Citizenship Education can reduce inequalities in political engagement

Young people in the UK who do not have access to political learning in school are less likely to become politically engaged and to vote according to new research by a Roehampton professor. 

Posted: 3 October 2017

image for news story Citizenship Education can reduce inequalities in political engagement
Professor Bryony Hoskins

Professor Bryony Hoskins from the Department of Social Sciences has measured the effect of methods and processes in schools that teach political activities to students and the extent of their effectiveness for different social groups. Activities include student participation in student councils, school debates, class discussions and citizenship education lessons.

The research showed that the groups of students in England between the ages of eleven and sixteen who participate less in political activities run by the school are usually the socioeconomically less advantaged. The key finding is that, in contrast to student councils and political debates, classes in citizenship education are equally accessible by all social groups and that this learning experience is a more effective method for teaching political engagement for students from less advantaged backgrounds.

Her findings have been published in a paper co-authored with Dr Jan Germen Janmaat and Dr Gabriella Melis in the journal Social Science Research.

In her paper, Tackling inequalities in political socialisation: A Systematic analysis of Access to and Mitigation Effects of Learning Citizenship Bryony Hoskinsmade the following recommendations:

  • Provide compulsory Citizenship Education for UK students until the age of eighteen, because it is shown that this subject can reduce inequalities in political engagement.
  • Activities across the curriculum such as student councils that support political learning should be made easily accessible to all students including the less advantaged backgrounds, for example, increasing Citizenship Education courses within vocational education.
  • Provide training for all teachers to support them in leading and engaging all students in active participation in political learning opportunities in the classroom.
  • Ensure schools inform parents and guardians about the importance of discussing politics at home and engaging students in making their own decisions. 

Bryony Hoskins said “To support young people to vote, schools need to provide all UK students with the same opportunities for political learning. By encouraging all young people to make up their own minds and participate in political activities at school, it will enable students to become politically engaged no matter what their background.”

The Department of Social Sciences is rated one of the best in the UK for impact of its Social Sciences research (REF 2014).


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