Malawi recognises the importance of citizenship education (CE) as evidenced by its stated goals of education. In secondary schools, CE is offered explicitly in an elective subject called Social Studies. Consequently, some students do not study it. Mathematics is a compulsory subject; therefore, integrating CE would benefit all learners.

Investigating the extent to which the Malawi secondary school mathematics curriculum promotes CE.

Urban classroom with two experienced mathematics teachers.

The first phase involved document analysis of the intended curriculum’s ability to promote CE. The second phase focussed on analysing mathematics lessons and how they extent they promoted CE.

The findings show that the curriculum promotes CE to a large extent, but this varies in the specific curriculum materials and the mathematics topics. The teaching also varies; learner-centred lessons offered more opportunities for CE than teacher-centred lessons.

We argue that providing for CE in mathematics should go beyond listing in the school curriculum. There should be more clear guidance on how to integrate it into mathematics teaching.

Our study contributes in at least two ways: (1) Adds to literature on mathematics and CE drawn from Malawi context, which differs from contexts in most literature. (2) Adds to methodology by introducing a rating for CE in curriculum materials and analysis of lessons for CE through the lens of learner-centred continuum.

In Malawi, mathematics is a compulsory subject throughout the 8 years of primary and 4 years of secondary education, and is one of the subjects that has more time in the school timetable than other subjects. In secondary school, mathematics has five core elements namely: (1)

There are 13 citizenship skills that are stated as essential for secondary school. These are:

demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the symbols of nationhood

demonstrate a spirit of patriotism and national unity

apply decision-making skills necessary for participation in civic affairs

demonstrate a spirit of leadership and service

show respect for one’s own and other people’s rights and responsibilities

tolerate other people’s attitudes and beliefs

demonstrate respect for the rule of law

understand the characteristics of good governance

initiate and implement community development projects

demonstrate a sense of good neighbourliness

demonstrate a sense of national, regional and international understanding

demonstrate cooperative behaviour

demonstrate personal and social responsibility (MoE

It should be noted that these general citizenship skills are expected of the entire secondary curriculum and not only mathematics. This prompted us to investigate the extent to which the mathematics curriculum promotes citizenship education (CE). We studied the curriculum materials and mathematics lessons to explore the opportunities made available for CE. We were guided by the following research questions:

To what extent do the Malawi secondary school curriculum and approved textbooks promote CE?

What opportunities for CE are made available in Malawian mathematics lessons?

Citizenship is a concept that has eluded a common and universal definition. It can stand for status, identity, values or an activity (Davies

Abdi, Ellis and Shizha (

Despite its centrality as CE, Social Studies is not a mandatory subject. In schools where Social Studies is offered, it is an elective subject and some students choose not to study it. This is problematic considering that citizenship skills should be developed by all learners in all schools as future citizens. To develop competent citizens that participate in the affairs of society, Social Studies needs to be complemented by other subjects across the curriculum including mathematics. As Leighton (

Westheimer and Kahn (

Writing on the relationship between mathematical education and democracy, Skovsmose (

Skovsmose (

Andersone and Helmane (

Considering that Social Studies in Malawi is not mandatory, and the importance of mathematics as a mandatory subject in the Malawi secondary school curriculum, it was essential to carry out a study to explore the extent to which CE was covered in the mathematics curriculum and approved textbooks. The textbooks are important because they are the only resources for many teachers and students. In addition, acknowledging the disjuncture between official documents and actual classroom practice, the study went further to explore the process of teaching to ascertain whether pedagogy in mathematics promoted the development of skills and dispositions essential for critical citizenship.

We first used Andersone and Helmane’s (

They describe three criteria for the theoretical analysis of the curriculum:

Citizenship Knowledge

Citizenship Skills

Citizenship Values and Attitudes

We related the three criteria to the 13 citizenship skills stated in the Malawi secondary school curriculum and found that the skills relate to the indicators of the criteria. We therefore added to Andersone and Helmane’s (

Analytical framework – Andersone and Helmane (

Andersone and Helmane ( |
Malawi citizenship skills indicators |
---|---|

Citizenship Knowledge |
demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the symbols of nationhood |

demonstrate a sense of national, regional and international understanding | |

understand characteristics of good governance | |

Citizenship Skills |
apply decision-making skills necessary for participation in civic affairs |

initiate and implement community development projects | |

Citizenship Values and Attitudes |
demonstrate a spirit of patriotism and national unity |

demonstrate a spirit of leadership and service | |

show respect for one’s own and other people’s rights and responsibilities | |

tolerate other people’s attitudes and beliefs | |

demonstrate respect for the rule of law | |

demonstrate personal and social responsibility | |

demonstrate a sense of good neighbourliness | |

demonstrate cooperative behavior |

The Classroom Teaching Styles model by Guthrie (

Classroom teaching styles model.

Variables | Authoritarian | Formalistic | Flexible | Liberal | Democratic |
---|---|---|---|---|---|

Teacher Rule (authoritarian to democratic) | Formal and domineering, imposing rigid norns and sanctions. | Formal with well-established routines and strict hierarchical control. | Uses variety in methods and some relaxation of controls, but still dominant. | Actively promotes student-centred class room. Encourages pupil participation indecisions. | Leader of democratically based group. Coordinator of activities. |

Student Role (passive to active) | Passive recipient of teacher-defined roles in behaviour and learning. Little overt interaction. | Passive, although some overt interaction. | More active role within constraints defined by teacher. | Works within fairly wide boundaries, especially in learning decisions. | Actively participates in decisions. Increasingly responsible for own actions. |

Content Approach (teaching to learning) | Teaching of prescriptive syllabus with closely defined content for rote learning. | Organised processing of syllabus with emphasis on memorisation. | Some flexibility in use of syllabus and textbooks, with attention to learning problems. | Wide degree of curricular choice. Emphasis on learning processes rather than content. | Strong emphasis on student learning at individual pace. Teacher a resource. |

Reinforcement (negative to positive) | Strict teacher control with strong negative sanctions (e.g. corporal punishment) enforcing obedience. | Strong teacher-based negative sanctions, especially focussed on learning. | Greater attempts to use positive reinforcement, backed by strong negative sanctions. | Increased emphasis on positive reinforcement. | Positive response to internal motivation, although with latent teacher authority. |

Guthrie’s (

Guthrie (

The study was conducted in two phases: the first phase was analysis of curriculum documents and the second was observation of teaching. The curriculum materials included the teaching syllabus and two approved textbooks:

The second phase was classroom observation for mathematics topics (Statistics, Probability and Polygons) classified as high in promoting CE. We used Guthrie’s continuum to analyse lessons and classify the extent to which the teaching promoted CE. We observed a total of four lessons in Form 1 and five lessons in Form 3, taught by three teachers. The teachers were part of a larger study and were selected purposefully because they had different approaches to their teaching. Permission to conduct the study in secondary schools was granted by the MoE. All 3 teachers gave written consent and all 120 students gave verbal consent, where they agreed to be part of the study and to be video recorded. They were informed of their rights as participants, and that they were free to withdraw from the study at any time. They were also informed that the data would be used for academic purposes only and were assured confidentiality and anonymity.

We used Guthrie’s (

Theme codes for lessons.

Teacher role | Student role | Content approach | Reinforcement |
---|---|---|---|

Authoritarian teacher role | Authoritarian student role | Authoritarian in content | Authoritarian reinforcement |

Formalist teacher role | Formalist student role | Formalist in content | Formalist reinforcement |

Flexible teacher role | Flexible student role | Flexible in content | Flexible reinforcement |

Liberal teacher role | Liberal student role | Liberal in content | Liberal reinforcement |

Democratic teacher role | Democratic student role | Democratic in content | Democratic reinforcement |

The nine lessons were video recorded, transcribed and then divided into episodes depending on lesson focus. Each episode was analysed and coded using codes generated from the data then the codes and themes generated from Guthrie’s (

Ethical clearance to conduct this study was obtained from the Ministry of Education, Education Division Manager, South East Education Division (No. SEED/ADM/VOL.II/477).

The authors start by presenting findings from analysis of mathematics curriculum materials namely mathematics syllabus and textbooks to examine the extent to which they promote CE. This is followed by findings from lesson observation data to explore the opportunities for CE that are made available in mathematics lessons.

We present our findings from the analysis of the mathematics syllabus in

Citizenship education in Malawi secondary mathematics syllabus.

Variables | Mathematics curriculum core elements |
Overall | ||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Number and numeration | Patterns, relations, functions and change | Space, shape and measurement | Statistics | Structure | ||

Citizenship Knowledge | Moderate | Low | Moderate | Low | Low | Low |

Citizenship Skills | High | High | High | Low | Low | High |

Citizenship Values & Attitudes | High | High | High | High | High | High |

Citizenship education in approved mathematics Textbook A.

Variables | Mathematics curriculum core elements |
Overall | ||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Number and numeration | Patterns, relations, functions and change | Space, shape and measurement | Statistics | Structure | ||

Citizenship Knowledge | Moderate | Low | Low | Moderate | Low | Low |

Citizenship Skills | Moderate | Low | Low | Moderate | Low | Low |

Citizenship Values & Attitudes | Moderate | Low | High | High | Low | Moderate |

Citizenship education in approved mathematics Textbook B.

Variables | Mathematics curriculum core elements |
Overall | ||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Number and numeration | Patterns, relations, functions and change | Space, shape and measurement | Statistics | Structure | ||

Citizenship Knowledge | High | Moderate | Moderate | Moderate | Low | Moderate |

Citizenship Skills | High | High | High | High | High | High |

Citizenship Values & Attitudes | High | High | High | High | Moderate | High |

As summarised in

Citizenship skills are high in three core elements and low in the other two. This was evident where providing reasons and justifications for solutions or procedures, problem-solving and mathematical reasoning were expected. For example, under

Citizenship values and attitudes are the most visible in the curriculum; we found this indicator high in all the five core elements. This is visible through the suggested teaching and learning methods. In most of the topics, there are suggestions for group work, pair work, peer assessment, group assessment, projects, presentations and discussions. These provide opportunities for learners to work together, express themselves, listen to different solutions by others and respect other learners’ views and ideas. Thus, learning to be tolerant of others, which are all elements of CE under values and attitudes. Relatedly, these values and attitudes align very well with Malawi’s collectivist culture which values the communal over individual living and individual accomplishments. With no similar study done in Malawi before, the present study will be insightful as it explores how the values espoused in the curriculum and aligned with cultural values are implemented in practice within the broader context of high-stakes standardised national examinations.

Comparing with Andersone and Helmane’s (

As shown in

For Textbook B, looking across the core elements, we found that citizenship knowledge is high in

Overall, we found that Textbook A is low in citizenship knowledge and Skills and moderate in citizenship values and attitudes, while Textbook B, overall, is moderate in citizenship knowledge and high in the other two criteria. We see here that, again citizenship knowledge is less present than citizenship skills and citizenship values and attitudes, similar to the findings from the analysis of the syllabus. Interestingly, in their study of Latvian mathematics textbooks, Andersone and Helmane (

Teacher A began by asking learners to define the term data and give examples of data. One student described it as unprocessed information. Then, he explained the importance of grouping data and announced that the day’s lesson was on grouping data. After using the question-and-answer method to define data grouping, he displayed a chart on the board, and the lesson proceeded as in the episode in

Lesson 1 – Teacher A’s transcript.

Using question and answer and lecture methods, the teacher and students completed the frequency distribution table with three columns, namely scores, tallies and frequency. Then, he asked learners to mention the class of marks with the least and most people. He also completed with the learners the frequency distribution tables for two other groups of data, one containing the ages of teachers in a school and the other containing the ages of people who were watching a football match in a school hall as an exercise and asked the learners to show the frequency distribution table and identify classes. Lastly, he asked learners different questions concerning the grouped data, like group with the lowest and highest frequency and say what it means in terms of age group of people who were watching football.

From the transcript in

Since he mainly asked learners open-ended questions like how to group the data (15) and what the intervals should be (23) that allowed for diverse learner opinions, then he was flexible in teachers’ and learners’ roles. The data he used are from real life, for example, the ages of people and grades of students; these might have supported learners’ abilities in applying the principles of data grouping in other real-life situations, hence promoting citizenship skills of context application (Andersone & Helmane

Teacher B started by announcing that the day’s lesson was on using a tree diagram to find probability. He asked learners to explain anything that they remembered from their Grade 10 learning of probability, then he showed a coin and asked learners to mention the probability of getting a head when a coin is tossed and give a reason. He did the same with dice and then the lesson proceeded as in

Lesson 2 – Teacher B’s transcript.

The lesson continued with the teacher and students discussing how to come up with a general formula for the probability of independent events. Then he gave the problem for exercise: The probability of having an early lunch at boarding school is 2/3 every day. The probability of having beef for lunch is 1/7 every day. What is the probability that there will not be beef when lunch is late?

From the lesson on probability, in

The lesson started with Teacher C asking students to define the interior angles of a triangle and mention their sum. Then she asked them to define the exterior angles of a triangle and draw its examples on the board and proceeded as in the lesson episode in

Lesson 3 – Teacher C’s transcript.

From the lesson transcript in

In the syllabus and Textbook B, two of the three criteria for CE are rated high in three core elements. These are: (1)

On the other hand, Textbook B is more specific in its approach towards developing knowledge and skills of civic competence. In the introduction, Textbook B hints on using quadratic equations to solve everyday problems. The unit summary uses word problems that focus on everyday social problems some of which have civic importance, such as solving climate change problems and calculating the sum of votes in a general election.

The second core element is

The third core element is

The preceding presentation shows that the syllabus encourages the use of problem-solving approach to the teaching of mathematics. In addition, the suggested criteria for teaching, learning and assessment also encourage students to solve problems, cooperate, make presentations and assess each other. These activities are likely to develop skills, such as public speaking, cooperation, deliberation and decision-making, which are essential citizenship skills. As Leighton (

The availability of opportunities to develop citizenship skills in curriculum materials is considered to be a positive development. However, we recognise that there can be differences between stipulations of the curriculum and actual classroom practice. As alluded to earlier, Bradshaw (

The three lessons that we have analysed fall under two core elements that our curriculum documents analysis showed that the syllabus responds differently to the three categories of CE by Andersone and Helmane (

In terms of content, we see that all teachers mostly lie in the authoritative role as they decide the content and its flow, as well as the procedure. Some teachers allow some decisions and responses from the learners like how to group data, measure angles and present their findings. However, the teachers eventually led the students to one acceptable way of grouping data, finding the probability of independent variables and proving that the exterior angle is equal to the sum of two opposite interior angles. In such a way, students are taught to accept established content and routines. Thus, this confirms further that in Malawi, Skovsmose’s (

In terms of teacher and learner roles, Teacher A lies in between formalistic and flexible as he at least uses question-and-answer teaching in addition to the lecture method, hence not absolutely formalist and he is also flexible in content flow. Teachers B and C lie between flexible and democratic as they involve learners in cooperative teaching and learning approaches and are flexible and liberal in content. In terms of reinforcement, however, all teachers are between liberal and democratic as they exercise mutual respect and do not impose negative sanctions.

Maass et al. (

This means that through the promotion of active learning approaches of group discussion and enquiry approaches, Teacher B promotes citizenship skills. As the findings show, the use of cooperative teaching approaches like group discussion also promotes citizenship values or tolerance and skills in reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. According to Namphande (

Furthermore, the use of real-life scenarios to represent mathematics by Teacher B is regarded as necessary for promoting knowledge transfer and decision-making skills. These democratic skills are of civic importance in society (Maass et al.

The findings have however shown that the use of knowledge transmission methods by Teacher C and also at times by Teacher A might not promote learners’ development of citizenship skills and values as also found by Namphande (

In concluding the article, we revisit our research questions (1) To what extent does the Malawi curriculum promote CE? (2) What opportunities for CE can be made available in mathematics lessons? Our findings conclude that in general the mathematics syllabus for secondary school promotes CE, but the extent varies across the three criteria of Citizenship Knowledge, Citizenship Skills and Citizenship Attitude and Values. Citizenship knowledge is the least promoted probably because it is not easy to incorporate knowledge of society in the context and application of mathematics. There is also variation in the five mathematics core elements and how each promotes CE. Three core elements were rated moderate to high in their promotion of CE and again these varied across the three criteria. Overall, one of the two approved textbooks rated high in citizenship skills and citizenship values and attitudes and rated moderate in citizenship knowledge. The other textbook rated moderate in citizenship values and attitude and low in the other two criteria. This further illustrates the difficulty of integrating citizenship knowledge in mathematics as also observed by Andersone and Helmane (

Regarding teaching, the study revealed variations in the way teachers provide opportunities for CE. Learner-centred lessons offered more opportunities than teacher-centred lessons. It is interesting to note that the lessons under the core element of

While it is good that the Malawi curriculum recognises the importance of CE and lists 13 citizenship skills that are desirable, it is only the first step towards achieving the goal. The 13 skills are general and for the entire secondary school curriculum across all subjects. It would be advisable for the mathematics curriculum to translate these into how they can be applied or integrated into mathematics.

Our study had some limitations, including that we decided on our own rating and not based on previously trialled ratings. Furthermore, we selected lessons based on what we saw as interesting to illustrate the differences in curriculum implementation. With these limitations, we do not claim the generality of the findings to teaching mathematics in Malawi, but we illustrate how the opportunities for CE can be afforded or constrained. The findings, therefore, can relate to other contexts similar to Malawi, and can provide insights to many other contexts different from Malawi.

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

M.K’s contribution includes conceptualisation of the study, literature review, methodology, data collection and analysis, writing sections of the original draft, reviewing and writing sections of revised drafts, proofreading and editing completed drafts.

P.N’s contribution includes conceptualisation of the study, literature review, data analysis, writing sections of the original draft, writing sections of revised drafts, reviewing and editing revised drafts.

L.M’s contribution includes literature review, methodology, data collection and analysis, writing sections of the original draft, reviewing and writing sections of revised drafts.

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

The research data associated with this article is available in project data bank at the University of Malawi at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors, and the publisher.