One in four secondary schools in England is failing to offer pupils adequate lessons in citizenship, the education watchdog has warned.
Citizenship lessons aim to make pupils "responsible" citizens
Most citizenship teachers were non-specialists working "far from their normal comfort zone", inspectors said.
They said guidelines for schools must be less ambiguous.
Citizenship became compulsory for pupils aged 11 to 16 in September 2002, but inspectors said only a minority of schools taught it "with enthusiasm".
They had worked hard to make citizenship a key part of their curriculum.
"Others, also a minority, have done very little," the report said.
"In a small number of schools there is no will to change because of other priorities, resistance to the idea of citizenship education, or an expectation that it will go away."
The report concluded that 25% of schools inspected in 2005/06 were offering "inadequate" citizenship classes.
Inspectors identified widespread misunderstanding in schools over what was required and poor lessons were linked to a lack of commitment from senior managers.
Ofsted said schools must develop specialist citizenship teaching, by training existing staff or by recruiting specialist staff.
The Department for Education and Skills was also urged to increase the number of places for initial teacher training in citizenship.
And inspectors called on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to offer a full GCSE course in citizenship, as well as A-level courses.
Ofsted's director of education Miriam Rosen said: "Citizenship is still seen as the poor relation of more established subjects but it requires teachers to be highly skilled and able to deal with contentious and sometimes difficult issues.
"Urgent attention is needed to make sure it is a central part of the school curriculum and ethos."
A spokesman for the DfES said it was training 1,200 new citizenship teachers over the next two years.
"Citizenship is still a relatively new subject which Ofsted says is improving - inspectors saw much good practice and we are confident it can be successful," he said.
"Citizenship has had a positive impact on the curriculum in the majority of schools and we are confident it will continue to improve as it becomes more embedded."
A spokesperson for the QCA said the organisation would be considering the recommendations made by inspectors.
The aim of citizenship classes is to develop young people into "responsible" citizens, who understand their rights and responsibilities and can play an active part in society.
Sir Bernard Crick, one of the architects of citizenship in schools, said the subject should educate children in how to be politically literate using real issues.
"Being taught to respect the law without learning how bad laws can be changed and better ones promoted tends to create apathetic subjects rather than active citizens," he said.