School opportunities for the development of European citizenship: The perspective of students

Tzankova, Iana ; Albanesi, Cinzia ; Cicognani, Elvira (2019) School opportunities for the development of European citizenship: The perspective of students. In: The Development of Political Thought Workshop, 4-5 October 2019, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.
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School civic education has been identified as pivotal in fostering young people’s civic and political sense (Kahne & Sporte, 2008; Torney-Purta, 2002). Experiences in school can provide opportunities for participation and reflection in a supportive and challenging environment, which has been shown to lead to positive development of political attitudes (Ferreira et al., 2012). However, there is the need to explore further the characteristics of experiences in school that are relevant for the development of young people’s political attitudes related to the European context and on their perceptions of themselves as capable European citizens. Although schools are a crucial context of civic capacity-building and involvement, there are evidences that adequate civic education is hindered by inequalities in the opportunities for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds (Kahne & Middaugh, 2008). Special attention should be given to the different school tracks offered in educational systems, which in Italy seem to maintain a vertical hierarchy of prestige and quality (Triventi, 2014). The choice of these tracks in secondary education can be rooted in social background and ultimately reproduces social inequality (Contini & Scagni, 2011; Romito, 2014). It is thus important to understand what structural barriers and uneven opportunities to experience European citizenship are found in educational institutions and how young people might experience them as exposing a discrepancy between ideal and real-world democracy (Watts & Flanagan, 2007). In order to investigate young people’s understanding of their sociopolitical development as European citizens and of the educational opportunities they feel are crucial in this process in function of the type of school that is attended, we conducted a qualitative exploratory study with upper secondary school students from different tracks. The study involved 10 focus group discussions with a total of 101 students in 5 secondary schools in Emilia Romagna and Lazio regions. The data was collected within the European-funded H2020 research project CATCH-EyoU. The schools were chosen to represent different tracks, in order to consider diverse educational contexts in terms of resources and quality. Students were asked to talk about their ideas and experiences of civic and political participation, their interest and views on EU matters, the role played by the school in promoting these experiences. The data was analyzed through thematic content analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The results present students’ ambivalent attitudes toward the EU political context, their understanding of the possibilities and limitations to enact European citizenship and the aspects they identify within their educational institutions that foster opportunities for sociopolitical development. Differences and specificities of perspective among students from different school tracks are discussed. The findings highlight the multiple responsibility of schools not only to impart civic knowledge about EU, but to also provide a general environment that is open for dialogue between different views and that invites critical reflection and participation by students. The results have implications for the development of citizenship education programs.

Document type
Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Tzankova, IanaUniversità di Bologna0000-0001-7172-2009
Albanesi, CinziaUniversità di Bologna0000-0001-8240-6159
Cicognani, ElviraUniversità di Bologna0000-0002-8653-290X
Deposit date
12 Dec 2019 13:19
Last modified
12 Dec 2019 13:37
Project name
CATCH-EyoU - Constructing AcTive CitizensHip with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions
Funding program
EC - H2020

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