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Studies show that adolescents that follow a higher educational track have more positive experiences than those of lower levels with aspects of democracy, such as decision-making or discussions. In our study, we focus on how adolescents from different educational tracks evaluate the various possibilities to experience democracy in daily life, and whether school is compensating for any difference therein. Data were gathered by interviewing 40 adolescents at two points in time (eighth and tenth grade). The results suggest that, especially in the later phase of secondary education, according to the experiences of adolescents it is apparent that school exacerbates instead of decreases social differences in society. Those in the higher educational track experience more often than those in the lower track having discussions and being encouraged to be socially and politically engaged. We discuss opportunities for teachers and for citizenship education to strengthen democratic socialization in both educational tracks.
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Compensating or Reproducing?
Students from Different Educational Tracks and the Role of School in Experiencing
Democratic Citizenship
Hessel Nieuwelink, Geert ten Dam, & Paul Dekker
Cambridge Journal of Education (online first, 2018).
Studies show that adolescents that follow a higher educational track have more positive
experiences than those of lower levels with aspects of democracy, such as decision-making or
discussions. In our study, we focus on how adolescents from different educational tracks
evaluate the various possibilities to experience democracy in daily life, and whether school is
compensating for any difference therein. Data were gathered by interviewing 40 adolescents at
two points in time (eighth and tenth grade). The results suggest that, especially in the later
phase of secondary education, according to the experiences of adolescents it is apparent that
school exacerbates instead of decreases social differences in society. Those in the higher
educational track experience more often than those in the lower track having discussions and
being encouraged to be socially and politically engaged. We discuss opportunities for teachers
and for citizenship education to strengthen democratic socialization in both educational tracks.
Keywords: educational tracks, political socialization, equality, education, adolescents,
democratic experience
Dr. Hessel Nieuwelink is senior lecturer and researcher at the Amsterdam University of
Applied Sciences. His research examines citizenship education with a special focus on the
development of democratic citizenship among adolescents, inequalities between students and
effective ways of dealing with controversial issues in the classroom. E:
Corresponding author
Prof. Geert ten Dam is full professor of education and President of the Executive Board of the
University of Amsterdam. Her research interests centre on social inequality in education in
relation to learning and instruction processes. Many of her research projects have been on
citizenship education in both vocational education and general secondary education. E:
Prof. Paul Dekker is professor of Civil Society at Tilburg University, the Netherlands, and head
of sector Participation, Culture and Living Environment at the Netherlands Institute for Social
Research | SCP. His fields of research are public opinion, political attitudes, civic participation,
and the third sector. E:
Young peoples’ orientations towards society, politics, and democracy have been shown to be
strongly related to their educational level (Eckstein, Noack, and Gniewosz, 2012; Munniksma,
Dijkstra, Van Der Veen, Ledoux, Van De Werfhorst, and Ten Dam, 2017; Nieuwelink, Ten
Dam, and Dekker, 2018; Schulz, Ainley, Fraillon, Kerr, and Losito 2010; Torney-Purta, 2002).
Those at higher levels are often more positive about democracy, are more willing to participate
in politics, and display more political efficacy. Those at the lower levels, on the other hand,
tend to be less interested in news and politics and to show more cynicism about politics. They
have also been shown to be more critical of their own ability to make a difference. An important
explanation for these differences lies in the experiences young people encounter when
discussing news and politics in daily life. The opportunity structure for adolescents appears to
differ by educational level. Young people with higher educational levels discuss politics more
often, and their parents show more interest in politics and participate more often in civil society
and politics (e.g., Nieuwelink, Ten Dam, and Dekker, 2018; Jennings, Stoker, and Bowers,
2009). This disparity is problematic because it can hamper equal opportunities for participation
in society and democracy (Dahl, 2006; Lijphart 1996; Stolle and Hooghe, 2011). In the
perception of many policy makers and scholars, it is the task of schools to contribute to the
citizenship competences of all students (Davies, 2008; Eurydice, 2012; Schulz et al., 2010).
Various scholars have argued that schools should also compensate for inequalities in
citizenship knowledge, skills, and attitudes. In particular, schools can broaden horizons for
those who have less positive experiences with politics and democracy (Biesta, 2009; Janmaat,
2008; Veugelers, 2009; Van de Werfhorst, 2014). Some studies have shown that schools can
indeed have an effect to this end, while other studies indicate that schools are actually
reproducing or strengthening existing differences (Campbell, 2008; Hooghe and
Dassonneville, 2011; Metz and Younnis, 2005; Ichilov, 2003; Janmaat, Mostafa, and Hoskins,
2014; Nieuwelink, Dekker, Geijsel and Ten Dam, 2016b). Most of these previous studies have
a quantitative perspective, usually questioning the students once during their school career and
often focusing on a single context (e.g., school, family, or peers).
This article reports on a qualitative longitudinal study of Dutch adolescents from
different educational tracks. It explores the perceptions of how these young people view
opportunities to develop democratic attitudes in everyday social settings. The aim of our study
is to deepen our insight into the question of whether schools are providing opportunities to
develop democratic attitudes for those who experience democracy less frequently in everyday
life. Using a qualitative approach, we explore a more in-depth perspective on how adolescents,
in their own words, perceive democracy in their daily lives. By taking into account different
social contexts, we could investigate whether opportunities offered at school can compensate
for society. The adolescents were interviewed twice in order to provide a more comprehensive
view of the experiences that adolescents have with democracy in everyday life and indicate
whether differences exist during various phases in their school career. In this study, we
concentrate on everyday experiences with aspects of democracy. By doing so, we build on
previous research showing that adolescents base their attitudes of democracy and politics partly
on what they experience in daily life (Flanagan, 2013; Sapiro, 2004).
Developing Attitudes towards Democratic Citizenship
Citizenship is a multidimensional concept that encompasses the wish to promote the public
good and to fight perceived injustices, the ability to deal with diverse interests and preferences,
and the readiness to discuss with people holding opposing opinions. Citizenship is inextricably
connected to democracy (Nieuwelink, Dekker, and Ten Dam, 2018; Geijsel et al., 2012;
Hattam, 2016; Miller, 2000). Citizenship and democracy are connected to the political domain
but, especially for adolescents, also to other spheres of life, such as the household, voluntary
associations, and schools (Nieuwelink, Ten Dam, Geijsel, and Dekker, 2017; Sapiro, 2004). In
this article, we focus on three aspects of democracy and citizenship. First, we consider
discussion, one of the features of democracy. Discussion entails exchanging arguments,
disagreeing with and convincing others, and it helps social groups with different interests and
opinions to live together in a peaceful way. The literature highlights the importance of debating
political issues (Goodin, 2009; Held, 2006). Nonetheless, discussions can also involve
situations where citizens form or share opinions about everyday issues, such as collective
activities or organizational rules. Second, we focus on decision-making. There are different
ways of coming to a decision. Democratic decisions can be made through voting, negotiation,
or deliberation (Nieuwelink, Dekker, Geijsel, and Ten Dam, 2016a; Goodin, 2009; Lijphart,
1999). To clarify viewpoints or find common ground, it is important that all people concerned
participate and voice their perspectives on collective problems. Therefore, social and political
engagement is an important aspect of democracy, serving as a central means for people to make
their voices heard and involve themselves in collective decision-making. Consequently, social
and political engagement is the third aspect towards which we direct our focus (Ekman and
Amnå, 2012).
People are not born with democratic DNA; they have to develop views, attitudes, and
skills of democratic citizenship. To achieve this they need space and stimuli to practice and
experience democracy. Adolescence is known to be a crucial period for acquiring democratic
citizenship (Jennings, 2007; Sapiro, 2004; Sears and Levy, 2003). Studies show that many
adolescents are positively oriented towards democracy. They prefer democracy over other
forms of governing, such as oligarchy or aristocracy, and concur with underlying aspects of
democracy, such as freedom of speech, equal rights for all, and free elections (Nieuwelink, et
al., 2016a; Munniksma et al., 2017; Schulz et al., 2010). Young people in general possess
limited knowledge of politics and political institutions. Adolescent political participation is
also rather limited (Elchardus, Herbots, and Spruyt, 2013; Munniksma et al., 2017).
Adolescents are, therefore, more positively oriented towards democracy and democratic values
than they are towards formal political institutions (Nieuwelink, 2016a; Nieuwelink, et al., 2017;
Schulz et al., 2010). Furthermore, young people have different orientations towards democratic
citizenship. Educational attainment is highly associated with these differences, even more so
than factors such as gender or ethnicity. Students in college-bound track often possess more
knowledge of democracy, citizenship, and politics than those in vocational tracks. Many
studies show that those in the former track possess more positive views towards democracy
than those in the latter, but some studies show the reverse relationship (Elchardus et al., 2013;
Flanagan et al. 2005; Nieuwelink, et al., 2017; Nieuwelink et al., 2018; Schulz et al., 2010).
That adolescents do not participate in the political domain does not mean that they do
not acquire attitudes towards democracy and politics. Studies show that adolescents develop
attitudes about democracy by following and discussing the news and by encountering aspects
of democracy in everyday life. These experiences lay the basis for their attitudes towards
democracy and politics and have been shown to have a lasting effect (Flanagan, 2013;
Greenstein, 1965; Gimpel, Lay, and Schuknecht, 2003; Helwig and Turiel, 2002; Hess and
Torney, 1967; Prior, 2012; Quintelier and Van Deth, 2014; Sapiro, 2004; Sears and Levy,
2003). For example, the views of young people about the responsiveness of politicians are
partly based on their experiences with authorities in their daily lives (Gimpel et al., 2003).
Interest in politics during adolescence is an important indicator of political interest in adulthood
(Prior, 2012).
Adolescents can experience aspects of democracy on a daily basisat home, with
peers, in associational life, and at school. These contexts have all been shown to be of relevance
to the development of democratic attitudes. Encounters with aspects of democracy in daily life,
however, differ by social-cultural background and level of education (Amnå, 2012; Pfaff, 2009;
Quintelier, 2015). First, the role of parents has been shown to be important for the acquirement
of democratic attitudes (Jennings, 2007). Substantial differences exist in the opportunities of
adolescents to experience aspects of democracy at home. Studies show that having discussions
about everyday activities and politics is positively related to democratic attitudes. Adolescents
who grow up in social milieus with more highly educated parents tend to hold more of these
discussions (Chan and Koo, 2011; Gniewosz, Noack, and Buhl, 2009; Hooghe and Boonen,
2015; Jennings, Stoker, and Bowers, 2009; Neundorf, Smets, and Garcia-Albacete, 2013;
Spera, 2005). Second, peer interactions are important for adolescents to develop democratic
attitudes (e.g., Biesta, Lawy, and Kelly, 2009; Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, 1995). Research
has shown that adolescents influence attitudes within peer groups by discussing social issues
and media content (Amnå, 2012; Erentaite et al., 2012; Gordon and Taft, 2010; Settle, Bond,
and Levitt, 2011). Yet, these studies have not investigated the differences between social
groups. Third, civil society is widely seen as important for the fostering of civic orientations
(Cohen and Rogers, 1995; Fung, 2003; Putnam 1993, 2000; Warren, 2001). Participation in
some types of organizations (i.e., cultural organizations or youth unions) appears to have a
positive effect on democratic attitudes, while participation in other associations (i.e., sport
organizations) does not seem to affect democratic attitudes (Fung, 2003; Hooghe and
Quintelier, 2013; Nieuwelink et al., 2016bVan der Meer and Van Ingen, 2014). The highly
educated more often take part in activities in civil society (Nie, Junn, and Stehlik-Barry, 1996)
and have, therefore, more opportunities to develop democratic attitudes.
Can School Compensate for Social Inequality?
In a democracy, all citizens should have opportunities to develop democratic attitudes
regardless of social-cultural background or educational level. This raises the question of
whether school, as a public institution, should be able to compensate for social inequalities
regarding citizenship (e.g., Eurydice, 2012; Janmaat, 2008; Schulz et al., 2010; Van de
Werfhorst, 2014). Empirical research on the effect of citizenship education shows that formal
education can indeed affect adolescents’ knowledge of and attitudes towards democracy (Isac
et al. 2013; Geboers et al., 2013; Manning and Edwards, 2014). Citizenship attitudes can, in
particular, be fostered by a democratic classroom climate where students are encouraged to
discuss political issues (Campbell, 2008; Fjeldstad and Mikkelsen 2003; Torney-Purta et al.
2001), a formal curriculum that includes specific citizenship courses (Feldman et al. 2007;
Galston, 2001; McDevitt and Kiousis, 2007; Yang and Chung, 2009), and extracurricular
activities in combination with systematic reflection (e.g., service learning) (Metz and Younis,
2005; Van Goethem, Van Hoof, Orobio de Castro, Van Aken, and Hart, 2014).
Some studies have found that the effects schools have on citizenship competences
especially hold for adolescents who have less positive experiences with democracy. They also
found that school can contribute to social equality (Campbell, 2008; Castillo, Miranda,
Macarena, Cox, and Bascopé, 2014; Gainous and Martens, 2012; Metz and Younnis, 2005;
Langton and Jennings, 1968). However, not all studies show that school can compensate for
society. Some research has found that school exacerbates existing differences in political
knowledge, which is an important resource for the development of attitudes towards politics
and democracy (Campbell, 2008; Hooghe and Dassonneville, 2012; Persson, 2015).
Furthermore, it has been shown that goals and practices in citizenship education can differ
across educational tracks. In (pre-)vocational education, the focus is more often on discipline
and social adjustment, while in pre-academic education, emancipation and critical citizenship
are more common objectives (Ichilov, 2003; Ten Dam and Volman, 2003). By pursuing
different goal orientations, schools reproduce existing differences between adolescent social
We conclude from previous studies that the picture that emerges regarding the role of
schools with respect to enhancing adolescents’ citizenship is mixed. Schools can compensate
for the differences in opportunities that adolescents encounter outside of school to positively
experience democracy, but they do not bring this into practice as a matter of course. What is
missing so far is insight into how adolescents from different educational tracks experience
various opportunities to learn about democracy inside and outside of school.
Current Study and the Dutch Educational Setting
The central question of the present article reads as follows: What experiences do
adolescents from different educational tracks have with democracy in everyday life, and do
schools provide opportunities for those who have less experience of democracy in other social
settings? By taking a longitudinal and qualitative research approach, we intend to deepen our
insight into how adolescents perceive their potential to experience democracy and which
opportunities schools offer. By doing so, we hope to contribute understanding to the issue of
whether school is compensating for existing social inequalities.
The study has been carried out in the Netherlands. The Dutch school system is largely
externally differentiated, and education for the different tracks is generally provided at different
locations. In the lowest track, there is pre-vocational education (PV). PV contains four sub-
tracks. The highest track provides pre-academic education (PA). Students are selected for an
educational track in the final year of primary education at the age of 12. It is rare for a student
to move up from the lowest pre-vocational tracks to a higher track (Inspectorate of Education,
2013). Young people from higher socio-economic backgrounds are overrepresented in pre-
academic education (PA), while young people from lower social milieus predominate in pre-
vocational education (PV) (Bol, Witschge, Van de Werfhorst, and Dronkers, 2014; OECD
2014). The students selected for participation in this research were in PA or in the lowest two
sub-tracks of PV.
The Dutch educational system is characterized by a large degree of school autonomy.
Schools can formulate their own goals within the broad margins set by the Ministry of
Education. Citizenship education is compulsory for all schools. Due to the constitutional
freedom of education, however, schools are free to design citizenship education in their own
manner under the condition that this is done in a systematic manner, with respect to basic
democratic values, and with an underlying vision of citizenship and social integration. Goals
for citizenship are usually included in civics and history classes, which are mandatory for all
educational tracks and focus primarily on the cognitive aspects of citizenship.
For this study, we interviewed forty Dutch adolescents twice, first when they were in
their second year of secondary education (aged 13 to 15; 2011) and again two years later
(2013). We chose to interview students in the eighth and tenth grades because school curricula
explicitly address citizenship issues in these grades.
As to the selection of participants, we opted for a diverse sample of students from the
pre-vocational and pre-academic tracks, which enabled us to find perspectives and experiences
with democracy from many walks of life. We selected twenty boys and twenty girls who were
equally distributed between pre-academic and pre-vocational education. Our sample represents
students from different socio-economic, ethnic, and religious subgroups at each school. We
selected students from four schools with diverging characteristics: an orthodox Protestant
school providing both pre-vocational and pre-academic education for a homogeneous
population of non-minority students in the northeast of the Netherlands, a public school that
provides only pre-vocational education for a mixed urban/rural population of both migrant and
non-migrant students in the middle of the country, a public school that only provides pre-
academic education for a mixed population of students in Amsterdam, and a Roman Catholic
school providing both pre-vocational and pre-academic education for a predominantly non-
migrant population in the northwest of the country.
Interview and Procedure
The semi-structured interviews were organized in the same way in both rounds of
interviews and lasted approximately 90 minutes. First, the adolescents were asked to introduce
themselves and to describe the social activities in which they were engaged in their private
lives (e.g., activities with friends, sports clubs, or religious associations) as well as the activities
in which they participated at school (e.g., student council, debate clubs). Second, the
interviewees were invited to formulate and discuss their perspectives regarding statements such
as the following: People should listen to each other even though their opinions differ’ and ‘If
someone in the classroom does not agree with something, he or she should have the opportunity
to explain his or her opinion.They were given the opportunity to explain whether these
situations occurred within their social contexts.
The third part of the interview was focused on comparing the adolescents’ experiences
with having discussions, collective decision-making, and being encouraged to be socially and
politically engaged in their various social settings. The interviewees were asked not only about
their experiences in the classroom, but also in the broader school context and with
extracurricular activities such as community service. The interviewer started this part of the
interview by asking the interviewees to compare the extent to which they discuss everyday
activities in these settings. Because the concept of ‘discussions’ can be difficult to understand
for young adolescents, they were asked whether situations exist where people can give their
opinion and others respond to that opinion. Thereafter, their experiences with decision-making
in various social settings were compared and discussed. Because decision-making can have
formal connotations, the adolescents were asked about how choices were made in their lives
and who tended to make these choices (e.g., ‘When you are going to do something together,
how do you choose between activities?and ‘Who decides about the rules and regulations?).
Subsequently, the interviewees were asked to compare whether they talk about and discuss the
news and politics as indications of social or political engagement. Because it can be hard to
comment on such broad topics, the interviewer provided some examples of current events (such
as a shooting in a shopping centre, the abdication of the queen, the Arab Spring, and elections).
The interviewees were asked whether and in which setting the adolescents talked about these
topics and how these discussions tended to evolve.
The final part of the interview narrowed in on the extent to which and in what ways
social and political issues and democracy were being taught and discussed in classes. The
interviewees were asked whether they talk about current events in educational settings and if
such discussions were related to school subject matter. Thereafter, they were asked whether
and in what ways they had discussed recent elections in class and through what kinds of
activities (such as the watching of film clips from debates or discussing the election outcomes).
Coding and Analysis
The interviews were recorded and transcribed. With the help of ATLAS.ti, the interviews
were coded and analysed on the basis of the concepts that were derived from the theoretical
framework and research question (cf. Miles and Huberman 1994). The coding scheme
consisted of the following categories and subcategories:
- Social contexts: household, peers, associational life, school and class;
- Experiences with discussions: experience (frequency), differences in opinion, equal
opportunities to participate, and topic;
- Experiences with decision-making: experience (frequency), method used (voting,
negotiation, deliberation, authority decides), and topic;
- Being encouraged to discuss social issues and politics: experience (frequency), differences
in opinion, and equal opportunities to participate.
To determine the reliability of the coding, the fragments of the transcribed interviews were
coded independently, resulting in a satisfactory Cohen’s kappa of 0.84.
The interviews were analysed according to the categories stated above. With regard to
the three central aspects of democracy, we looked for the following information in the
transcripts of the interviews. First, we searched for indications of adolescent experiences with
discussions, different opinions, and opportunities to voice opinions in different settings, such
as when deciding joint activities or organizational rules. Second, we looked for indications of
opportunities to influence or participate in decision-making procedures and of decision-making
processes (e.g., voting or negotiating). Third, we sought evidence of situations where the
adolescents were encouraged to be socially or politically engaged, for example through talking
about the news, elections, or instances of perceived injustice.
All interviewees reported participation in a variety of social settings and interaction
with friends and other peers, family, teachers and school authorities, coaches and trainers, and
religious authorities. We discuss below the adolescents’ experiences in these various social
contexts. First, we go into their experiences with democracy at home, with friends, and in
associational life. Thereafter, we present our results regarding their experiences in school. This
enables us to see whether school creates opportunities for those who have relatively few
experiences with democracy in other aspects of society.
At Home
Daily activities at home create opportunities for interviewees to have discussions in
their households and to make collective decisions. Differences exist in adolescent experiences
with discussions according to educational track. The adolescents from the higher track (PA)
stated predominantly at both points in time that they often discussed everyday activities or
hobbies and that there are often competing views. One boy (PA) stated for example:It is not
a hot debate, but we all have our opinions so we share them…. These discussions are about
small things like who is going to do what [in housekeeping]… It is pleasant that we can share
our opinions.’ On the other hand, a substantial group of students from the lower track (PV)
revealed that they did not have many discussions in their households. Strong disagreement was
rare, especially when the students were in tenth grade. One boy (PV) described his experience:
Sometimes [my father and I] talk about [football]. Was it a good game or a bad game? But
that’s it. We don’t talk that muchThat’s fine. Discussions are not important.’
Whether or not the adolescents have discussions, there are situations when a decision
needs to be made regarding household issues, such as holidays and outings. The interviewees
stated that in such situations, they try to find consensus, but that their parents have the final
say. As one girl (PA) stated:When we make decisions together, we listen to each other, and
most of the time, we find an agreement. In the end, everyone should be happy about what we
are going to do.’ According to the interviewees, this was the most just way to come to decisions
within the household. Consensus should be sought, but parents must have the final say. This
view was held by the adolescents from both educational tracks, at both points in time.
Important differences exist along the lines of educational track in the adolescents’
experiences with talking about the news and politics. The dominant experience among those
enrolled in the PV-track at both points in time is that news and political events are not
discussed. These adolescents stated that they are not interested in the news and that they do not
talk about the news with their parents. Furthermore, few of these young people talk about
elections with their parents, nor about whether they would vote and for political party. These
adolescents in the PV-track prefer to avoid discussing politics because they are disinterested in
the topic.
Among those from the PA-track, on the other hand, the news and political events are
being discussed as a matter of course, and such discussion increased with age. In the second
round of interviews, nearly all interviewees in the PA-track explained that they talked with
their parents rather extensively about political events. Often, the students knew for which party
their parents voted. These young people find it important to talk with their parents about politics
because they want to be politically informed. The parents seem to give their children the
impression that politics matters and that talking about political issues is a normal activity.
Among Peers
With regard to friends and other peers in daily life, the democratic experiences of young
people also differed in terms of educational track. Those in the PA-track discussed hobbies on
a semi-regular basis, talking with peers about musical preferences, football matches, and how
they would spend free time. This did not change over time. In general, differences in views
were debated, the opinions of friends and peers were listened to, and consensus was sought.
One boy (PA) explained how his peers talk about such topics: Recently we have discussed
where we will go in the summer. Someone said what he wants and others respond and say that
they want something else. Then we will find agreement together... It is important that everyone
can voice his opinion and that we decide together.’ However, PV-track students’ experiences
with discussions were different. At an older age especially, many of them barely discussed
everyday topics with their friends. They explained that they have conversations with their
friends, but seldom have discussions. One girl stated:We don’t really discuss. It is just that
someone says, ‘let’s go to the mall’, and then we all agree. We don’t need to share our
opinions all the time.’ These adolescents do not favour having discussions and sharing
Another picture emerges when looking at societal issues. According to the interviewees
from both educational tracks and at both ages, it is uncommon to discuss news, social issues,
or politics among friends. No differences were found for gender of ethnicity. The interviewees
viewed talking about the news or politics to be a dull activity, and those who do talk about the
news with peers do so only briefly. The dominant view was that they preferred to talk about
what they felt matters to teenagers: music, sports, role models, and boy/girlfriends.
In Associational Life
Nearly all the interviewed adolescents engaged in music, sport, or dance in an organized
associational setting. They often perform several activities with ten to twenty others under the
supervision of an adult. The boys and girls from both educational tracks and at both points in
time report predominantly that there is limited room for discussion and collective decision-
making in these organizations, and they do not discuss the news or political issues there. They
are able to voice their opinions while engaging in these activities, but there is little room for
discussion or decision-making. For example, one girl (PV) explained that in her dance group
she dances with:The instructor decides about choreography, but we can say whether we want
something to be changed’. The adolescents do not seem to be bothered by this situation because
everyone is there for the same reason and has more or less the same interests.
All twelve students from the orthodox Protestant school participate in confirmation
classes at their church, and three other students participate in Koran classes at their mosque.
From the perspective of these interviewees, there is much room for discussion in these settings
at both fourteen and sixteen years old. They reported being asked to give their perspectives on
faith-related events in their daily lives, even if these perspectives conflict with central aspects
of their faith. Although all participants belong to the same religious group, there are often
substantial differences in opinion. News and political events are seldom discussed, only when
related to faith.
In sum, those in the academic educational track report more frequent discussions about
everyday activities and social and political issues than those in the pre-vocational track;
therefore, they encounter more often situations where they can develop democratic attitudes.
This difference seemed to be even more apparent at a later age, among the adolescents in tenth
grade. These experiences were largely in line with the preferences of the adolescents
themselves. Those in the pre-academic track tend to enjoy discussions more than those in the
pre-vocational track.
Table 1. Dominant experiences among adolescents
Adolescents in pre-vocational track
Adolescents in pre-academic track
Few discussions
Decisions consensus-based, parents
Many discussions, including about
the news and politics
Decisions consensus-based, parents
Among friends
Few discussions
Decisions consensus-based without
much discussion
Many discussions
Decisions consensus-based often
preceded by a long discussion
Associational life
Few discussions
Decisions authority-based
Few discussions
Decisions authority-based
Few mostly uncoordinated
discussions, rarely about news or
Few collective decisions, majority-
based, preceded by brief discussion
Many structured discussions, often
about news and politics
Few collective decisions, majority-
based, preceded by structured
At School
School can compensate for the differences in experiences in society, but do they
actually put this into practice?
In the Classroom
Adolescents from different educational tracks experience differences in the number of
opportunities to engage in discussion (for example, discussing joint activities or school rules
and regulations). No differences are found along the lines of school denomination. Boys and
girls reported relatively similar experiences. Those in the PA-track stated that when they were
in eighth or tenth grade, they had engaged in (semi-)regular discussions about democracy and
citizenship. During these discussions, many claimed that competing views were formulated
and that there was room for all classmates to explain their views. These adolescents find it
important that everyone can voice his or her opinion and that everyone can respond to the
statements made. One girl in a combined class comprised of regular PA-students as well as
students who were also learning Latin and Greek explained that the rescheduling of a class can
be difficult:Then [those students learning Latin and Greek] don’t want to reschedule and we
ask ‘why not?’… The teacher listens and says that we have to take others into accountIt is
pleasant that we are being listened to by the teacher and other students.’
The PV-students had different experiences, especially when they were in the tenth
grade. The dominant experience was that there was rarely a debate in the classroom, and if
debate did take place, it did not last long. One girl stated:In class it is usually ‘open your book
and get to work’.These students did not view this as overly problematic because they do not
see school as a place to have such discussions. However, they do find it important to be listened
to when they voice an opinion. This did not always seem to be the case in their classrooms.
Whenever these students had discussions, they did not seem to be very well ordered. One boy
explained the typical course of discussions in his classroom: ‘If someone disagrees then they
will yell it through the classroom… In our class you either agree or don’t agree, for the rest we
really don’t care.Another boy explained that not all students have equal opportunities to
participate in a discussion: ‘Most of the time the same persons will have it their way because
they are the loud-mouths… If you’re less popular you will have less of a say.
Some classroom situations require a decision that will affect all students. Those from
both educational tracks and the different denominations explained that when it comes to
regulations, timetables, and the contents of lessons, the teachers or other school authorities
decide. The adolescents agreed with this state of affairs. From their perspectives, teachers
should decide these topics. This did not change as the interviewees aged. However, most
students in both tracks felt that their school authorities were listening to them, both in the eighth
and tenth grades. One boy (PV) explained the routine in his class: The teachers decide the
content of the class. But sometimes we as students come up with a plan and then they listen to
that… For example, we asked if the teacher wants to make handouts… Most of the time they
are willing to do that.’ The interviewees, however, also explained that in some situations, they
were able to make a decision in conjunction with their classmates. These decisions usually
involved the rescheduling of a class, the screening of a movie, or a field trip. In some situations,
such as when deciding to leave school at an earlier hour, students must all agree, and a decision
must be made by consensus. In other situations, when students disagree about the best solution,
the majority typically decides with little debate. For example, one boy (PV) explained the
situation regarding the movie they would watch at the end of a day: That is with the majority
rule… The teacher asked us what we wanted, then we voted and then we watched that movie.
That’s it.The adolescents would have preferred more room for discussion. Among the boys,
the dominant view was that voting is the best way of deciding. However, the girls in both
educational tracks felt it important for all students to be listened to and argued that the majority
should not always have it its way. Rather, the class should strive to reach consensus.
In all schools in the Netherlands, regardless of educational track, students must learn
about society, social issues, politics, and democracy. The extent to which social and political
issues are debated in the classroom, however, differs greatly between the interviewed students
from the PA-track and PV-track. These differences were not found along the lines of the
denomination of the school. In the eighth grade of both tracks, the news, politics, and elections
were not often discussed in the interviewees’ classrooms. Every now and then, the teachers
referred to these topics, but there was little debate about them. The students did not mind that
they did not discuss these topics in class. However, in tenth grade, the experiences of the
adolescents in both tracks diverged. The PV-students stated that they still did not discuss
current affairs in class. One boy stated:Yeah, we have once talked about the news but I don’t
know what it was about… During the economics class, we discussed the economic crisis. They
said that there is an economic crisis now.’ From the perspective of the PV-students, political
and democratic events are not discussed either. About three months before the second round of
interviews took place, national elections for the Dutch parliament were held, but PV-
interviewees said these elections were not discussed extensively in the classroom. One boy
explained that they had discussed politics infrequently during the previous year, but not in tenth
grade:Now we don’t talk about politics. That was last year with civics… We didn’t talk about
the elections. Not at all… Now we are learning for our finals so we’re busy with that.The lack
of classroom discussion about current events and elections was not problematic for these
adolescents because they do not care much for talking about such topics.
The reported experiences of tenth graders in the PA-track differ substantially. This was
the case for the students in all three PA-schools. These adolescents stated that they now
discussed news and politics on a regular basis in their history, civics, and religion classes. One
girl from the orthodox Protestant school explained how her class talked about the news and
moral dilemmas:With civics, we talk about the news, like ‘what do you think about
euthanasia?’ Everyone can give his or her opinion and then we talk about dilemmas like ‘what
would you do as a doctor when it comes to euthanasia? I think it very interesting to hear the
perspectives of other students.’ The PA-students were encouraged to develop views on
complicated moral issues. These students also stated that they discussed politics at school when
in the tenth grade, and most had discussed the national elections of 2012. One boy (PA)
explained further: The teacher asked us if we had seen the debates and what the strategy of
the politicians wasWe also discussed the outcome of the elections and that it is remarkable
that many people voted for either [leftist] labour or the [rightist] liberals, and that now they are
in a coalition together.These PA-students found it important to learn at school about current
issues and politics because they perceive that citizens should be informed.
Activities Outside the Classroom
During our study, all students were able to participate in extracurricular activities that
are potential venues for developing positive attitudes about democracy. In grade eight or nine,
students were required to do community service, and they volunteered in hospitals, elementary
schools, or sports organizations. They only had to perform thirty hours of community service;
therefore, they received only simple assignments to help elderly people, patients, or children.
Consequently, students had to perform activities where there was little room to experience
democracy through having discussions or showing initiative.
Students are also able to experience democracy by attending extracurricular activities
such as debating club or student council. Students who participated in debating clubs were
positive about what they learned about debating and about their own perspectives on social and
political issues. Those who participated in the student council were positive about the
opportunities they had to articulate their views on school rules and regulations, and they
believed that they have a real influence on school policies. However, the other students were
unaware of what happens in these debating clubs or the types of decisions the student council
was making. Although these clubs and councils can be good avenues for students to experience
democracy, their scope seems rather limited.
Adolescents’ democratic experiences primarily differ in terms of educational track;
gender, ethnicity, and religious affiliation turned out to play a less important role. In each of
the tracks, experiences of the students seemed to be quite similar, regardless of the context they
grew up in. Of course, the numbers of interviewees have been small in our research and we
might have found at least statistically ‘significant’ differences in a larger scale study. However,
given the lack of references to gender, ethnicity and religion in the stories about democratic
experiences the students told us, it seems unlikely that these factors play a major role. This
holds for experiences both within and outside of the school. We would claim, therefore, that
educational track is an important factor to explain differences in adolescent experiences with
democratic citizenship in the Netherlands nowadays.
Conclusion and Discussion
In this research, we investigated experiences with democracy among adolescents from
different educational tracks and explored whether schools provide opportunities for those who
experience less democracy in daily life. We found variations in experiences with democracy
between students in different educational tracks. Students’ experiences did not differ
systematically by gender, ethnicity, or religion. The results show that in activities outside of
school, adolescents in the pre-academic track tend to experience more opportunities to develop
democratic attitudes as compared to those in the pre-vocational track. Within the school, we
found similar results. Especially at an older age, students in the PA-track often discuss
everyday situations and political events in school, while those in the PV-track lack such
experiences. Taken from the reported experiences of these young people, we conclude that
school tend to reproduce or even exacerbate differences among students from different
educational tracks. This is an important outcome when taking into consideration, as has been
described in the introduction, that adolescentsattitudes towards politics and democracy is
influenced by experiences in daily life and have been shown to have a lasting effect (Flanagan,
2013; Helwig and Turiel, 2002; Prior, 2012; Sears and Levy, 2003).
Before discussing these findings in light of previous studies, we pay attention to the
limitations of our study. First, we conducted in-depth interviews with a relatively small number
of adolescents in the Netherlands, which only allows for a cautious interpretation of the results.
Second, we asked adolescents to reflect on their democratic experiences in recent months, and
they may have had difficulties remembering what had happened during those periods. Third,
this article describes a study based on self-reporting interviews. We have not observed
adolescent behaviour in everyday life. As is always the case with research based on self-
reporting, there may be a difference between what adolescents reported and what actually
occurred. When asked about experiences with democracy, adolescents are likely to have
selected events that seemed to be relevant at that moment. These are not necessarily the
experiences that will be formative for their political participation as adults. Social settings,
schools in particular, can have more impact on citizenship than adolescents realize themselves.
These limitations are inherent to the research design. Strengthening our study, however, we
selected a diverse sample of adolescents from many walks of life, from schools with diverse
characteristics (in student population and denomination), and from various geographical
locations. That young people in the same school class formulated largely similar experiences
of the school context is in our view indicative of a truthful reflection of their experiences. That
these findings were observable in various locations indicates that they might be present in many
schools in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the results are in line with studies in other countries,
where relationships have also been found between social milieu and political discussions at
home (e.g., Jennings et al., 2009, Schulz et al., 2010) and for different types of citizenship
education for various groups of students (e.g., Ichilov, 2003). Therefore, there are good reasons
to expect that the results of this study do not only hold for the forty adolescents that we
Our study underscores the importance of citizenship education in schools. Because
adolescents experience differences in opportunities to develop democratic attitudes, in our view
schools as public institutions should create opportunities for all young people to experience
aspects of democracy on a regular basis. This is especially important in the Netherlands, where
a strong relationship exists between one’s educational track and the educational level of one’s
parents (Bol et al., 2014). From previous studies, we can conclude that schools are able to
contribute to the students’ democratic attitudes by creating an open classroom climate, by
helping students learn about society through a formalized curriculum, and by providing them
with opportunities to reflect on extracurricular activities (e.g., Geboers et al., 2013; Isac et al.,
2013). This promise, however, is not fulfilled by the schools in our study, at least not in the
perception of the adolescents we interviewed. The students in the PA-track, especially those in
tenth grade, stated that they often discussed social and political issues and events such as
elections, particularly in courses with related topics. Those in the PV-track reported that they
rarely talked about these topics in either eighth or tenth grade. As a consequence, no objective
public authority has provided these students with a framework to think about events such as
national elections, which are pivotal in democratic processes and crucial for an individual’s
political socialization (e.g., Prior, 2012; Quintelier and Van Deth, 2014; Sears and Levy, 2003).
An explanation for the difference between pre-vocational and pre-academic students at school
may lie in the experiences adolescents have in other social contexts. Because PV-students are
less used to having discussions than their peers in the PA-track, it can be more challenging for
teachers in the PV-track to encourage students to voice their opinions. This requires highly
professional teaching and pedagogical skills, and it is worth investigating whether teachers
have these skills, in particular when it comes to citizenship education.
Many scholars have emphasized that adolescents develop attitudes towards democracy
and civic engagement in everyday mediating institutions (Flanagan, 2013; Helwig and Turiel,
2002; Gimpel et al., 2003; Sapiro, 2004). In this regard, our research paints a pessimistic picture
about what adolescents from the lower educational track learn about democracy. Their
relatively limited opportunities to experience and learn about democracy can result in different
views on the importance of democracy and citizenship (Elchardus et al., 2013; Janmaat,
Mostafa, and Hoskins, 2014; Torney-Purta, 2002). It is important to investigate further what
kinds of views young people from different educational tracks develop of democracy, decision-
making, and the necessity of civic engagement.
The variation in adolescents’ experiences with democracy in school settings, along with
the fact that such variation can exacerbate existing inequalities, hinders equal opportunity to
participate in politics. While our study indicates that there are several opportunities for teachers
in both pre-vocational and pre-academic education to pay attention to aspects of democracy, it
seems that only teachers in the higher educational track discussed political or controversial
issues with their students. From the students’ perspective, topics related to democracy and
citizenship are rarely discussed. Only when these topics are directly connected to the content
of a class and/or the final exam do teachers pay attention to them. The lack of compensation
for differences between students is, in our view, in part due to the rather marginal position of
citizenship education in the curriculum, at least in the Netherlands. Furthermore, Dutch schools
do not seem to offer many opportunities to develop critical citizenship. Students in pre-
vocational education in particular do not seem to be encouraged to reflect critically on
situations they find to be unjust or to learn to evaluate different perspectives, nor are they
spurred to develop abilities facilitating collective action to change existing injustices. This is
in line with other studies, which have shown that in pre-vocational tracks, discipline and
learning how to behave are central citizenship goals, while pre-academic track students are
taught about autonomy and critical reflection (Ten Dam and Volman, 2003). If this holds for
other schools in the Netherlands and elsewhere, schools are reproducing social inequalities.
Our study indicates that teachers have a hard time facilitating discussion for those
students who are not used to debate. Compensation for social inequalities requires teachers to
be better prepared for this task. While it is often claimed that citizenship should be an integral
part of the curriculum, our study underlines the importance of developing curriculum units that
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... The civic engagement of young people does not arise spontaneously; it is the product of particular contexts that may or may not favor it (Flanagan and Faison 2001;Keeter et al. 2002;Nieuwelink, Dekker and ten Dam 2018;Oosterhoff and Metzger 2016;Quéniart 2008;Wilson 2000;Youniss, McLellan and Yates 1997;Youniss et al. 2002). ...
... In this respect, family socialization is one of the most influential factors (Akiva et al. 2017;Kudrnáč and Lyons 2018;Mainar, Marcuello-Servós, and Saz-Gil 2015;Quéniart 2008). For example, parents' interest in politics and family conversations about political issues may function as mobilizing factors for young people's engagement in politics (Kudrnáč and Lyons 2018;Nieuwelink, Dekker, and ten Dam 2018). Several studies have shown that adolescents who are involved in family conversations about political and civic issues display greater civic engagement (Andolina et al. 2003;Flanagan and Faison 2001;McIntosh, Hart, and Youniss 2007;Nieuwelink, Dekker, and ten Dam 2018;Oosterhoff and Metzger 2016). ...
... For example, parents' interest in politics and family conversations about political issues may function as mobilizing factors for young people's engagement in politics (Kudrnáč and Lyons 2018;Nieuwelink, Dekker, and ten Dam 2018). Several studies have shown that adolescents who are involved in family conversations about political and civic issues display greater civic engagement (Andolina et al. 2003;Flanagan and Faison 2001;McIntosh, Hart, and Youniss 2007;Nieuwelink, Dekker, and ten Dam 2018;Oosterhoff and Metzger 2016). Parents' volunteering and civic behavior is also a strong promoter of youth engagement (Bekkers 2007;Keeter et al. 2002;Mainar, Marcuello-Servós, and Saz-Gil 2015). ...
... Moreover, adolescents are generally positive toward democratic institutions and prefer democratic systems of government over undemocratic alternatives (Helwig, 2006). A recent qualitative study among 40 adolescents showed that the views of adolescents generally include considering multiple (conflicting) democratic values, such as freedom of speech and equal rights (Nieuwelink et al., 2019). ...
... First, this study shows that adolescents' views on democratic issues are layered and include considering multiple democratic values. This corresponds with earlier research among students in secondary vocational education that shows these students emphasize consensus and inclusiveness (Nieuwelink et al., 2019). However, the current study concerns adolescents in tertiary education (aged 16-19) who are older than those in the referenced study (aged 13-15). ...
Full-text available
The views young people have towards democratic values shape their views in later life. However, the values that are fundamental to democracy, such as majority rule and minority rights, are often competing. This study aims to provide insight into the ways adolescents view democratic issues in which democratic values are competing. To do so, three democratic issues with varying conditions were designed, and discussed during interviews with students in vocational education. The results show that most adolescents consider both democratic values that underlie an issue. Furthermore, as the conditions in which the issues take place were altered during the interviews, adolescents explicitly evaluated different perspectives and starting shifting between both values. The findings of this study show that adolescents' views on democratic issues are layered, and include considering multiple democratic values and taking account of the conditions in which these are situated.
... These are aspects that Dutch adolescents know relatively little about. Both the students and their teachers indicate that their education is lacking in this respect (Munniksma, et al., 2017;Nieuwelink, Dekker, & Ten Dam, 2019). The knowledge bases confirm that the political nature of citizenship is seldom addressed in the Dutch educational system. ...
... It was only addressed in the context of the teacher training program of social studies. In retrospective studies, teachers indicated that they had learned little about citizenship (education) in the course of their training(Nieuwelink, 2018;Willemse, Ten Dam, Geijsel, van Wessum, & Volman, 2015). Citizenship therefore seems to have played a limited role in teacher training in the Netherlands in the past.Since 2008, national curricula for all teacher training programs at Bachelor and Master level are defined. ...
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• Citizenship education is in teacher training in the Netherlands linked to both the pedagogical and didactic tasks of teachers. • The task of teachers to stimulate the development of values in students is addressed a lot less often. • The idea of democracy and rule of law as a framework for citizenship is not mentioned in most knowledge bases. • As a result, some knowledge bases seem to lack direction, as if all opinions and all ways of ‘dealing with diversity’ are desirable. Purpose: With this article we aim to provide insight into how citizenship education receives attention in the formulated national curricula for teacher education in the Netherlands and to what extent the different domains of citizenship and the different tasks of teachers with regard to citizenship education are addressed. Method: For this study the knowledge base for all teacher training curricula at Bachelor and Master level in the Netherlands were analysed. We looked at the extent to which citizenship (education) is addressed in teacher training and the ways in which this takes place. Findings: The results of the study show that several domains of citizenship are mentioned, albeit not often together in one knowledge base. Citizenship education is linked to both the pedagogical and didactic tasks of teachers. The task of teachers to stimulate the development of values in students is addressed a lot less often. The fact that citizenship also involves moral development is only mentioned in some knowledge base. Also, the idea of democracy and rule of law as a framework for citizenship is not mentioned in most knowledge bases. As a result, some knowledge bases seems to lack direction, as if all opinions and all ways of ‘dealing with diversity’ are desirable.
... To complicate matters further, in light of the school as a practice ground for citizenship, it is also relevant to point at a pattern that has been revealed in the research: the lines along which society is stratified, particularly educational level and socio-economic status, are mirrored in how citizenship education itself is interpreted for different groups (see, e.g., Nieuwelink et al. 2019;Ten Dam and Volman 2003). Research has shown that not all students have equal access to citizenship learning opportunities. ...
... For example, within pre-vocational education, adaptation was found to be the main theme, while pre-university students were more often offered a critical perspective (Ten Dam and Volman 2003). In line with that finding, a recent study showed that pre-vocational students are given fewer opportunities to practice their citizenship in terms of taking part in discussions or debates (Nieuwelink et al. 2019). Yet another study showed that educators in lower socio-economic status school communities had a more local understanding of citizenship, whereas in a school community with a higher socio-economic status, an international or global perspective on citizenship was more common (Goren and Yemini 2017;Sincer et al. 2019;Wood 2015). ...
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Learning to relate to others that differ from you is one of the central aims of citizenship education. Schools can be understood as practice grounds for citizenship, where students’ citizenship is not only influenced by the formal curriculum, but also by their experiences in the context of teacher–student and student–student relations. In this article we therefore investigate how the practice of dealing with difference is enacted in schools. Data were collected through an exploratory multiple case study in four secondary schools, combining interviews and focus groups. Despite the differences between the schools in terms of population and location, in all schools the reflection on the enactment of ‘dealing with differences’ was limited in scope and depth. ‘Being different’ was understood primarily in terms of individual characteristics. Furthermore, in all schools there was limited reflection on being different in relation to teachers and the broader community. Finally, relevant differences for citizenship were confined to the category of ‘ethnic and cultural diversity’. This article calls for preparing teachers to consider a broader array of differences to practice dealing with differences with their students and to support students in reflecting on the societal implications of being different from each other.
... This finding seems to be related to the high external differentiation of the Dutch education system. Small-scale, qualitative research shows that, in the higher tracks, teachers discuss politics and the democratic constitutional state more often with their students than in the lower tracks (Nieuwelink et al. 2019). In order to identify causal relationships, however, a longitudinal research design is needed. ...
... Moreover, in schools where citizenship is regularly taught, the differences in citizenship knowledge between students of various social backgrounds are smaller than in schools where citizenship education is more or less neglected (e.g., Gainous and Martens 2012;Neundorf et al. 2016). However, studies also report that schools are often reproducing or strengthening existing differences rather than lowering them (Nieuwelink et al. 2019). The studies concerned do not, however, situate citizenship knowledge in the national societal and political context of students, nor do they differentiate between the political and social aspects of citizenship knowledge. ...
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This paper analyses how young people’s citizenship knowledge is related to the different domains of citizenship in their daily lives. Based on a representative sample of some 5300 students in the third year of 80 Dutch secondary schools, our study relates citizenship knowledge to student background and school characteristics. The knowledge test developed for this study situates citizenship knowledge in the literature and the societal and political context defining the social structure students live in. The contribution of our study lies in this broad conceptualisation of citizenship, which is reflected in fine-grained, more specific results than the outcomes of earlier research. Gender differences are particularly pronounced in the social aspects of citizenship and are small in the political domain. As far as ethnic background is concerned, we see knowledge differences in the domain of “acting democratically”. This is also the domain where most of the differences in citizenship knowledge between students of the various schools and tracks occur. School size, public/private school, urbanisation and a more heterogeneous student population cannot explain these differences. To mitigate inequalities in citizenship knowledge between and within schools, which are relatively large in the Netherlands, further research is necessary to investigate micro-level mechanisms within schools.
... In the context of secondary education, allocating students to different educational tracks is a common practice around the globe (OECD, 2019a). Based on previous research, differences between student and teacher characteristics and teachers' instruction were expected across tracks Nieuwelink et al., 2019;. Results relating to these differences will be discussed, with a specific focus on the vocational track. ...
... 9 Ongelijke democratische kansen verkleinen Onderwijs kán ongelijke democratische kansen compenseren, bijvoorbeeld in burgerschapskennis, maar dan is een structureel aangeboden curriculum wel noodzakelijk. 10 Grotere autonomie van scholen leidt tot grotere ongelijkheid tussen studenten Te grote autonomie van scholen leidt tot grotere ongelijkheid in uitkomsten tussen studenten. Vooral degenen die van huis uit minder bagage hebben zullen minder leren. ...
Research Proposal
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Een democratie kan alleen legitiem worden genoemd wanneer iedereen een goede kans krijgt om te participeren. Samenleven gaat alleen goed wanneer we echt nieuws van fake news weten te onderscheiden, elkaars verschillen kennen, en we de grenzen van de wet respecteren bij het beslechten van conflicten. Wanneer we een goed onderbouwde stelling van een complottheorie kunnen onderscheiden. Dat leer je niet vanzelf. Daarom besteden we in Nederland in het onderwijs aandacht aan democratie, de rechtsstaat en samenleven. Via burgerschapsonderwijs worden jongeren in staat gesteld naar eigen inzicht een rol te spelen in onze maatschappij. Deze noodzaak wordt erkend in de wettelijke drievoudige kwalificatieplicht voor het middelbaar beroepsonderwijs (mbo), bestaande uit: 1. Het opleiden en kwalificeren voor de arbeidsmarkt; 2. Het voorbereiden op verder studeren en ontwikkelen; 3. Het opleiden tot burgers die volwaardig deelnemen aan de maatschappij. Toch constateert uw Kamer al jaren dat de kwaliteit van burgerschapsonderwijs in het mbo aandacht nodig heeft, motie na motie. In deze moties wordt gepleit voor meer kwaliteit, kaders, professionalisering en duidelijke richtlijnen. Hoewel deze moties met grote Kamermeerderheden zijn aangenomen, is er tot op heden onvoldoende uitvoering aan gegeven. 1 De staatscommissie parlementair stelsel constateerde dat met name in het (v)mbo burgerschapsonderwijs een stevige impuls nodig is. De commissie liet zien dat de huidige 'inspanningsverplichting' niet volstaat en dat voor burgerschap bevoegde docenten nodig zijn. 2 Ook Margalith Kleijwegt constateert in haar rapport 2 werelden, 2 werkelijkheden dat er op menig opleiding wordt geworsteld met het bespreken van zaken als aanslagen en dat complottheorieën niet van de lucht zijn. 3 Wij delen deze analyses en zorgen. Wij zien dat er grote verschillen zijn-zowel tussen als binnen mbo-instellingen. Als gevolg daarvan zien we forse ongelijke kansen op burgerschap: waar de ene student meerdere jaren het vak burgerschap volgt, ontvangen andere studenten slechts een paar middagen burgerschapsonderwijs. En de kwantiteit is niet het enige probleem: ook de kwaliteit van het onderwijs en de professionaliteit van docenten loopt te sterk uiteen. Burgerschapsonderwijs in het mbo kan meer verschil maken voor studenten, zo laat onderzoek op onderzoek zien. Volgens ons is het hoog tijd om serieus werk te maken van burgerschap in het mbo. Dit jaar loopt de Burgerschapsagenda voor het mbo af en komt er een nieuw kabinet. Dit is dan ook hét moment om een aantal structurele kwesties aan te pakken. Hierdoor kunnen we eindelijk mbo-studenten het burgerschapsonderwijs aanbieden dat zij verdienen. Daartoe doen wij hier een aantal voorstellen, gefundeerd op wetenschappelijk onderzoek.
... In this article, we investigated teacher profiles in general. However, research on teaching across different school types found that vocational schools tend to encourage a passive kind of citizenship (Nieuwelink, ten Dam, and Dekker, 2018), and that different school types can excarbate pre-existing citizenship differences (Nieuwelink, Dekker, and ten Dam, 2019). The current sample of vocational schools was too small to focus on such differences, yet it would make a compelling case to examine how teacher views differ across different school tracks. ...
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Teachers are key agents in the political socialisation of adolescents. Therefore, knowledge about teachers' beliefs concerning citizenship is essential, as these beliefs likely relate to how educators socialise young people via preferred modes of teaching. Studying the link between teachers' citizenship norms and the associated, teaching styles can inform us about how to improve citizenship education in schools. We use the 2016 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study data, relying on the unique Teacher Survey conducted in Flanders (n = 1983) using multilevel latent class analysis. We identify five profiles of teachers' concepts of good citizenship. These profiles are further correlated with goals of citizenship education emphasized by teachers as well as the sources and activities used to teach civics in the classroom. The results suggest that teachers can be seen as instructional gatekeepers while teachers supporting more engaged and all-around norms of citizenship more frequently implement active teaching styles.
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This paper aims to present research on measuring competences for democratic culture. It describes the development of a multiple-item scale that measures competences in teaching democratic citizenship and human rights through religious education. A principal component analysis based on the 135 items of the Council of Europe’s Reference framework of competences for democratic culture was carried out in two phases, in order to construct and refine the scale. The result was a 52-item scale divided into six components. This was tested for its reliability, factor structure and validity; firstly on a sample of 123, and secondly on a sample of 403 secondary RE teachers (2018-19). The research scrutinises the concept of democratic competences as being the ability to mobilise and deploy relevant values, attitudes, skills, knowledge and/or understanding. It concludes that these competences are more complex structures than has been assumed.
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Studies show adults' attitudes towards citizenship to be related to their educational level. It has been claimed that higher educated people more often possess 'good' citizenship values. However, only limited insight exists into how differences in citizenship attitudes between adolescents from various educational tracks develop over time. In this qualitative longitudinal study, we investigate the perspectives of adolescents from different educational tracks on aspects of citizenship. The results show that adolescents in higher tracks develop stronger political orientations with age and learn to focus more strictly on competition between perspectives and on formal procedures of decision-making. Those in the lower track remained rather uninterested in politics but stick to their emphasis on consensus and inclusiveness. Overall, our study shows that 'good' vs. 'bad' citizenship values do not simply coincide with educational level and provides a more nuanced insight into adolescent developmental trajectories towards citizenship.
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The present study focuses on how views on democracy develop during adolescence. Forty Dutch adolescents were interviewed in their second and fourth year of secondary education. The study shows that the interviewed adolescents do become more familiar with politics, but do not develop more nuanced views towards democracy. As the adolescents age, a one-dimensional perspective on democracy becomes more apparent. In the interviewees’ perspective, democracy increasingly equals majority rule. Other aspects, such as minority interests and finding consensus, are increasingly neglected. This study, therefore, suggests that adolescents do not ‘naturally’ develop more complex views on democracy when they age.
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Research shows adolescents to be positively oriented towards democracy, but little is known about what it actually means to them and what their views are on decision-making in both everyday situations and political democracy. To gain insight into these aspects of adolescents’ democratic views, we have interviewed 40 Dutch adolescents from second grade of different types of high school. Potential conflict between various democratic principles prevalent in everyday life situations was discussed and compared to how they view decision-making in political democracy. The results of our qualitative study showed that adolescents’ views on issues concerning collective decision-making in everyday situations are quite rich and reflect different models of democracy (majoritarian, consensual, and deliberative). Moreover, how adolescents deal with tensions between democratic principles in everyday life situations varies. While some adolescents combine several principles (for instance, majority rule as a last resort after trying to find broader consensus), other adolescents tend to strictly focus on only one of these principles. Adolescents’ views on political democracy, however, are rather limited and one-dimensional. Those adolescents who seemed to have a more explicit picture of political democracy often preferred a strict focus on majority rule, neglecting minority interests.
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Formal schooling, family and associational life are expected to enable adolescents to develop democratic attitudes. However, much remains unknown about how young people perceive these settings for developing such attitudes, and whether this perception differs for students in different educational tracks. This interview study of Dutch adolescents aims to gain insights into adolescents’ perspectives towards experiences of democratic decision-making. The results show that the opportunities for young people to be involved in collective decision-making and to gain democratic experiences are rather limited in schools and in associational life. This holds for students from both higher and lower educational tracks.
This state-of-the-art, comprehensive Handbook is the first of its kind to fully explore the interconnections between social justice and education for citizenship on an international scale. Various educational policies and practices are predicated on notions of social justice, yet each of these are explicitly or implicitly shaped by, and in turn themselves shape, particular notions of citizenship/education for citizenship. Showcasing current research and theories from a diverse range of perspectives and including chapters from internationally renowned scholars, this Handbook seeks to examine the philosophical, psychological, social, political, and cultural backgrounds, factors and contexts that are constitutive of contemporary research on education for citizenship and social justice and aims to analyse the transformative role of education regarding social justice issues. Split into two sections, the first contains chapters that explore central issues relating to social justice and their interconnections to education for citizenship whilst the second contains chapters that explore issues of education for citizenship and social justice within the contexts of particular nations from around the world. Global in its perspective and definitive in content, this one-stop volume will be an indispensable reference resource for a wide range of academics, students and researchers in the fields of Education, Sociology, Social Policy, Citizenship Studies and Political Science. © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Hattam takes up the issue of citizenship, schooling and ‘educational disadvantage’, and ponders the following questions: What does citizenship education mean to students attending schools that serve predominantly low socio-economic communities? Or, perhaps more to the point, what could it mean if their schools took citizenship seriously? Hattam positions schooling as playing a key role in the constitution of the citizen, before arguing that contemporary citizenship education is defined in terms of a weak version of citizenship that supports trends towards de-democratization and authoritarian forms of governmentality. The chapter defines educational disadvantage and theories of citizenship, before providing a brief account of the influence of neoliberalizing social policies. It continues to review recent moves in Australia to refashion citizenship education in ways that simultaneously ignore the rising economic inequalities, and the strangling of citizenship that is being waged by the nation. Finally, Hattam provides a tentative conclusion that argues for adopting citizen virtue as a metaphor for citizenship-as-equality.
The Oxford Handbook of Political Behaviour examines the role of the citizen in contemporary politics, based on articles from leading scholars of political behaviour research. What does democracy expect of its citizens, and how do the citizenry match these expectations? The recent expansion of democracy has both given new rights and created new responsibilities for the citizenry. These political changes are paralleled by tremendous advances in our empirical knowledge of citizens and their behaviours through the institutionalization of systematic, comparative study of contemporary publics ranging from the advanced industrial democracies to the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, to new survey research on the developing world. These articles describe how citizens think about politics, how their values shape their behaviour, the patterns of participation, the sources of vote choice, and how public opinion impacts on governing and public policy. This is a comprehensive review of the cross-national literature of citizen behaviour and the relationship between citizens and their governments. The Handbook is one of The Oxford Handbooks of Political Science a ten-volume set of reference books offering authoritative and engaging critical overviews of the state of political science.
Robert A. Dahl, one of the world's most influential and respected political scientists, has spent a lifetime exploring the institutions and practices of democracy in such landmark books as Who Governs?, On Democracy, and How Democratic Is the American Constitution? Here, Dahl looks at the fundamental issue of equality and how and why governments have fallen short of their democratic ideals. At the center of the book is the question of whether the goal of political equality is so far beyond our human limits that it should be abandoned in favor of more attainable ends, or if there are ways to realistically address and reduce inequities. Though complete equality is unattainable, Dahl argues that strides toward that ideal are both desirable and feasible. He shows the remarkable shift in recent centuries toward democracy and political equality the world over. He explores the growth of democratic institutions, the expansion of citizenship, and the various obstacles that stand in the way of gains in political equality. Dahl also looks at the motives, particularly those of emotion and reason, that play such a crucial role in the struggle for equality. In conclusion, Dahl assesses the contemporary political landscape in the United States. He looks at the likelihood of political inequality increasing, and poses one scenario in which Americans grow more unequal in their influence over their government. The counter scenario foresees a cultural shift in which citizens, rejecting what Dahl calls "competitive consumerism," invest time and energy in civic action and work to reduce the inequality that now exists among Americans.