Original Research

Investigating critical citizenship education within primary school art curriculum

Monique Putter, Elmarie Costandius
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 13, No 1 | a1385 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v13i1.1385 | © 2023 Monique Putter, Elmarie Costandius | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 June 2023 | Published: 14 December 2023

About the author(s)

Monique Putter, Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Elmarie Costandius, Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Background: Visual art at school can create a learning environment where learners can learn, reflect and express opinions on critical citizenship and social justice issues as an informal modality that draws on different skills and allows for expression of thoughts and ideas in a medium other than words and numbers. A relevant issue in South Africa is the need to create a sense of citizenship to help South Africans to engage with and reflect on the country’s complex colonial and apartheid history.

Aim: The aim of this study was to engage primary school learners in critical citizenship and social justice education to determine how this can deepen their conceptions and to communicate these through an art project.

Setting: A primary school in the Western Cape.

Methods: This participatory action research (PAR) study was designed for learners to engage with critical citizenship through project-based learning at a primary school in Cape Town, South Africa. Learners investigated critical citizenship by creating folktales as a narrative for their artwork.

Results: Primary school learners’ conceptions of citizenship progressed from a general understanding of what citizenship means during the start of the PAR to a much deeper and personal experience of belonging, caring and connecting at the end of the PAR. The use of folktales, digital storytelling and visual art was effective in creating a message about citizenship that the learners practically experienced and valued.

Conclusion: The creative process and artistic expression deepened the learners’ understanding and engagement of critical citizenship and social justice. The reflections on the individuals’ and the group’s learning experiences revealed that critical citizenship education could influence learners’ conceptions and interpretations of folktales with a socio-political message.

Contribution: This research contributes to critical citizenship education and curriculum development.


Critical citizenship; social justice education; South African art education; folktales; storytelling; digital storytelling; visual art education; citizenship art

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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