CSPE is a junior cycle course designed to promote Active Citizenship in young adults. The central concerns of CSPE are to prepare students for the responsibilities of citizenship, develop their personal and social confidence and to contribute to their moral development. CSPE is important for each individual, it enables students to adapt and reflect in a changing complex society. It helps them to understand the rights and responsibilities of the individual in society and the workings and nature of democracy. CSPE seeks to be effective and to equip pupils with the skills and understanding of processes which enable them to see, decide, judge and act.
The CSPE course features seven core concepts; rights and responsibilities, human dignity, stewardship, development, democracy, law and interdependence. The CSPE exam itself is divided into two sections, a written paper worth 40% and an action project worth 60%. In St. Joseph of Cluny the students do exams in CSPE at Christmas and summer and do an action project in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year. The structure and layout of the course with its varied learning methodologies allows for active class work where the emphasis is on learning by doing. This is born out in the Action Project process, which may include an array of guest speakers from local TD’s, An Garda Síochána and members of the business communities. A wide variety of excursions are also incorporated in CSPE with visits to Dáil Eireann, Mountjoy Jail, local environmental initiatives and many more.
Students enjoy the organising and planning of these events and reap the rewards when they are a success. Developing skills, which have lifelong benefits, is the main aim of Action Projects. Research and discovery activities are an integral part of the Action project. It is the students’ own responsibility to contact the various organisation and gain the required information for their project. Group work and discussions are a constant focus of lessons, allowing for peer interaction which is not always as frequently available in other curriculum areas. Classes can include simulation activities such as a voting exercise based on the last two elections in Ireland. The students also display their action projects to other students within the school. The various exhibits convey the message of raising awareness. Students in the past have organised petitions for worthy causes, such as to ban fur farming, or to get a bus shelter at their bus stop.
Finally CSPE is a subject that students enjoy participating in, encouraging creativity, responsibility and cooperation with their peers.