Civic and Political Engagement


The question ‘How much do high school students learn about citizenship in civic affairs’ is quite interesting in view of the efforts of the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada. Indeed, according to Keith McLeod of the Canadian Education Association, the idea of educating people for their political as well as social roles was “embedded in education in Canada even before confederation” (p. 9). McLeod cited that the rationale behind the effort of public education was that “ignorance was a social evil, education a public good” (p. 9). Education is seen as very important not only in overcoming ignorance and poverty but also in maintaining their freedom, and it is a requisite to social well being.

It can be expected therefore that high school students in Canada acquires a profound knowledge of their citizenship through various civic and political affairs when they graduated in high school enough for them to be aware of the political and social responsibility in Canada.


This research study will employ the use of official documents from the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, as well as other relevant information. Comparative method will be utilized by comparing data from different provinces to be able to support the findings. Comparative method has been traditionally considered as the branch treating cross-economic differences and similarities.

Document analysis is another method this research will use. Documentary analysis is important to be able to determine its validity in the research topic and it provides the social or historical context, in which the documents are produced, as well as the social meaning they transmit and the effects of such meanings on social groups and the social control function of documents (McLaughlin & Muncie, p. 103). Document analysis method is very useful in this research because it will determine the quality of the research findings using qualitative research, which includes both historical and documentary analysis.

Three provinces are chosen for the research namely Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec. The first choice which is the province of Ontario is chosen because of its image as the largest immigrant receiving province. It is quite interesting how high school students of various ethnic origins respond to the government’s policy objective emphasizing on learning citizenship through civic affairs. The rationale behind choice of Alberta stemmed from its unique model of examination.

Alberta is the only province that created charter school based on the US. The choice of Quebec on the hand was triggered by a strong interest how the Quebec school system consisted of various ethnic “sub-system” with almost no contact with one another could be able to cope with the policy objective of learning citizenship in civic affairs.. This province is also facing a major concern on socio linguistic because the province is dominated by the so-called francophones or the French Canadian.


 Both the province of Ontario and Alberta provide instruction in English. Both Ontario and Alberta have a very definite program on citizenship education incorporated in the educational system, although they seem to differ in terms of their approaches on the subject. The province of Ontario offers various programs designed to stimulate awareness on citizenship through various educational programs that are incorporated in the academic program but in the form of civic affairs between students, teachers, parents, administrators, and the community.

Specifically is the Ontario environmental education. In a report presented by Dr. Roberta Bondar, Chair of the Working Group on Environmental Education, to Dr. Thiesen Chair of Curriculum Council, Ministry of Education of Toronto, Dr. Bondar stated that the vision for environmental education in Ontario is to “prepare students with the knowledge, skills, perspectives, and practices they need to be environmentally responsible citizens” (Bondar Report). The intended outcome of this kind of educational initiative according to Bondar are for the students to “acquire skills, and practices they need to participate as a responsible citizens at the local, national, and global level, caring for each other and all living things” (Bondar Roport).

This environmental education involves collaboration among students, teachers, parents, administrators and the community.

Alberta’s approach to citizenship education on the other hand was to poster “Youth Technopreneurship Program which encouraged young Albertans to become entrepreneur. Advanced Education Minister Dough Horner explained that the program “supports young adults in turning their ideas into marketable product or services” (Horner). The purpose of this entrepreneurial initiative according to Horner is “to make the province’s business environment increasingly supportive and entrepreneurial” (Horner). Participants can be in groups or by institution.

Given the extensive support of the Ministry of Advance Education and the province wide scope of the program, there is no doubt that the program will be successful and their goals of providing citizenship education through entrepreneurial initiatives will eventually pave the way for students to become Alberta’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

It appears that both in Ontario and in Alberta, high school students are required to participate in such civic affairs as part of their academic exercise. In view of this requirement, it can be expected that students learn a great deal of the subject of “citizenship” even before and after they graduate from high school. However, this cannot be expected in Quebec because students may even have difficulty understanding their identity as 90 percent of the population in Quebec speaks French.

Unlike Ontario and Alberta, French is the first language in Quebec with over 80 percent speakers. Unfortunately, Quebec seemed to have no program on citizenship education which could be probably attributed to the fact that the dominant people in this province are French. In fairness however, according to the Charter of the French Language, Quebec’s education system is one of the modern in the industrialized world (The Charter of the French Language). The medium of instruction is French and the patterns of education were all in French, and English is merely their second language.

The province of Saskatchewan which also use French as a medium of instruction also seems to have no program that emphasized on citizenship and civic affairs. However, the province of Manitoba like Ontario and Alberta has a particular program on the subject of citizenship by emphasizing on values and excellence (Education, Citizenship and Youth).

From the information above, it appears that there is no differences in the extent to which they prioritized this subject, where as Quebec do not have program for citizenship education. Ontario conceptualized citizenship and civic affairs through instilling environmental awareness among high school students so that these young people will eventually become responsible citizens at a local, national, and global scale.

For her part, Alberta conceptualized citizenship and civic affairs through developing entrepreneurial spirit among young Albertans. They envisioned involving high school students and young Albertans in turning their province’s business environment in to an increasingly supportive entrepreneurial, a move which they knew could certainly boast the province economic activity.

Certainly, Quebec must have their own educational program on citizenship but as per available documents are concerned; they do not have published initiatives on the subject.

Overall, I could say that the importance given by Education Ministers to these subjects are very significant and very are encouraging. The support they provided as well as their own initiative are enough not only to sustain the program but also for it to be successful. I can say that their efforts are sincere and are meant to really achieve its goal. Their efforts could then be described as the sustaining and inspiring force that keeps the program going and working towards achieving its goals.


Going back to the question on how high school students learn about citizenship in civic affairs, apparently, students learn citizenship through the policy objectives initiated by the Council of Ministry of Education. However, not all provinces had program on the subject of learning citizenship. Saskatchewan and Quebec are perhaps just two of the many others that does not have program on the subject about citizenship.

Comparing the approaches between Ontario and Alberta and Quebec and Saskatchewan, the learning of high school students especially on the subject of citizenship differs. High school students in Ontario and Alberta, have a better understanding of the subject, in so far as the five provinces is concern. The learning of the students therefore, depends on how eager the Minister of Education in pursuing their program. That is, the more effort they put on, the more it will be successful. The key to success is a decisive effort on the part of the education minister to implement and initiates program that could be of help in achieving the objectives.


McLaughlin, John Muncie The Sage Dictionary of Criminology London: SAGE, 2005

McLeod, Keith. Canada and Citizenship Education Canada: Canadian Education Association, 1989

The Charter in French Language

New Programs Promote Young Intrepreneur Alberta (Feb. 25, 2009).

Bundar, Roberta “Shaping Our Schools Shaping Our Future: Environmental Education in Ontario (June 2007)

Education, Citizenship and Youth February 14, 2009