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Journey into the world of the school : high school students’ understandings of citizenship in B.C. and Québec Lévesque, Stéphane

Abstract

Regional, multicultural, and national divergences in Canadian politics and education have contributed to the emergence of different forms of nationalism, identity, and citizenship in Canada. The practice and content of secondary education in B.C. and Québec illustrate this general proposition. Two multi-ethnic high schools, one in Québec (Montréal) and one in B.C. (Vancouver), provide a window into Québec history (grade 10) and B.C. social studies (grade 11) classrooms. These classes are used to examine how students construct and understand their citizenship. Key concepts (citizenship rights, participation, pluralism, collective identity) guided this research. Using a multiple case study design, this qualitative study employed multiple data collection. In addition to the analysis of the documentary record, I observed and interviewed B.C. and Québec high school students, history and social studies teachers, and finally staff from each school. The study generated findings on citizenship education practice and learning. In both provinces, citizenship education is the raison d'être of history and social studies. Despite divergent programs and teaching approaches, teachers at both sites recognize the necessity of preparing students for the exercise of democratic citizenship. Students at both sites accord importance to the key citizenship concepts introduced in their history/social studies classes. Yet, contrasts emerge in the findings between francophone Québécois and anglophone British Columbian students, particularly in terms of collective identity. The findings suggest that theoretical discussions on multicultural and multinational citizenship in political theory does not adequately take into account all the complex views of B.C. and Québec student informants. This study concludes with further research into the study of students' conceptions of citizenship.

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