‘‘Politics is ethics done in public’: Exploring Linkages and Disjunctions between Citizenship Education and Character Education in England


  • Ben Kisby




Purpose: This article explores linkages and disjunctions between citizenship education and character education in England.

Approach: The article undertakes a theoretical discussion of what both forms of education are and involve, and a historical overview of their development over the past twenty years, utilising a wide range of primary and secondary sources.

Findings: Citizenship education programmes tend to place much greater emphasis than character education on the development of the necessary knowledge and skills that enable participation in political and democratic activities. The focus of character education is on personal ethics rather than public ethics, and the particular understanding of character education advanced by British politicians has been narrow and instrumental, linking the development of character with individual ‘success’, especially in the jobs market.

Research implications: Comparative research is now needed to examine the strengths and weaknesses of these two forms of education as they are delivered in other countries, and to explore the similarities and differences between the experiences of different countries.

Practical implications: Policy-makers concerned to ensure that young people have the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes they need to engage in civic and political activity should focus on programmes of citizenship education rather than character education.