Center for Civic Education
Research and Evaluation
Summary of Research:
Project Citizen in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Supported by the United States Department of Education
Office of Educational Research and Improvement
in cooperation with the United States Department of State
Project Citizen in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is part of Civitas: An International Civic Education Exchange Program, administered by Civitas@ Bosnia and Herzegovina. Project Citizen is a civic education program that encourages students to learn how to monitor and influence public policy. Since the program began in 1996, more than 200,000 junior and senior high school students in BiH have participated in Project Citizen. In May 1999, 1,991 students were surveyed; half had participated in Project Citizen, half had not. The study found positive results for participating students across the three dimensions measured: political skills and knowledge, political attitudes, and values supportive of democracy. Highlights from the study follow.
Participating in Project Citizen significantly improves skills and knowledge. Compared with a matching control group, participating students in Project Citizen have
Participating in Project Citizen improves political attitudes that are conducive to participatory democracies.
- Contacted political officials about problems in their community, tried to persuade others to support their solution, met with members of interest groups and participated in other political activities at substantially higher rates than nonparticipants.
- Gathered information on problems in their communities from experts: professors, lawyers, judges, interest groups, and government officials, at substantially higher rates.
- Expressed greater confidence in their knowledge about local government. If community problems occurred, participating students would know what governmental official or branch was responsible, they would know how to make contact and how to take steps to influence government officials.
- Felt more skilled at explaining problems as well as using facts and reason to analyze other people's positions on problems.
- Reported that, given the opportunity, they would have voted.
Participating students have a more active view of themselves as citizens; they are more likely to agree that they can work to make changes in their community and solve community problems.
Participating students showed small but significant differences in political values.
- Participants think public officials have an obligation to be accountable to the electorate at higher rates than do nonparticipants.
- Participants reported greater levels of internal efficacy; they feel they have a good understanding of important political issues and are well prepared to participate.
- Participants expressed greater willingness to allow groups (environmentalists, women's groups, religious groups, human rights groups and student groups) to influence government.
- Participants felt that there was more than one reasonable position on problems in their community or country, and thought that all groups in their communities should be allowed to try to influence government or run for office.
Participating in the program was found to be significant when many other variables were factored into the equation. The differences were significant even when age, average grade, sex, ethnicity, dislocation during the war, socioeconomic status, and the proportion of those likely to attend college in each class were controlled for.
- Participants were more supportive of rule of law. They were less willing to support the notion that if you don't agree with a law, it is all right to break it, or that the government ought to be able to suspend law to solve pressing social problems, or that sometimes it is better to ignore the law and solve a problem immediately rather than wait for a legal solution.
- Participants were more supportive of fundamental rights of expression, assembly, and participation in government.
- Participants were less authoritarian.
Democratic selection of the public policy topic to be considered, competition, and attempting to implement public policy increased students' knowledge of and support for democratic processes. Students who selected their public policy topic by themselves reported greater skills: persuasive, reasoning, and research. They contacted public officials at higher rates, increased their knowledge more about local government and reported a greater likelihood of voting than their peers whose teachers selected the topic.
More than 79% of students participating in Project Citizen presented their projects in a competition before a panel of judges. Competition also increased knowledge about local government, political tolerance of ideas and support for the rule of law. Seventy-five percent of students went beyond the program requirements and attempted to implement their proposed policies. These students' sense of external efficacy increased. The 30% of students who were successful in getting their policies adopted increased their support for the rule of law, felt the responsibilities of citizenship were more important and expressed greater belief in the accountability of public officials.
For additional information contact Suzanne Soule at (800) 350-4223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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