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Published on July 1st, 2014 | by Sadia Aden
Image ©

Photograph: Tim Gainey/Alamy

Should school children be taught British values?

A year which saw proud cheers of Britishness and multiculturalism from the start of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to the end of the 2012 summer games in London. Now only two years down the line, the mood has shifted.

The recent ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal has sparked the revision of the British identity as a whole. Debate has begun of what it means to be British and how do people qualify to come under this identity.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, now states that “not accepting Britishness is not an option”. Cameron’s statement is to show that the British identity has to be accepted . As 1 in 8 of the UK population is born abroad, this will be problematic for those who are of another nationality.

Yet, something as broad and subjective as identity can only come from one’s self; who choose what they distinguish themselves to be. It isn’t something that is given or thrust upon by the government or schools.

Ironically, heavy handed statements such as these have more ability to alienate minorities instead of unifying or gaining support. Especially in the case of British Muslims who are currently being singled out.

The 2011 General British census showed that of the 2.7 million Muslims living in the UK, almost half of them had been born in the UK. With 48% of all Muslims being under 25, it’s no wonder that politicians want the teaching of British values to start with school children.

However, according to a report conducted by the University of Essex in 2012, the British values of democratic freedom, fairness and tolerance are not lost to the majority of Muslims.

Of the large majority of Muslims in the UK, 77% of them resonate with being British. A further 86.4% believe they belong in Britain, surprisingly more than any other religion including Christianity which was at 85.9%.

As it stands, the UK itself may face major changes if Scotland votes yes for Independence in September this year. This would mean a major revision of what it actually means to be British. Would this change Gove’s definition of British values?

Currently Gove plans to reform the education curriculum to be more British-centric with the study of the 1215 Magna Carta in History lessons, and Charles Dickens and Shakespeare literature in English.

However, surely these values, traits and ideals of Britishness are promoted in schools across the curriculum already?

Exploring the importance of gender equality through learning the struggle of the Suffragettes, and the study of British Rule of Law in compulsory citizenship classes; these are only some instances of Gove’s ideals of Britishness that are already in place in the current education curriculum.

Thus why is it that these values have to be “taught” if it already exists in our schools?

Ultimately, if this is a kneejerk reaction from the Trojan Horse scare then this has serious cause to alienate the very people who need to feel included.

This is a sensitive topic which needs to be handled more appropriately by current MPs, without simply stating the obvious of the ‘need for British Values’. They should focus more on promoting integration, and encourage positive contributions that can unite people under the British identity without creating a negative attitude in society.

Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.

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About the Author

A second year International Politics student studying at Brunel University in London with an ambition to travel and a vice for sweets, alongside an interest for global affairs - past and present.

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