Research report: Civic participation and civic values among children and young people from vulnerable school communities

How active are young people from vulnerable school communities? What challenges they find exciting and what are their dreams? According to data from a study by the “Open Society – Sofia” Institute, complex and multi-layered trends are observed among students in grades VII-XII from vulnerable school communities in Bulgaria: the overall picture shows a sufficiently high degree of civic energy and readiness to participate in public life . In practice, the degree of civic activity of children and youths from vulnerable school communities is not lower than that of the average adult citizen in Bulgaria.

The study was carried out within the framework of the project “Intercultural Academy for Civic Participation and Tolerance” project, carried out by the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance Amalipe in partnership with the Open Society Institute – Sofia and with financial support from the US Embassy in Bulgaria.

The research found surprisingly high levels of civic participation and commitment among young people from vulnerable school communities, combined with strong sensitivity of participating students to problems in schools, in their communities, in Bulgaria and in the world.

The research was conducted at the end of 2022 – a period of prolonged economic difficulties, including high inflation, which began with the pandemic and continued with the war in Ukraine and crisis of energy supply and rising fuel prices. In this context, the surveyed students understandably identified as main problems for Bulgaria high prices and inflation (over 40%) – especially prices for food, fuel and electricity followed by weak economic development (44%), poverty and inequality (over 40%), low quality of education (28%) and access to the health system (32%).

The four leading problems at school identified by the respondents are related to high level of conflict: students who think that everything is allowed to them (42%), lack of discipline (41%), aggression and violence at school (31 %) and the overarching challenge – bad relationships between students (27%). Despite the identified problems, about 60% of students positively evaluate the freedom of expression that most teachers provide them, as well as the efforts of teachers to find the best balance between freedom and discipline in school.

Students from vulnerable school communities show great interest in a number of global issues that experts would also point to as the most painful and urgent. These include poverty, environmental problems, disease, epidemics, and war, including the threat of nuclear war.

According to many studies, both the sense of ethnic belonging and the willingness to communicate with representatives of other ethnic groups are positively related to civic engagement. People who do not feel embarrassed to express their ethnic identity are often more civically active. Our study also provides confirmation of the existence of such a relationship.

The full version of the report “Civic Participation and Civic Values Among Children and Youth from Vulnerable School Communities” covers multiple topics, contains a detailed analysis of the data collected from the field study, as well as references to important sources, a bibliography and other appendices. The report is intended for researchers, as well as for representatives of groups who are professionally engaged in analytical activity, who want to use the research for their own analyzes or simply to delve deeper into the issues of youth civic participation and the methods applied.

Full text of the report Civic participation and civic values among children and young people from vulnerable school communities

You may also like...