NAFOL profile: Julie Ane Ødegaard

Learning democracy: an analysis of political education in upper secondary schools

Julie Ane ØdegaardDemocracy is based on the principle of sovereignty of the people, which presumes that citizens have adequate and equal opportunities of acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary for political participation. The right to political education is well established in Norway with the teaching of politics as a subject field from primary school throughout upper secondary school. Since 1939, the curriculum for the compulsory school in Norway has stressed the part the school plays in the political education of young citizens.

The Knowledge Promotion (2006) is the latest reform, and its social studies subject curriculum focuses to a larger extent on contributing to the support of human rights, democratic values, equal rights and to active citizenship and democratic participation.

It is important to study how the schools can accommodate the political education. The role of the school elections in this respect has not been examined empirically, and the project thus focuses primarily on them. The following research question will be discussed:

What role do the school elections play in the upper secondary schools` political education?

The basic idea behind organizing school elections is that by educating and involving youth in the election process, they will be more likely to participate politically later on. In order to get a deeper insight to the student`s perspectives on the schools political education, interviews with 30 students in connection with the elections in 2011 and 2013 are conducted. In the 2011 local government election, 16 year-olds in 20 municipalities in Norway will get to vote as a part of a national experiment regarding whether the voting age should be lowered from 18 to 16.  Therefore both 16- year olds with and without the right to vote will be interviewed. All the students will be interviewed again in the parliamentary election in 2013.

This project will be a contribution to the research on the teaching of social studies and on political education and will map whether the school elections play a part in the political education the curriculum states that the school should have.  In order to organize the political education in the most effective way, clarifying how the students themselves consider the activities conducted is central.

Abstract (doc file)