Anthony Haas and McGuinness Institute Staff Charlotte Greenfield and Renata Mokena-Lodge

Within the many conversations members of the Institute overhear around political, policy and constitutional issues, one commonly voiced sentiment is the frustration of New Zealanders over the lack of learning that takes place in our curriculum around civics and the running of government.

On Friday morning McGuinness Institute staff and Wendy McGuinness met with someone who has been attempting to remedy this since before 1990. Anthony Haas, a journalist and associate Press Gallery member, is the Director of the Centre for Citizenship Education.

The Centre has a track-record of promoting and facilitating education that helps New Zealanders understand our systems of government to enable full participation by all citizens in democratic society.

As well as liaising with policy makers and the Ministry of Education, the Centre has created sets of resources for teachers and promoted professional development to ensure that our educators feel comfortable taking on political topics that may be seen as polarizing and partisan with their students. In particular, 2003’s DecisionMaker “Guide to Parliament and Government” serves as an accessible textbook for both students and teachers.

This guide has provided thought for myself and others at the McGuinness Institute over ways to capitalize on the huge amount of work that has gone into creating this resource, and others produced by the Centre for Citizenship Education.

Already many ideas have been brainstormed about what the next step could be to modernize and promote such resources in New Zealand schools. We’re already wondering whether we could use the information collated in these documents to create interactive websites, mobile phone apps and lesson plans for teachers. If you’re someone who gets revved up about civics education, then this is a space worth watching.