Research Paper 5: School Systems, Segregation and Civic Competences among Adolescents

Author: Jan Germen Janmaat


This paper investigates whether civic competences among youngsters are linked to the social and ethnic composition of classrooms and whether these links are influenced by national education systems. Use is made of the IEA Civic Education Study among 14-year olds to investigate these relationships. We find that social segregation across classrooms is most pronounced in systems characterised by early selection and large school differentiation. Moreover, inequalities of civic competences across classes are also relatively large in such systems. The paper further finds that the social composition of the classroom primarily affects the cognitive component of civic competences (knowledge and skills). This relationship is influenced by national education systems: the less a system groups pupils on the basis of ability and the more its schools are homogenous, the weaker the link between classroom social status and civic knowledge and skills will be. However, similar regularities are not found for the attitudinal and behavioural components of civic competences. Both the social and the ethnic composition of classrooms are related in different ways to attitudes and behaviours depending on the outcome under investigation. Furthermore, these relations show no consistent pattern across education systems. I did find a positive relation between ethnic diversity and ethnic tolerance in three of the four systems, supporting the contact perspective on inter-ethnic relations. This link, however, could not be observed in the system characterizing the Mediterranean countries. In view of these inconsistent relations with regard to civic attitudes and behaviours, it is recommendable that future research remains critical of any scholars assuming that these attitudes and behaviours form a coherent syndrome of civic culture.