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Citizenship Education in Lebanon

Bassel Akar

/ 9 Minuten zu lesen

Learn more about the situation of Citizenship Education in Lebanon with a focus on the definition, the ecosystem of non-formal CE, the legal environment as well as on stakeholders and challenges. For understanding today’s situation in the country better, a brief history information is given.

Lebanon (© bpb)

1. Background Information

After gaining independence from the French mandate, Lebanon became a democratic republic in 1943. Visions of citizenship for a new state prompted immediate education reform. By 1946, the first national curriculum replaced the 1926 Ministère de l’Instruction Publique, putting a stronger emphasis on the Lebanese national identity and the Arabic language. In addition, citizenship education was made compulsory across all twelve grade levels and designed as three curricular subjects: civics, history and geography. Decades later, the rise of Arab nationalism in the 1960s built a new vision of a pan-Arab citizenship and, consequently, led to the second reform in 1968-71 that replaced much of the Lebanese nationalist ideologies with Arab ones. The third and most recent curricular reform took place after the 1975-1990 civil war(s). In this 1997 national curriculum, the Lebanese and Arab nationalisms were negotiated into a dual identity, that of being a Lebanese citizen.

Thirty years after the end of the civil war, citizenship education in Lebanon faces ongoing destructive expressions of conflict. Both the memories and the avoidance of its history of armed conflict sustain tensions among the dominant confessional groups that comprise eighteen official religious sects and scores of political parties. The recent migration of refugees into Lebanon from Syria and Iraq has fuelled nationalist rhetoric that has become manifested in human rights violations against forcibly displaced people in Lebanon. Arguably, the most destructive conflict has emerged in the form of corruption. Lebanon ranks in the bottom pool of the forty-two most corrupt countries in the world. The institutionalization of corruption in the labour market has reinforced an exclusive form of citizenship dependent on nepotism and kinship. Decades of corrupt governance also fuelled the revolution that erupted on 17 October 2019 calling for the resignation of all political leaders and crashing the economy as the Lebanese pound lost nearly 80% of its value in 2020.

2. Definition of Citizenship Education

The national curriculum (Ministry of Education and Higher Education [Lebanon] 1997) defines citizenship education through the nine main aims of the civics curricular program. As delineated in the following list, translated from Arabic and previously published in Akar , the civic education program aims to:

  1. prepare the student morally, in harmony with the humanistic values in his [sic] community and country.

  2. introduce him [sic] to the vocational world and to build in him [sic] a spirit for work and appreciation for workers in different fields.

  3. prepare the student, in a civic sense, to enable him [sic] to contribute to world development in harmony with the spirit of modernity.

  4. teach how to critique, debate and to accept the Other and to solve conflicts with his [sic] peers through a spirit of peace, justice and equality.

  5. build a social spirit so that he [sic] feels he [sic] is part of a larger community that is enriched with a diversity of ideas.

  6. raise the standards of his cultural, social, political and economic contributions and encourage his [sic] free participation in his [sic] civic life.

  7. promote his [sic] devotion/loyalty to his [sic] Lebanese identity, land and country through a cohesive and unifying democratic framework.

  8. raise the awareness of his [sic] Arab identity and his [sic] loyalty to it and a sense of Arab belonging that is open to the whole world.

  9. promote the awareness of his [sic] humanity through the close relationships with his [sic] fellow man [sic] regardless of gender, colour, religion, language, culture and any other differences.

In a further elaboration on the vision of citizenship maintained in the national curriculum, an online platform states that citizenship education should foster a sense of pride of heritage as well as a pride in Lebanese and Arab identities, mastery of both the Arabic language and a second foreign one, commitment to environmental sustainability, a sense of care for mental and physical health and principles of human rights and democracy.

While nationalist ideologies underpin the construct of an ideal citizen in education policy, the methods or pedagogical practices are less explicit, with ad hoc reference to lifelong learning, collaboration, critical thinking and dialogue.

3. Ecosystem of Non-formal Citizenship Education

Non-formal educational activities fall almost entirely within international and civil-society organizations. Local non-governmental organizations such as the Lebanese Centre for Civic Education, Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, the Lebanese Centre for Active Citizenship, Min’ila and Adyan have taken on leadership in creating spaces for young people to engage in peacebuilding activities with peers from different communities and to critically examine human rights issues. Some have worked closely with MEHE on supporting curricular reform, have provided professional development to civics teachers and produced supplemental resources for the national curriculum and its textbooks. Questions of sustainability, however, arise when civil society non-formal citizenship education projects are virtually entirely dependent on external funding with only token support from government agencies made fragile by corrupt governing mechanisms. Many youth in other civil-society organizations have created initiatives that support vulnerable people, including orphans, the elderly and female victims of domestic violence.

Political parties and religious groups also provide a public-private sphere for young people to engage as active citizens within the ideologies of the confessional groups. Political parties like Hezbollah and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, that have their own militia, organize camps for youth who advance in ranks. Also, the Progressive Socialist Party engages youth in organized extra-curricular studies and dialogues.

4. Legal Environment

Formal schooling is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE). The Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD) is an autonomous public agency that is responsible for curriculum development and reports directly to MEHE.

The Lebanese education program is organized in four cycles, with Basic Education comprising the first three cycles: cycle 1 (grades 1-3), cycle 2 (grades 4-6), cycle 3 (grades 7-9) and cycle 4 (grades 10-12). Civics is compulsory across all grade levels, as are history and geography. Civics is also included in both of the official exams administered by the government, although it is considered of lesser importance than mathematics and the sciences. The Brevet is awarded when passing the first official exam, after grade 9. The Lebanese General Secondary Certificate (or Baccalauréat Libanais) is awarded when passing the second official exam, administered after grade 12.

According to Decree 10227 in 1997, the citizenship education program – civics, history, geography – are to be instructed only in Arabic while mathematics and the sciences are instructed in either English or French. While the national curriculum was last revised in 1997, the same decree also stipulates that the curriculum be reformed every four years.

History and civic education classes are supposed to use the textbooks published by CERD. However, as all attempts at reform of the history curriculum failed after the 1968-70 curriculum, only civics uses the compulsory textbook. All other subjects can use textbooks published by private publishers.

In 2012, MEHE issued Decree 8924, which mandated a community service program compulsory for passing secondary education. However, recent studies suggest that school principals have faced difficulties in understanding the policy aims and procedures. Moreover, the procedure of principals having to create a single community service project that all students in the school would have to carry out following MEHE approval appeared to undermine the fostering of an empowered citizenship.

5. Stakeholders

The formal citizenship education program is compulsory for all students in the Lebanese education system. Some private schools in Lebanon offer other education programs, such as the French Baccalaureate, American High School Diploma, International Baccalaureate and the Graduate Certificate of Secondary Education. In Lebanon, the private education sector flourishes far more than the public. Nearly 70% of the students in Lebanon are registered in private sector schools. The only students who neither follow nor have access to the Arabic-only national civics program are those registered in the non-Lebanese education programs, which without official figures is an estimated 10% of students in Lebanon.

Civic education teachers are required to closely adhere to the civics national curriculum. Many civics teachers refer to their previous study of law when describing their qualifications. Nevertheless, the education system in Lebanon continues to suffer from a shortage of teachers with certified qualifications to teach. Indeed, only 23.5% of teachers in Lebanon have a written qualification recognized by MEHE, and these qualifications include degrees other than Teaching Diplomas.

6. Challenges

Citizenship education in Lebanon faces numerous challenges in fostering a citizenship that capitalises on and celebrates diversity, upholds the freedoms and principles enshrined in human rights and empowers individuals as agents of conflict transformation and sustainable living. At the policy level, the political turmoil and institutionalised corrupt governance have continued to cause curricular reform to stagnate. The lesser importance of citizenship education in the official exams has lowered the stakes of civics, history and geography. The curriculum and most of the textbooks focus on ideals, steering away from encouraging dialogues and explorations into topical issues. Furthermore, the nationalist ideologies that preserve an Arabic-only citizenship education program and foster the rhetoric of patriotism under a single national identity are a threat both to an inclusive society embracing all informed citizens and to the freedom of expressing multiple identities.

By and large, the learning of citizenship is dominated by a pedagogical culture of reciting the information published in the official civics textbooks. By adopting a "do no harm approach" , the dialogues in the classroom have come to almost stigmatize the discussion of controversial issues and any expressions of religious and political identities, even when students are keen to discuss these and share their ideas. Indeed, the pedagogy of transmitting knowledge to children and expecting them to uncritically accept it while disregarding their own experiences and observations is both dehumanizing and disempowering.



  1. The current program for civics is titled "National and Civic Education". In the first national curriculum, civics included "moral education" in the title.

  2. For a comprehensive history of the citizenship education national curriculum before and after the Republic of Lebanon, see Frayha, N. (1985). Religious conflict and the role of social studies for citizenship education in the Lebanese schools between 1920 and 1983. PhD thesis, Stanford University.

  3. Albrecht, M., Akar, B. 2016. The Power of Remembrance: Political Parties, Memory and Learning about the Past in Lebanon. forumZFD and Center for Applied Research in Education at Notre Dame University - Louaize. Zouk Mosbeh. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021.

  4. van Ommering, E. 2015. Formal history education in Lebanon: Crossroads of past conflicts and prospects for peace. International Journal of Educational Development, 41, pp.200-207. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021.

  5. Transparency International. 2020. Corruption perceptions index 2019. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021.

  6. Joseph, S. 1999. Descent of the nation: Kinship and citizenship in Lebanon. Citizenship Studies, 3(3), pp. 295-318.

  7. Ministry of Education and Higher Education [Lebanon]. 1997. Curricula of general education and their aims. Beirut: Center for Educational Research and Development.

  8. Akar, B. 2012. Teaching for citizenship in Lebanon: Teachers talk about the civics classroom. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28, pp. 470-480. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021.

  9. Retrieved from [Externer Link:] in Arabic.

  10. Albrecht, M., Akar, B. 2016. The Power of Remembrance: Political Parties, Memory and Learning about the Past in Lebanon.

  11. Mouchantaf, M. 2020. Lost in Translation: The Implementation of Community Service in Lebanese High-schools Following Decree No.8924. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 11(2), pp. 184-193.

  12. CEAR. 2013. Support to the Lebanese Education Reform: Citizenship Education (EuropeAid/131916/M/ACT/LB). Unpublished. Beirut, Lebanon.

  13. CERD. 2019. Statistical Bulletin: Academic year 2018-2019. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021.

  14. Akar, B., Albrecht, M. 2017. Influences of nationalisms on citizenship education: revealing a ‘dark side’ in Lebanon. Nations and Nationalism, 23(3), pp. 547-570. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021.

  15. CERD. 2019. Statistical Bulletin: Academic year 2018-2019.

  16. LAES. 2003. Evaluation of the new curriculum in Lebanon (Vol. 2). Beirut: LAES.

  17. Akar, B., & Albrecht, M. 2017. Influences of nationalisms on citizenship education: revealing a ‘dark side’ in Lebanon.

  18. Akar, B. 2014. Learning active citizenship: conflicts between students’ conceptualisations of citizenship and classroom learning experiences in Lebanon. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(2), pp. 288-312. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021.

  19. Smith, A. 2014. Contemporary challenges for education in conflict affected countries. Journal of International and Comparative Education, 3(1), pp. 113-125.

  20. van Ommering, E. 2011. Schooling in conflict: An ethnographic study from Lebanon. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 31(9/10), pp. 543-554.

  21. Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: The Continuum Publishing Company.

  22. Abu El-Haj, T. R., Kaloustian, G., Bonet, S. W., & Chatila, S. 2018. Fifi the Punishing Cat and other civic lessons from a Lebanese public kindergarten school. Journal on Education in Emergencies, 4(1), pp. 13-44. [Externer Link:] Accessed June 2, 2021. Akar, B. 2019. Citizenship education in conflict-affected areas: Lebanon and beyond. London: Bloomsbury Academic.


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Dr Bassel Akar, Centre for Applied Research in Education, Notre Dame University – Louaize, Lebanon