Civic Education in Developing Nations:Does it Work, and How?Gary Langer, Julie Phelan and Gregory HolykLanger Research Associatesinfo@langerresearch.comWorld Association for Public Opinion ResearchMay 14, 2013
STEP overviewSupport to the Electoral ProcessUSAID-funded program of civic education sessions toencourage political/civic engagement in Afghanistan,directed by Counterpart InternationalKey subject areas: principles of democracy, civic rights,rule of law, structure of government, rights of womenand the disabledMore than 17,000 sessions in all 34 provinces, 2009-2011More than 3.3 million participantsSupport via large-scale media campaign, chiefly originalradio programming on civil society issues
Our taskAssignment: Assess effectiveness of revised programIn effect in 12 provinces since July 201061,900 sessions with 1.56 million participants
Research questionsHas participation in STEP increased Afghan citizens’awareness or knowledge of politics and government?Has it impacted their engagement in civic affairs?Has it affected their evaluation of the role ofdemocracy in Afghan society, trust in government orunderstanding of civic values?Has it impacted attitudes regarding the role and rightsof women and the disabled in Afghan society?Were there any community-level impacts?What predicts STEP programming success?
First stop: Literature reviewExtensive review of existing literature (50+ papers) onthe effectiveness of civic education programsConclusions informed sample and questionnairedesign and approaches to data analysis
Lit. review findingsIdentified critical elements of citizens’ relationshipwith government and civil society:Engagement with political and civic institutionsValues that reflect norms of civil societyPolitical efficacy, meaning a sense that one’s personalinvolvement with politics is worthwhile and canproduce desired effectsKnowledge or familiarity with government structuresand processesSupport for democratic ideals and recognition of therights of others
Lit. review conclusionsCivic education has a measurable effect on keyoutcomes when participants attend multiple sessionsusing participatory methods led by high-qualityteachersIngrained values, especially tolerance, are particularlydifficult to influenceCultural and contextual factors (including economicconditions, living conditions and security) areimportant
Design challenges and resourcesChallenges:No built in pre-/post-test or control/treatment protocolsNo database of participants for recontact purposesAvailable resources:List of STEP communities, including number of sessionsand number of participantsList of community-level program organizers
Design solutionsSelect STEP communities PPS to participation ratesRandomly sample 10 adults per community for communitysample (N = 687)Contact STEP organizer in each community, obtain recalled listof STEP participants, randomly select and interview forparticipant sample (N = 700)Randomly select a non-STEP community in each district inwhich a STEP community was sampled; randomly sample 10adults in each for non-STEP community sample (N = 681)Obtain convenience samples of 130-160 disabled individuals ineach of these three groups
Analytical approachSubject results to general linear modeling(ANCOVA) in which respondent characteristics –e.g., age, sex, education, ethnicity, region,economic status and living conditions such assecurity – are held constant in evaluating theeffect of STEP exposure across the sample types
Field workCarried out by ACSOR, Aug. 19-Sept. 9, 2011Average 33-minute face-to-face interviews118 female interviewers (for female respondents), 127male interviewers (for male respondents)RR 70 percent for the STEP community sample, 73percent for the non-STEP community sample15 percent back-checked; additional QC in dataprocessing
Results: Overview ICounterpart-STEP produced measurable, positive effects on itsparticipants’ political and civic engagement.Compared with the non-treatment sample, participants weremuch more likely to be interested in politics and government, tohave worked to solve a local problem and to be registered tovote.Effects remain statistically significant when controlled for sex,age, education, employment, ethnicity, region, living conditionsand household economic status.Two strongest predictors of effects are local living conditions andparticipants’ ratings of the quality of the STEP sessions theyattended, including teaching materials, topics and instructors.
Results: Overview IIFew carry-over impacts on broader communityBut some. STEP community residents were more likelythan those in non-STEP communities to express trust ingov’t leaders, say the gov’t is doing all it can to provideservices and see voting as an individual responsibilityMajor impact on civic and political engagement amongfemale participants, e.g. in interest in politics and gov’t,being registered to vote and feeling politically empoweredDisabled participants more likely to express interest inpolitics, to want to influence how government works and tointend to vote in future elections
ConclusionsCounterpart-STEP produced measurable, positive outcomesin civic orientation and political and communityinvolvement, in modeling with controlsTop predictors of civic engagement among STEP participantsare STEP session quality and local conditions; therefore:Not just any civic education program will do. Use of activeteaching techniques, hand-outs and high-qualityinstructors all are critical factors in predictingeffectivenessLocal conditions such as security, economic conditionsand the availability of basic services are an importantprecursor to effects. Basic needs must be met before civicprogramming can have an impact
RecommendationsCivic education programs should assess the readiness of targetcommunities to focus beyond basic living conditionsPrograms should include the elements shown to impact programquality (e.g., visual teaching materials, active teaching styles)and should regularly assess class and instructor qualityPlanning for assessment at the design and implementation stage(e.g., pre/post-test) would enhance impact evaluationsThe relative weakness of community-level effects suggests agreater focus on personal interventionsA focus on comprehension rather than rote knowledge isadvised; engagement improved irrespective of increasedknowledge
Thank you!Gary Langer, Julie Phelan and Gregory HolykLanger Research Associatesinfo@langerresearch.comWorld Association for Public Opinion ResearchMay 14, 2013