Embracing a culture of Active Citizenship in Interior Design education



Interior & Furniture Design


  • good citizenship, design leadership, design philosophies

Citizenship implies association and involvement in a community. Even though the conditions of involvement can be specified by government laws, citizenship is in fact not only a matter of politics, but actually an issue of culture and experience. It can therefore be described as a status and as a set of attitudes, associations and expectations that go beyond territorial boundaries. Active citizenship is the viewpoint that citizens should work for the improvement of their community. The notion requires active participation through economic contribution and volunteer work to improve life for all citizens.

In 2011, the University of Johannesburg introduced a program in Active, Critical Citizenship. The purpose of the program was to develop, through active engagement with issues, the basic understanding of every South African’s rights and responsibility of citizenship The program in Active Citizenship was to enable students to understand their status of citizenship and to encourage them to exercise the rights and responsibilities which are associated with their citizenship. In addition, it also had to encourage students to work towards the improvement of their community through economic participation and service to others. The Department of Interior Design chose to integrate the Active Citizenship program into the curriculum as developmental outcomes. This option was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, the Interior Design curriculum is tightly structured and presented little flexibility to include additional modules. Secondly, the majority of the topics in the Active Citizenship program were already integrated in the curriculum that was offered to students at that time. Aspects such as critical thinking, social accountability and environmental responsibility were already embedded in the majority of the modules presented in the Interior Design program.

In order to address the needs of the Active Citizenship Program of the University, the content of the topics that had to be included in the curriculum were categorised as the political exercise of citizenship, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, personal and professional citizenship, the social exercise of citizenship by way of understanding social divisions, and critical knowledge citizenship.

This paper will reflect on the manner in which the Interior Design Department implemented the developmental outcomes to address the Active Citizenship program needs. This paper will describe how the content was addressed in the curriculum of the Interior Design Department of the University of Johannesburg and show how this approach assisted in creating a culture of Active Citizenship in Interior Design education.

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