Do private schools in Australia produce more active citizens?




Saha, Lawrence

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James Nicholas Publishers


The focus of this paper is whether type of Australian school attended makes a difference in student engagement in political and civic culture. Recently private schools have been said to “undermine cohesion” in Australian society. Similarly, it was argued over two decade ago that Australian private schools have skimmed the elite students from the government sector and now “impart to their pupils values and prefer-ences of the culture from which they are drawn”, namely the dominant culture. Using data from the Youth Electoral Study (YES) survey, this analysis examines whether Australian students in government, Catholic and Independent schools differ in six political domains: voting commit-ment, positive attitude toward voting, political knowledge, political ac-tivism, political trust and civic volunteer behaviour. At the bivariate level, students in private schools generally show higher levels of political engagement compared to students in government schools in all domains. However, when family and school variables are controlled, the differences between these students in voting commitment, political knowledge and volunteer behaviour disappear. However students in Catholic schools show significantly higher levels in positive attitude toward voting and political activism. The effects of Independent schools disappear for five political domains but a significantly high level of political trust remains. Explanations for these patterns of outcomes are put forward, and direc-tions for future research are explored.



Australian society, civic culture, culture, dominant culture, government schools, private schools, political and civic culture, voting, Youth Electoral Study



Educational Practice and Theory


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