Student engagement at school and expectations of political participation in the future

Year: 2012

Author: Schulz, Wolfram, Ainley, John, Fraillon, Julian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Adolescents are generally not able to participate in civic activities in the same ways that adult citizens can (e.g., through voting or becoming candidates in elections). However, they may experiment to determine what power they have to influence how their schools are run, and in doing so may develop a sense of being able to influence things (Bandura, 1997). There is also some evidence that experience of more democratic forms of school governance may contribute to higher levels of political efficacy and more positive perceptions of democracy at school among students (see, for example, Mosher, Kenny, & Garrod, 1994; Pasek, Feldman, Romer, & Jamieson, 2008).

This paper uses data from ICCS 2009 (Schulz, Ainley, Fraillon, Kerr & Losito, 2010) to analyse the relationships between home and school factors, students' engagement at school and its association with students' expectation to engage as citizens in the future. Path modelling will be used to explore which variables explain students' expectations of political participation in the future.  Students' valuing of engagement at school, their citizenship self-efficacy and their civic knowledge will be considered as intermediate factors in this model.


The following variables will be used in the analyses:

  • Student reports on participation in six different forms of school activities;
  • Student reports on their participation in activities/organisations in the community;
  • Students' perception of the value of student engagement at school;
  • Student background variables (e.g. gender, socio-economic background);
  • School-related indicators;
  • Students' confidence in undertaken citizenship activities;
  • Civic knowledge (test scores based on 79-item test);
  • Students' expected electoral and active political participation.


The first part of the presentation will describe the general extent to which students report their participation in school activities and to which they their engagement in school governance. The second (main) part will include a path analyses of relationship between home and school related background variables, intermediate variables (civic knowledge, citizenship self-efficacy, valuing of student participation) and outcome variables (students' expected participation).

Preliminary results

Previous analyses have shown the central importance of civic knowledge and citizenship self-efficacy when explaining future engagement of students. Whereas both variables have positive effects on expected electoral expectations, more knowledgeable students are less likely to expect to become actively involved in convention political activities. The results also illustrate that student participation at school is associated with higher levels of civic knowledge, citizenship self-efficacy and valuing student engagement.