University of York, UK
Mark Evans, University of Toronto, Canada
Márta Fülöp, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and Eötvös
Loránd University, Hungary
Dina Kiwan, University of Birmingham, UK and American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Andrew Peterson, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK and University of South Australia
Jasmine Sim, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
The levels, patterns and importance of youth participation have formed a key site of political and education discourse in most, if not all, democratic nations over the last three decades. While most educational systems include a commitment to educating for active citizenship within their core educational goals, there is frequently expressed concern that, while laudable, such commitments (1) unfairly commence from a mistaken view that young people are not politically active;(2) are framed narrowly in terms of the scope of youth action;and, (3) all too often fail to translate into meaningful and effective opportunities for all young people to be engage within their political communities. Bound up with these concerns is a desire on the part of some commentators to recognise and prioritise how young people themselves characterise, enact and experience their own forms of political action. A central, though perhaps at times oversimplified, tenet within such work is the idea that the last three decades has witnessed a shift in young peoples’ political action away from traditional, formal types of engagement towards “alternative” forms of action and activism.
This panel symposium will draw on the work of a comparative, Leverhulme-funded, International Network project examining youth Activism, engagement and the development of new civic learning spaces within and across six countries: Australia;Canada;Singapore;Hungary;Lebanon and the United Kingdom. We will explore the meanings of youth activism and engagement to young people, professionals/policy makers;patterns of participation across individuals and groups;and, how education may promote forms of civic activism and engagement congruent with democratic pluralism in a range of different socio-political contexts. The changing experiences of youth activism and how these experiences influence education and youth policy and practice will be discussed.
The symposium will consist of the following three papers which in each case are based around an analysis of key issues within and across our 6 countries. The first paper focuses on the conceptualisation and facilitation of youth activism;the second on education about and for civic activism;and the third on professional issues exploring what civic educators need to know and be able to do.
Paper 1: Youth activism: A comparative perspective across six countries (Márta Fülöp and Dina Kiwan)
Drawing on extensive literature reviews across the six nations involved in the project, in this paper we will examine different conceptualisations of youth activism as formed by each nations’ historical-political past and present contexts. In doing so the paper will address two research questions:
1. How do young people, their educators and policy-makers understand and construct their civic activism, including the different forms, spaces, expectations, aims, and learning and teaching processes?
2. What are the mobilizing factors and inhibitors of such engagement?
In responding to these two questions, the paper will draw attention to the current literature base, discuss key issues and make recommendations regarding policy, practice and future research.
Paper 2: Education about and for youth activism: A comparative perspective across six nations (Jasmine Sim and Ian Davies).
Drawing on extensive literature reviews across the six nations involved in the project, this paper will be concerned with education for active citizenship within and across the six participating nations. The paper will address the following research questions:
1. What are the educational benefits and drawbacks of young people’s civic activism principally regarding identity, capacity and efficacy for individual and social benefit from the local to the global?
2. In light of young people’s constructions of civic activism, what educational processes are apt for optimising the educational benefits of young people’s civic activism?
In examining these research questions, we will set out what the existing literature base within the six nations tells us about educating for active citizenship. In addition, we will (i) identify important contextual differences between the six nations, and (ii) set out some considered suggestions for further research within and across these nations.
Paper 3: Patterns and variations of pedagogical practice for youth civic engagement and activism (Andrew Peterson and Mark Evans)
Drawing on extensive literature reviews across the six nations involved in the project, this paper will explore: promising learning experiences in classrooms, schools, community sites;questions of assessment;opportunities for collaborative professional learning (e.g., networking) to improve practice;and areas of controversy arising for civic educators. Our analysis will consider various pedagogical orientations/distinctions (e.g., formal/informal, transmission/transformative, local/global, face-to-face/digital) in relation to the ways in which young peoples’ engagement and activism within their political communities has been, and is, characterised as “changing”. This review, that links theory and practice, will inform a ‘promising practices’ guide for civic educators.