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Why has civic education failed to increase young people's political participation?

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Publication details

DatePublished - 28 Feb 2014
Issue number1
Original languageEnglish


Recent years have seen a revival of civic education. Advocates of this policy have cited the alleged declining normative political participation of young people as a primary reason for its need. This paper builds on the findings of a recent systematic review that examined the effect of civic education on young people's level of normative political engagement. The review found little evidence for civic education having a clear effect on voting/registering to vote, but did identify modest positive effects on forms of political expression (e.g. signing petitions). Hence, it seems civic education has broadly 'failed' in its specified aim. We argue here that this 'failure' reflects a mechanistic approach to policy and a naive notion that 'knowledge will result in action', neglecting insights from sociological literature that shows structural barriers to young people's political participation and the displacement of electoral politics by new hybrid and creative forms of participation.

    Research areas

  • Citizenship, Civic education, Political exclusion, Political participation, Young people

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