The power of civic education in democratic socialization: an investigation of Cape Town high schools

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Over the past 20 years, South Africa has utilized education as a means of promoting democracy and civic engagement in young learners. Previous research has shown that this socialization project has been ineffective at influencing South African youth towards civic responsibility, yet there is a lack of constructive evaluation on the means and methods by which schooling can better build active democratic citizens. This minor dissertation seeks to fill this gap by investigating whether teacher training and specific pedagogies can more effectively promote characteristics of civic responsibility in South African youth. The main purpose of the research is to determine whether the pedagogies used by Shikaya's Facing the Past - Transforming our Future teacher training program are effective at creating civically responsible learners and how these compare to the average classroom. Furthermore it seeks to clarify our understanding of the connections between civic knowledge, skills, and values;; their effect on civic efficacy, and the effect of all of these components on civic responsibility. To answer these questions, this research utilizes a quasi-experimental study to compare and contrast the impact of different pedagogies used in classrooms in the Western Cape. It employs a quantitative closed-question survey and comparisons with contrast groups to examine the impact of specialized pedagogies on the civic responsibility of 134 Grade 11 learners in three dissimilar Cape Town area high schools. The survey utilizes measures and scales obtained from previous research by Dennis Barr and Robert Mattes, Richard Niemi, and David Denemark, including the well-known California Civic Index created by Joseph Kahne. Empirical analysis was run utilizing multi-linear regressions and factor analysis to determine both independent and combined effects of variables.The results show that Facing the Past ? Transforming our Future teaching training and pedagogies are not significantly correlated to civic action nor many of the characteristics of civic responsibility. Significantly, this training does positively contribute to an open classroom environment which was correlated with stronger civic values and deliberative skills in learners. Of further importance is the finding that civic learning opportunities in the classroom hold a positive relationship with increased learner efficacy and civic action. These relationships are particularly strong in the low-resource school in the sample. Finally, the results indicate important independent roles of learner deliberative skills and self-efficacy on levels of active civic participation.