Educational policies in the Netherlands reveal that the current mainstream participatory approach to citizenship education jeopardises students’ autonomy. Especially in Dutch post-secondary vocational education, citizenship education has been shown to be mainly aimed at socialization: initiating students into tradition, internalising rules, societal norms and values. This article reports on the findings of a research project, which is grounded in the assumption that integrating Bildung, citizenship education and critical thinking is
a promising way to grapple with the perceived overemphasis on socialization strategies. We justify the interrelationship of critical thinking, Bildung, citizenship education, and professional training from two perspectives – historical and contemporary. It is only by combining these concepts, we contend, that educational professionals can create teaching materials more geared to developing autonomy, and prepare students in vocational training to navigate the political and societal dilemma’s on the work floor. Furthermore, we also clarify our perspective by offering three educational principles, used in our project to guide the design of teaching materials, that form a context for integrating citizenship, critical thinking, and Bildung in vocational education.
A practical illustration is subsequently discussed.