Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2013

A Review of Citizenship Education in Arab Nations

Muhammad Faour

May 2012

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


As countries in the Arab world embark on the long road toward political transition and attempt to build more open and pluralistic political systems, the need to prepare citizens to become contributors to democratic societies has become increasingly urgent. This education for citizenship has three main components: knowledge of civic concepts, systems, and processes of civic life, including education for human rights and democracy; skills of civic participation; and students’ general disposition, including a sense of belonging to the state and shared values and ethics. The knowledge, skills, and values that build and sustain a democratic society are shaped by many factors, including formal classroom instruction, extracurricular activities, and school climate. Civic education, which covers the knowledge component of education for citizenship, is common in public schools in the Arab world. Recent studies commissioned by the Carnegie Middle East Center show that whereas Arab countries have paid lip service to the goals of education reform and education for citizenship, they have taken very few steps to make these goals a reality and to prepare young people for a political and economic order that is rapidly shifting.  A review of citizenship education programs in public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade in eleven key Arab nations reveals a wide gap between the stated goals of national education pro - grams and their implementation.