The effects of civic education on political knowledge. A two year panel survey among Belgian adolescents

  • Marc HoogheEmail author
  • Ruth Dassonneville


Traditionally political knowledge was regarded as an important potential outcome for civic education efforts. Most of the currently available research, however, tends to focus on non-cognitive goals, despite the fact that studies repeatedly have shown that political knowledge is an important resource for enlightened and engaged citizenship. In this article, we investigate whether civic education efforts at school contribute to political knowledge levels. The analysis is based on the Belgian Political Panel Survey, a 2 year panel study among 2,988 Belgian late adolescents. The analysis shows that experiences with group projects at school contribute significantly to political knowledge levels 2 years later on. Furthermore, we can observe an interaction effect as those who are already most knowledgeable about politics, gain most from these group projects. Classes about politics, on the other hand, did not have an effect on knowledge levels. In the discussion, it is argued that civic education can have strong cognitive effects, but that these effects are not always related to classical civic education efforts and we discussion the policy implication for civic education.


Civic education Political knowledge Panel research Belgium Adolescents 



Ruth Dassonneville would like to acknowledge the generous support she received as a PhD candidate for the Flemish Research Fund (FWO-Flanders, Belgium). The authors thank the reviewers of this journal for their constructive suggestions.


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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