CSPE Civic Social Political Education



Ms G Fitzgerald (Subject Co-ordinator)
Mr P Fitzpatrick
Mr M Griffin
Mr E Keegan
Mrs J Wilson (Career Break)

Subject Overview

Civic, Social and Political Education seeks to be affective and to equip pupils with the skills and understanding of processes which enable them to see, decide, judge and act. Its employment of active and co-operatively structured learning methodologies enable and empower the pupil to become an active and participative young person. (Department of Education, CSPE Syllabus, Government of Ireland, Dublin, 1996)

CSPE is a broad ranging subject which aims through active exploration and the study of citizenship at all levels (local, national, and global) to encourage students to become active and participatory members of their society.

CSPE is currently assessed as a Junior Certificate subject. While students sit a formal examination paper in the third year of the Junior Certificate cycle worth 40% of their Junior Certificate CSPE grade, they also complete an Action Project on a topic of their choice equating to 60 % of their overall CSPE grade. The Action Project component of CSPE reflects the ‘learning by doing’ emphasis of the subject.

Recent examples of Action Projects include:

* A mock general election in which the library operated as a polling station and count centre

* ‘Give FIFA the Red Card’- a project and petition to raise awareness of the working conditions of construction workers on World Cup projects

* ‘Sponsored Silence for the DSPCA’ - a project to raise awareness of animal rights

* A survey to investigate the attitudes of the school community to water charges

* A project surveying students’ attitudes to the Paralympics and disability which also involved an invitation to Paralympian medal winner Helen Kearney to address assembly (for further information on this project please see the bottom of this page).

The Junior Certificate Syllabus

 The CSPE syllabus revolves around seven key concepts:

1. Rights and Responsibility

Students should be aware that every individual is entitled to basic social, cultural, economic, civic, religious and political rights and to the protection of these rights. Responsibilities go hand in hand with the rights accorded to individuals. Every person is responsible for his/her actions towards other people and is responsible for the safeguarding of other people's rights.

2. Human Dignity

Students should be aware of the dignity which should be accorded to every individual as a human being, and of how the provision of basic needs (e.g. food, health, security, education) is vital to human dignity. 

3. Stewardship

Students should be aware that, as individuals born on the planet, every person becomes a temporary owner or steward entrusted and empowered with its care and maintenance. Absence of stewardship leads to the belief that our role in relation to the natural world, the environment, other peoples and cultures is incidental or just for our own use and benefit. This results in phenomena such as unnecessary depletion of resources, pollution of the environment, and erosion of cultural heritage.

4. Democracy

Students should be aware that through the democratic process, at all levels of society, every individual can exercise power through participation. Participation at an individual or group level represents a central right and responsibility in an ordered democratic society. Non-participation or exclusion can lead to alienation, apathy, and lack of responsibility on the part of the individual.

5. Law

Students should be aware that laws and rules serve important purposes in any community or society. They order and set out common codes of conduct for the relationships between individuals, groups and society as a whole. They are a means through which we ensure that the rights of individuals are protected and promoted. They inform us of our rights and of our responsibilities for the observance of those rights. Laws and rules are subject to change. Changes in laws may reflect developments in society or may result from the actions of individuals. A belief in justice and fairness is basic to the process of developing, implementing and valuing laws. Lawlessness and ignorance of the value of laws results in the denial of the rights of each and every individual and a decline in the quality of life in communities and society.

6. Interdependence

Students should be aware of the inter-relatedness of all human life at the individual, community, national, and global levels. The actions of individuals can have effects, sometimes in places and situations they have never seen, for example the effects of the purchases we make as consumers on economies, businesses and the environment, and the effects of our votes in elections on developments at local, national and international levels. Absence of an understanding of interdependence leads to an isolated, powerless and self-interested view of events.

7. Development

Development can be defined as a process of improvement (social, economic, cultural, political) to meet the needs in people's lives at all levels. Students should be aware that development is usually planned and can often be influenced through the democratic process. They should also be aware that the process of development is complex, often controversial, and one where planned solutions do not always meet the needs of all parties involved.


The objectives of CSPE are outlined by the NCCA in terms of knowledge, concepts, skills and attitudes/values. The objectives of CSPE can be expressed through the following questions:

  • Citizenship - What is citizenship about? What does it mean to be an active citizen? What is the core of citizenship? Which dimensions apply to me?
  • Human rights, freedoms and responsibilities What are human rights? How are they applied in my society? How do we reconcile a conflict of human rights? How do the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child influence citizenship today?
  • Participation How can I get involved? How can I influence change? How can I make a difference?
  • Sustainable development: What does it mean to be a temporary owner or steward of the planet? How can I play a part in protecting the environment?
  •  Democratic system - What does it mean? How does it work? Who are the key players?
  •  Globalisation How do my actions as an individual affect others? What does it mean to live in an interdependent world? Do I understand the web of links that exist across communities and borders, and how an action that takes place in one area can have an effect on another? How is globalisation affecting my life and the lives of others?
  • Contemporary issues/current affairs What are the topical issues/events now? How do they affect me and my community?

Student Learning Outcomes

At The High School, as is reflected in our mission statement and the Department of Education literature, we aim to foster in our CSPE students the following attributes:

* Commitment to active citizenship

* Concern for human rights

* Care for the environment

* Respect for human dignity

* Concern for the common good

* Openness and the discussion skills to resolve conflict non-violently

* Willingness to act responsibly

* Practice of tolerance

* Courage and the ability to articulate and defend a point of view

* Willingness to change one's opinions and attitudes in the light of discussion and evidence

* Respect for the rule of law

* Commitment to oppose prejudice, inequality and social injustice.

An Example of a Past Action Project - FORM 3G CSPE PARALYMPIC ACTION PROJECT

(Members of 3G with Paralympian multiple medal winner Helen Kearney)

As part of the Junior Certificate CSPE curriculum, every class must complete Action Projects to raise awareness about particular topics. Our class (3G) decided to centre our Action Project on the Paralympics and disability. We decided to survey the school community with regards to their thoughts and opinions of the Paralympics and to invite in guest speaker, Helen Kearney, who took part in the Paralympics in London 2012.

 Helen Kearney came to speak at Junior Assembly. Despite her battle with Friedreich's Ataxia, Helen went on to win one silver and two bronze medals in Equestrian events at the London 2012 Paralympics. What an achievement!

It was very inspirational to hear her speak to us about her London 2012 experience, all the long hours of training, hard work and determination involved, and how thrilled she was to win those medals for our country. Helen also told us that she believes that the Paralympics have had a positive impact on people’s perceptions towards those with a disability. This is where our focus lay when we were developing the survey.

Our survey was given to one class from every year in the school and the responses to that survey came back overwhelmingly positive:

* 89% of students watched the Olympics, while 72% watched the Paralympics. The popularity of the Paralympics, therefore, nearly mirrored that of the Olympics.

* The majority of the students believed the Paralympics had a positive impact on perceptions towards disability.

* 75% thought that Paralympians were equally, if not more, talented than able-bodied athletes. This shows that there is a wider acceptance of the strength and inspirational characters of these Paralympians.

* It is really encouraging to see that 79% of the students surveyed said that they will watch the next Paralympics.

 We were all really pleased to see these results which demonstrate the legacy of the games.

We hope that Paralympians are now viewed as heroes, as much as their Olympic counterparts. We also hope that the Paralympians of today like Helen Kearney, Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop will inspire us to continue to aim to compete in sports at the highest level in the future. Every Paralympian’s triumph over adversity inspired us to do this Action Project and we hope that their amazing achievements will continue to challenge preconceptions towards disability and that everyone will watch the next Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

We are very grateful to Helen Kearney for coming in to talk to us and to our teacher for all her guidance.

Amyrose Forder (3G)