Half of 12 to 14 year olds think democracy is unimportant

The findings stem from the Adolescent Panel on Democratic Core Values ​​and School Careers (ADKS). It is a perennial research in which thousands of Dutch students are followed in dozens of schools to map the development of democratic core values ​​among young people. The latest report is based on data from the 2019-2020 academic year, even before the corona crisis.

The researchers do not find it surprising that many second-graders still know little about democracy. Tom van der Meer, researcher and political scientist: “As an adolescent you are simply not so much involved in politics. What does worry us is the gap you see between VWO students and VMBO students. ”

71 percent of VWO students in the second grade value life in a democratic country, compared to 34 percent of VMBO students and 54 percent of HAVO students. The largest group of VMBO students (45 percent) has no opinion about this. Pre-university students also have stronger intentions to vote later and have more confidence in officials such as judges, police and politicians.

Citizenship starts at home

We see such differences along educational level among adults, says Van der Meer. “Many studies show that democracy works better for the highly educated than for the practically educated. You can see this, for example, on who comes to work in politics, and in the degree of support for democracy. The turnout of votes among highly educated young people is higher than among practically educated young people. Now we see that this gap actually arises very early. From last year’s survey, we saw that the differences even start before high school. ”

Ethnicity plays a major role, says Van der Meer: VWO students learn more about politics and society from home, simply because they talk more about it. In general, 12 to 14-year-olds talk little about politics: 60 to 70 percent say they talk about this at most a few times a year with both parents and teachers. Children say they learn most about society from their parents and from the media.

Citizenship Education

They therefore only receive social studies or science from the upper years. It could therefore be that the difference between VWO and VMBO students is getting smaller, says Van der Meer, but it is too early to say anything about that. “Our research is precisely intended to see how young people develop during the school period.” In addition, a law should enter into force this summer laying down rules on citizenship education.

Incidentally, most students do support the ‘core values’ of the democratic constitutional state, the researchers write, such as freedom, equality and solidarity. However, solidarity with people who are less fortunate does seem to be declining compared to the first year, especially among boys and among pupils without a migration background.

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