Children’s perceptions of democratic values : implications for democratic citizen education

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    A new generation of children are learning the importance of democratic values at a level which makes sense to them. Appropriate ‘democratic values’ for South Africa are set out in the Constitution, and the national curriculum aims to equip all learners with the knowledge and skills necessary for meaningful participation in society. In many schools, these values – responsibility, respect and the freedom of self-expression – are merely posted on the walls of classrooms, but are not integrated into the subject content. This article proposes that teachers need to determine children’s perceptions of the values in question, and these should be the starting point for teaching democratic values. Young children need to understand and experience values in the classroom, suitable to the development of their moral reasoning. To concretise concepts of values, we used the ‘pledge tree’ activity in an intervention, in which 9-year-old children wrote their values on paper ‘leaves’ which they then posted on a huge polystyrene tree. The paper reports on this experience as a research investigation, capturing children’s ideas.