Education Divide: Civic Learning and Intended Political Participation among Youth in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

Beatriz Matafora, M.A., researcher
Educational Research and Schooling
University Duisburg-Essen, Germany
e-mail: Beatriz.matafora@uni-due.de

Kristīne Kampmane, M.A., researcher
Institute of Educational Research
Faculty of Pedagogy, Psychology and Arts
University of Latvia, Latvia
e-mail: kristine.kampmane@lu.lv

Anastassia Anton, student
Faculty of Education, Psychology and Sociology
Technical University of Dortmund, Germany
e-mail: anastassia.anton@tu-dortmund.de


Civic education serves as a vital tool for shaping national identity and a deeper understanding of civic duties. It assumes unparalleled importance in the contexts of the Baltic states and amidst the current geopolitical landscape, particularly the Russian war in Ukraine. The substantial Russian-speaking minority in these countries adds complexity, highlighting the need to examine their access to civic education at school.
Past studies have demonstrated the correlation between civic education, civic activities at school, and increased political participation among youth. Building on prior research that highlighted low levels of political participation among the Russian-speaking minority in the Baltic countries, this paper uses the data collected during the spring of 2022 as part of the International Civic and Citizenship Study to perform a comparative analysis of civic education in the Baltic States. Specifically, we investigate civic learning opportunities, participation in civic activities, and the intended political participation of 8th-grade students attending school programs predominantly taught in the national language or in the Russian language across the Baltic countries.
The results reveal subtle yet significant disparities between both groups, with the most pronounced differences observed in Latvia and the smallest in Estonia. Contrary to initial hypotheses, the language of testing did not emerge as the strongest predictor of intended electoral participation. Instead, active participation in civic activities at school exhibited the highest contribution to explaining the variance in students’ intentions to participate in elections.
The findings carry implications for adapting school curricula and teacher training programs, emphasizing the necessity of incorporating more civic activities within primarily Russian-taught school programs. Additionally, the results underscore the importance of ensuring equitable civic learning opportunities for all ethnic groups, particularly in the face of the planned closures of primarily Russian-taught programs in Latvia and Estonia. Improving the quality of formal civic education and increasing the frequency of civic activities at school can enhance youth’s future political participation, irrespective of their ethnic or linguistic background.

Keywords: civic education, political participation, Baltic states, citizenship education, social sciences, schooling, large-scale assessment


How to cite:
Matafora, B., Kampmane, K., Anastassia Anton, A. (2023). “Education Divide: Civic Learning and Intended Political Participation among Youth in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.” Journal of Comparative Studies 16 (45), 144-173. https://doi.org/10.59893/jcs.16(45).007