This article provides an historical context for recent calls for citizenship education across the NZ political spectrum, and examines the different versions of citizenship education which have emerged over time. Considers what form of citizenship education could lead to informed, active and critical citizens, and also accommodate the considerable diversity that is a marker of NZ society today. Examines recent research from NZ classrooms to consider what students know, their political aspirations and their experiences of citizenship education. Draws on recent NZ and international research to offer a framework for effective citizenship. Argues that realising the potential held by critically active approaches requires cross-sector collaboration that engages with citizenship education’s contested past, present and future. Distinguishes between citizenship education and civics education.