This article investigates the major issues and problems of Turkish society that may have an impact on people's daily lives, and the characteristics required of primary school graduates as citizens in response to those issues and problems from the perspectives of parents and educational professionals. Data was collected from 407 parents and 389 professionals using three questionnaires developed by the researchers. Results indicated that priority challenges of primary education were considered to relate to peace, the environment, human rights, democracy, justice and equality. Additionally, primary school graduates were said to require critical thinking, problem solving, language and life skills, as well as open-mindedness, expressiveness, peacefulness, flexibility and sensitivity towards environmental issues. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.