Youth Civic Engagement and Formal Education in Canada: Shifting Expressions, Associated Challenges

  • Mark EvansEmail author
  • Rosemary Evans
  • Angela Vemic
Living reference work entry


In this chapter, we explore shifting expressions of youth civic engagement in Canada and the variant ways in which educating for youth civic engagement has been envisaged and approached in formal education (K-12). Attention is also given to those personal and contextual factors propelling these changes over time. We contend that while expressions of youth civic engagement have been for the most part moderate, varied, local, institutional, and tempered historically through a filter of personal and social responsibility, there has been a gradual shift of emphasis towards less formal, digital, and rights-based representations.

Educating for civic engagement through formal education in Canada has also undergone a gradual transition. This transition has moved from an emphasis on civic duty, deference, and formal political structures and processes as they are to more recent characterizations that encourage more informal, exploratory, and critical understandings of engagement with public issues, from the local to the global. Interwoven in these understandings of engagement are themes such as identity, cultural diversity, pluralism, and issues of social justice and equity. Indicators of these changes are found in spheres of Canadian educational research, curriculum policy reform, and strengthened pedagogical practices.

Moving towards these broadened and more complex characterizations of civic engagement through formal education has proven to be complicated. Curriculum ambiguity, undertones of compliance, an avoidance of controversial concepts and issues, and varied understandings of engagement among students with differing identity affiliations, for example, all signal uneven and fragmented access to particular learning experiences. These complications are further exacerbated by a variety of factors associated with educational change that have mobilized and/or inhibited steps forward.


Youth civic engagement Youth activism Youth participation Citizenship education Civics Formal education Pedagogy Canada 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Curriculum, Teaching & LearningOntario Institute for Studies in Education, University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of Toronto SchoolsTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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