ERG SES D 07, Evaluation in Education
In times of social, economic, political, cultural and ecological crisis that portrait the fragility of existing educational institutions, it is necessary to re-think and explore the values and principles of different educational paradigms as well as educational interventions, with the emphasis on those that have a potential to contribute to the youth civic education, one much needed in the context of sustainable citizenship for the 21st century. School volunteering programmes (SVP) are recognised as an efficient platform to prepare young people for their future role of sustainable citizens and active role in their community. Studies using longitudinal and cross-sectional datasets and qualitative research have undoubtedly demonstrated the benefits of social and interactive process of learning civic engagement. Such studies have reflected on young people learning political knowledge and engagement as active agents involved in an open dialogue and interaction in a situated and shared community of practice (Hoskins et al 2012; Biesta et al. 2009), through an open school climate for dialogue and debate (Perrson 2014; Hoskins et al 2012; Campbell 2008), through political discussions with parents, teachers and peers (Hoskins et al 2012), as well as through engagement activities inside the school such as school councils (Keating and Janmaat 2015, Hoskins et al 2012), and in particular SVP, that have been praised as the new ‘dynamos’ of civic education (Beaduoin 2013). All those studies suggest that students’ active participation plays a key role in their civic education. Civic participation forms the youth’s civic aspect of identity, including the collective component, awareness of the political and moral dimension of society and a more or less critical attitude towards society (Youniss et al. 2002). Moreover, the high school experiences of civic activities - joining clubs, school councils, attending political/civic education classes and participating in SVP - have a long-term effect on participation in adulthood (Stolle and Hooghe 2003; Verba et al. 1995) which supports the notion that civic skills are a basis for “lifelong” participation.
Comparative International Civic and Citizenship Education Study conducted in 40 countries point to a positive correlation between civic education and intent, as well as the progressive engagement of students in the context of their role as socially responsible and active citizens in situations where schools seriously tackle the reflection and revision of the approach to civic education and when they provide students with a higher level of direct participation in the school as well as in the local community (Schultz et al. 2016).
Being one of the rare European countries with no systematically institutionalised and implemented civic education, Croatia seems to be ignoring the importance of students’ civic education, at least on a formal level. National studies on youth conducted within the last decade point to a more pronounced acceptance of a traditionalist orientation - traditionalist values among youth have become rampant, as is evident in low political literacy, growth of ethnic distance, more pronounced gender division, nationalistic exclusivism and “spiritual renewal” or intensified religiosity, along with a strong decline in the desire for political confirmation and community engagement (Sekulić 2014; Ćulum et al. 2015). While national studies continuously tackle the issue of students’ low citizenship potential, around one hundred SVPs have been developed in schools in Croatia recently, with over two hundred teachers and around 2000 students engaged. However, there are no (national) studies yet dedicated to reflect upon SVP as an educational intervention and its role in students’ civic education.
Qualitative research on high school volunteering programmes and their role in students’ civic education is part of a larger, mixed-method project “Formal Education in Service of Sustainable Development”, 5 years long research project funded by Croatian Science Foundation (2018-2023). The aim of this research is to identify successful school volunteer programs that encompass various dimensions of sustainability citizenship (ecological, political, social, economic) and to analyse their contribution to the development of students’ (sustainability) citizenship potential. The target population for this research is young people from Croatian high school that have participated in school volunteering programmes for at least one year. Political and civic values and attitudes have been shown to stabilise in the late adolescence (Hoskins and Janmatt 2015, Watts, 1999; Jennings and Stoker, 2004; Goossens, 2001; Hooghe and Wilkenfeld, 2008) suggesting that interventions for students between 15 and 19 year of age are most likely to be successful. Therefore, the focus of this qualitative research will be on school volunteering programmes as educational interventions in the field of civic education, for young people aged 15-19. Research has been organised in several phases: 1) mapping school volunteering programmes in Croatian high schools, 2) analysing first-cycle data in relation to selected criteria (e.g. type of volunteering activity, forms of engagement, issues tackled, dimensions of sustainability encompassed, collaborators included, expected learning outcomes, self-assessment policy etc.), 3) selecting cases for further analysis (selecting schools/school volunteering programmes, coordinators, school principles and students), 4) semi-structured interviews with volunteering programmes’ coordinators, 5) semi-structured interviews with school principles, 6) focus groups with students’ engaged and 7) qualitative data analysis using MAXQDA. For the mapping an online questionnaire was developed and sent to 427 high schools in Croatia and 124 responses have been received so far. Having in mind the current stage of the project and this particular research sequence, results of the mapping following selected criteria will be presented.
Given the current situation of European funds fundraising projects that encourage the development of school volunteering programmes/clubs in primary and secondary schools (European Social Fund in particular), the projection is that this trend will continue to grow in the next few years in Croatia. Therefore, it is necessary to develop in parallel research projects to evaluate the contribution of students’ participation and engagement in school volunteer programmes/clubs - in the particular case of this research project - on students’ citizenship of sustainability. This (qualitative) part of the proposed research project manifests an additional unique contribution to the development of the research area, as it will for the first time adopt a multi-method approach in the process of assessing the contribution of school volunteering programs in the national context.
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