Crossing Borders: Threats to Citizenship Education
01-Jun-2016


The Middle East political crisis is a phenomenon entailing numerous solutions according to local particulars, one tactic common to all countries is citizenship education to foster national values and belonging, civic integration in society, democracy and human rights. Citizenship education in European, Western states is concerned with the inclusion of the wide components of migrant citizens within the community; this goal became more challenging after the increase in the number of migrants across borders, as noted by NECE (a group organized by the Federal Agency of Civic Education in Germany and other EU institutions) in its 2016 agenda entitled “Crossing Borders: Migration and Citizenship Education in Europe”, based on research and focus groups on the ground. As they pointed out:

“Against the background of a global refugee crisis deeply affecting the state of the European Union and its neighbours, NECE 2016 will aim at two areas: Firstly, we will look at the ongoing European response to the issue of migration including the divisions within and between European societies. Secondly how citizenship education should react to the polarised debate and the controversies about migration, diversity and identity, which have been triggered by the new wave of migration since summer 2015. There is a clear danger that the “migrants’ revolution” will radically change European politics and the worldview of many on the continent towards exclusion and closure. The refugee crisis seems to re-open the gap between the East and the West in Europe and between those who see cosmopolitan values as a threat and those who are struggling to defend these as the core of a new European identity (Ivan Krastev)”.

In Bahrain there is no significant refugee revolution, but cross-border extremism and terrorist threats undermine the concept of state sovereignty. On May 22 the second strategic Gulf Geopolitical Transformation Conference arranged by “Derasat”, a strategic studies organization in Bahrain, noticed that cross-border terrorism is a growing danger with the increased scope of terrorist  groups beyond states’ sovereignty, crossing nations and building their base on more than one nation, radicalizing youth and threatening national identities. Clearly curriculums must be responsive to this threat, as young people are the main target for terrorist groups.  

On May 29 in Manama, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Executive Director of Isa Cultural Centre, Dr. Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa opened the “Youth Against Extremism” conference. Dr. Shaikh Khalid emphasized that raising awareness among youth and immunizing them against extremism is the need of the hour. The projects and presentations presented in this Conference were produced by young people themselves. This is a crucial step in solving the problem of giving them opportunities to share responsibility to outline new political challenges, barriers and solutions. This space for a youth voice was needed to overcome radicalization ideologies. 

While citizenship education is concern to politically equip youth and maintain national identity, curriculums should involve serious research efforts by academics, community organizations, ordinary people and the target group themselves (children and young people), in-line with the vision of policy-makers and national institutions, to analyze needs from the angle of more inclusion to have more successful programs in the future. Our youth should be integrated in outlining the current circumstances and the future strategy. If they are active parties in the formulation of their own futures, they will be more aware of global issues and guide their nation toward peace and development. 


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