The impact of civic education programmes on political participation.


27 August 2014

Key findings:

Civic education programmes can have meaningful and relatively long-lasting effects in terms of increasing political information, feelings of empowerment, and mobilizing individuals to engage in political participation.

Civic education programmes are much less likely to affect more "deep-seated" democratic values such as political tolerance, support, and trust.

The size of these effects depends on how these programmes are designed, the kinds of pedagogical methods employed and the quality of the facilitators or trainers.

The full potential for larger-scale changes in democratic orientations through civic education is not being realized in practice.

About civic education programmes

Civic education programmes provide explicit instruction to ordinary citizens about democratic institutions, values, and procedures. They include voter education programmes, programmes that provide instruction about the social and political rights of women, neighbourhood problem-solving programmes that bring individuals in contact with local authorities and promote local collective action, programmes combatting election violence and vote-buying, and programmes promoting tolerance and the peaceful resolution of political disputes in post-conflict settings.

Civic education programmes have proliferated as a means of democracy promotion through aid over the past three decades. Donors from a majority of OECD countries, as well as multilateral organizations such as UNDP and the World Bank, have devoted resources to these programmes in order to foster democratic values and behaviours among ordinary individuals in emerging democracies. Many of these programmes consist of individual NGOs providing information to voters related to national or local elections, but an increasing number encompass issues such as constitutional reform, political decentralization, alternative dispute resolution, and the rights of women, minorities, and other marginalized groups.

Positive effects of civic education programmes

Based on results from four impact evaluations of civic education programmes, it appears that civic education programmes do contribute to the development of a democratic political culture amongst participants. These programmes have been found to significantly increase individuals" political information, feelings of empowerment, and levels of political participation.

For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, people who participated in...

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