Persoonsgerichte burgerschapsvorming in het openbaar voortgezet onderwijs

Translated title of the contribution: Person-oriented citizenship education in public secondary education

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The generation of young people growing up in this challenging and ever-changing 21st-century society needs a solid foundation, and meaningful framework to participate in Dutch society as a resilient, responsible and conscious person. Young people need time and space to develop their own identity through thinking about values, norms and motives. They also need this to reflect on what gives meaning and direction to life. This is exactly what worldview education is all about.

A worldview is a coherent set of ideas, experiences, values and images that a person develops about themselves, about living together with others, and about the world. Everyone has a perspective on life and this perspective is influenced by cultures, religion, or other (more secular) worldviews such as humanism. When we talk about worldview education, we distinguish two components. The first component is knowledge about and from different religions and worldviews. The second component is the development of a personal worldview and the unfolding of ones own identity.

Worldview education is important because it helps young people to develop a moral compass that gives direction and meaning to life. Furthermore, it gives them roots which empower them in today's challenging society. All schools should recognise the relevance of worldview education and should give structural attention to this subject in their vision and curriculum. In the Netherlands, confessional secondary education offers worldview education as school subject "levensbeschouwing" (worldview education) or "godsdienst" (religious education). Most public secondary schools, however, do not offer any worldview education.

Two reasons explain why most public secondary schools do not offer worldview education. First, Dutch public schools are established and managed by the government. The Dutch government has a neutral attitude towards certain topics such as religion, identity and worldview. Public education adopted this neutral attitude and substantiated this by arguing that all forms of confessional worldview education should take place outside of public education. This is called the active neutral attitude of public education. Second, worldview education is associated with (confessional) religious education and this association consists out of two parts: the religious identity of confessional schools (which is where confessional worldview education is taught) and the teaching of one specific religion in these schools (instead of learning about and from different religions and worldviews).

However, we want to argue that public education still does justice to its identity and assignment when offering worldview education in an active pluralistic way. Public schools claim to be a meeting place for children with different backgrounds because every student, regardless of belief culture, or other background, is welcome at a public school. This diversity is a distinctive aspect of the identity of a public school. Worldview education pays attention to this diversity and teaches about different religions and worldviews that play a role in society. Giving equal attention to different cultures, religions and worldviews is more "neutral" than giving preference to a secular vision where none of these subjects are taught.

Apart from the above, the government has given public education the obligatory task that is called "active pluralism", which means that public schools have to pay attention to diversity in society, that students have to reflect critically on their own worldview, and that they should discuss different religions and worldviews with respect and without prejudice. One could say that, because of its identity and assignment, public education in particular is the place where worldview education should have a structural place. We argue that worldview education could have this structural place in public education by connecting worldview education to citizenship education.

Citizenship education consists of three different domains: democracy, participation and identity. Worldview education is interwoven with all of these three domains, but especially with the domain "identity" and is, therefore, an essential part of citizenship education. Based on these three domains of citizenship education, two substantive aspects of citizenship education can be distinguished: society-oriented citizenship education (based on the democracy domain) and person-oriented citizenship education (based on the identity domain). Participation is an important part of both domains and an overall purpose of citizenship education and can, therefore, be seen as the overarching domain.

Person-oriented citizenship education is about identity development and consists of five different elements: worldview and religious literacy, meaning-giving, personhood formation, active encounter and critical thinking. This means that person-oriented citizenship education overlaps with worldview education. Therefore, person-oriented citizenship education is the solution for public secondary schools to offer worldview education. Person-oriented citizenship education offers important elements of worldview education, and has no association with learning in a specific religion or with confessional schools. Furthermore, this education is in line with the identity and task of public secondary schools.

In conclusion: it is important that public secondary schools give structural attention to person-oriented citizenship education. This can be done in two ways. First of all, it should be part of the school policy and, therefore, in public secondary schools person-oriented citizenship education ought to be accommodated in the vision, mission and goals of the school. Secondly, person-oriented citizenship education should get a structural place in the curriculum of the school as an independent subject, or as part of other already existing related subjects.

Translated title of the contributionPerson-oriented citizenship education in public secondary education
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)745-763
Number of pages19
JournalTydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Citizenship education
  • Democracy
  • Identity
  • Identity development
  • Participation
  • Person-oriented citizenship education
  • Public education
  • Religious literacy
  • Secondary education
  • Student
  • Worldview
  • Worldview education
  • Youth


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