Original Research

Children’s perceptions of democratic values: Implications for democratic citizen education

Annalie Botha, Ina Joubert, Anna Hugo
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 6, No 1 | a343 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v6i1.343 | © 2016 Annalie Botha, Ina Joubert, Anna Hugo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 August 2015 | Published: 01 December 2016

About the author(s)

Annalie Botha, Department of Early Childhood Development, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Ina Joubert, Department of Early Childhood Development, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Anna Hugo, Department of Language Education, Arts and Culture, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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A new generation of children are learning the importance of democratic values at a level which makes sense to them. Appropriate ‘democratic values’ for South Africa are set out in the Constitution, and the national curriculum aims to equip all learners with the knowledge and skills necessary for meaningful participation in society. In many schools, these values – responsibility, respect and the freedom of self-expression – are merely posted on the walls of classrooms, but are not integrated into the subject content. This article proposes that teachers need to determine children’s perceptions of the values in question, and these should be the starting point for teaching democratic values. Young children need to understand and experience values in the classroom, suitable to the development of their moral reasoning. To concretise concepts of values, we used the ‘pledge tree’ activity in an intervention, in which 9-year-old children wrote their values on paper ‘leaves’ which they then posted on a huge polystyrene tree. The paper reports on this experience as a research investigation, capturing children’s ideas.


Children’s perceptions of democratic values; democratic citizenship education; active attitude of listening


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