Measuring and Evaluating the Effectiveness of Active Citizenship Education Programmes to Support Disadvantaged Youth

Liyuan Liu, Steven Donbavand, Bryony Hoskins, Jan Germen Janmaat, Dimokritos Kavadias

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Social Inequalities, Learning Opportunities, and Political Participation
For a democracy to function optimally, ideally, all individuals and social groups make equal use of the opportunities to influence political decision-making (Levinson 2010; Hoskins and Janmaat 2019; Hoskins et al. 2021; Janmaat 2020). In view of this argument, there is no justifiable reason that certain groups are participating at lower levels and are heard less within political debates. Yet, social inequalities in political participation are one of the most conspicuous and persistent features of western societies, undermining the responsiveness and representativeness of their democracies (Bartels 2008; Dalton 2017; Donbavand and Hoskins 2021; Hoskins et al. 2017, 2021; Janmaat 2020; Peters and Ensink 2015). As a rule, people of disadvantaged backgrounds do not vote, take part in demonstrations or are otherwise politically active to the same degree as people from more privileged families (Deimel et al. 2020; Hoskins and Janmaat 2019; Janmaat 2020). Consequently, their needs and responsibilities are less likely to be considered by the democratically elected government, which further reinforces the formers’ disappointment with democracy and alienation from the democratic process (Hoskins et al. 2021; Janmaat 2020; Verba et al. 1995).
Hoskins and Janmaat (2019) found that education systems play a crucial role in generating and sustaining these inequalities. They do so primarily by not offering equal access to learning opportunities to become politically engaged. Time and again, young people from working-class families report lower levels of involvement in school councils, political discussions and other learning strategies that previous research has found to be particularly conducive for political engagement. At the same time, existing research has shown that when disadvantaged youth do use such learning opportunities, they often benefit more from them, in terms of enhanced political engagement levels, than children from privileged families (Gainous and Martens 2012; Hoskins et al. 2017, 2021). As disadvantaged youth have lower levels of political engagement to begin with, such learning opportunities allow them to “catch up” with their privileged peers (they are thus said to have “compensatory effects”). Hence, there is every reason to reform the education system in ways that genuinely achieve equal access to civic learning opportunities. In the next section, we review several of these learning opportunities in terms of how effective they are in enhancing political engagement in general and promoting that of disadvantaged youth in particular.

© 2021, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Sciences
Volume10(10), 394
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021

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