countries

Margarita Jeliazkova


This paper presents a comparison of high school teachers’ views on citizenship education in three European countries – the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Croatia.

In all these countries, citizenship is an important part of school curriculum. The teachers need to find ways to deal with the everyday dilemmas of teaching a concept so highly loaded with diverse political meanings. What kind of citizens would they educate? How would they find a balance between neutrality and indoctrination? These and other questions were posed to over 60 teachers in the three countries in interviews using Q‐methodology, a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques. In all three countries, we found variations of four ideal types of views: Hierarchical, Individualist, Egalitarian, and Fatalist (group-grid theory of Douglas/Wildavsky). The number of types revealed and the degree of consensus within the countries varied per country. Subsequent analysis of the three countries together revealed a number of underlying themes, as well as a shared bottom-line standard of professionalism among the teachers.

We will discuss the methodological challenges and insights of the study. First, we demonstrate that the employment of group-grid theory as an overarching framework within Q-methodology is a suitable instrument for a cross-country comparison, as it allows analysis of genuine interpretations by practitioners without pre-set measures and imposed meanings. Second, the study reveals the importance of looking at the internal diversity of “national contexts” as a way to avoid cultural and political labelling. Third, we will discuss the challenges and the chances of doing research by people who have access to and experience with more than one culture and language. As a result, we believe that the study will shed a light on the complexity of cultural, political, and historical contexts surrounding the introduction and implementation of citizenship education in ‘established’ and ‘postcommunist’ democracies alike[1].

Keywords: Citizenship education, Comparative study, Social science teachers, Q-methodology, Group-grid theory

[1]Parts of this paper appear in “ Views and beliefs of social science teachers on citizenship education: preliminary results from a comparative study of Bulgaria, Croatia, and the Netherlands. Proceedings of the Annual CiCe Network Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, June 11-13, 2013, to be published


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DOI: 10.4119/UNIBI/indi-v5-i2-119