TABLE OF CONTENTS
LISTS OF TABLES AND FIGURES
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Historical background
1.2 Problem statement
1.3 Research objectives
1.4 Rationales for and significance of the study
1.5 Scope and limitations of the study
1.6 Framework of the paper
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Definitions of key terms
2.1.1 What is “higher education”?
2.1.2 How is “civic engagement” defined?
2.1.3 What is “volunteerism”?
2.2 VOLUNTEERISM IN CAMBODIA
2.3 Higher education and civic engagement
2.4 Indicators of civic engagement used in the study
CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1 Sampling design
3.2 Sample size
3.3 Data collection
3.3.2 Secondary data
3.4 Ethical issues
CHAPTER FOUR: THE CASE STUDY
4.1 Background of the Royal University of Phnom Penh
4.2 VISION AND MISSION
4.3.1 Faculty of Science
4.3.2 Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
4.3.3 Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL)
4.4 Support services and recreation
4.4.1 Students’ association
4.4.2 Careers advising office
4.4.3 Academic advising center
4.4.4 Counseling service
4.4.5 Medical center
4.4.6 IFL debate club
4.4.7 IFL dance club
4.4.8 Sporting activities
4.5 Linkages with overseas universities and international organizations
CHAPTER FIVE: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
5.1.4 Civic activities
188.8.131.52 Perceptions about civic activities
5.1.5 Electoral activities
5.1.6 Activities for political voice
184.108.40.206 Attentiveness to politics/government
5.2.1 Civic activities
220.127.116.11 Community problem solving
5.2.2 Electoral activities
18.104.22.168 Voting in the commune or national elections
22.214.171.124 Other electoral activities
5.2.3 Activities for political voice
126.96.36.199 The “active” activities
188.8.131.52 The “passive” activities
5.2.4 The collapse of two fundamental social institutions?
184.108.40.206 The family
220.127.116.11 The education
CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 Summary and key findings
6.1.2 Key findings
18.104.22.168 Weakening roles of two major social institutions—family and education ..
22.214.171.124 “Perception” versus “action”
126.96.36.199 PLAYING ON THE SAFE SIDE
6.3 Suggestions for further research
6.4 Concluding remarks
Appendix A: Questionnaire (English version)
Appendix B: Questionnaire (Khmer version)
Appendix C: Countries and universities that have active MOUs with RUPP
Appendix D: NGOs that have direct links with RUPP
In a democratic country, in particular a country in the process of being democratized, high levels of civic engagement from the public are seen as necessary factors to sustain the principles and livelihood of democracy. In the meantime, education, especially higher education, plays a very significant role in promoting citizenship and civic activism. This study tries to identify the levels of civic engagement among students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and to investigate whether higher education has any significant part in fostering civic engagement among the students. To this end, 200 senior students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s oldest and largest public university were surveyed. In the questionnaire, three main categories of civic engagement were used: (a) civic activities, (b) electoral activities and (c) activities for political voice. Results indicate that the students were engaged in only a few activities, but not many others. However, based on the results, the students showed high perceptions about civic activities and high attentiveness to politics and government. What is interesting, however, is that (higher) education and family—two fundamental social institutions—seem to have no significant roles to play in building civically engaged citizens. The findings appear to reflect the current socio-political developments in Cambodia. The study concludes that Cambodia’s historical context and current social, economic and political situations provide a strong basis for the results of the study.
Many valued supporters, colleagues and friends have helped make this paper possible. I wish to pay special thanks to a few without in any way diminishing the contributions of those I will not be able to name here.
First of all, I wish to pay a very special tribute to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for having provided financial sponsorship throughout the whole program. Without this substantial funding, this program would not have become a reality, let alone this paper.
Next, I owe a special thanks to the instructional team as well as the administrative staff at Simon Fraser University in Tier 1 Project that have provided both intellectual and technical support from the genesis to the successful closing of this unique program.
Because no paper could move forward successfully without the tremendous guidance and support of the senor supervisor and key reader, I wish to extend my profound gratitude to Dr. Michael Ling, my senior supervisor, and Dr. Sharon Bailin, my second reader, for all the insightful and invaluable comments and suggestions on my paper. My thanks also go to George Kaufman for his kind donation of a few research books and his tremendous assistance and patience in helping edit my work.
Besides, I wish to extend my sincere thanks to Dr. Neth Barom, Dr. Chhinh Sitha and Brian and Elizabeth Ponter for their guidance from the pre-departure course until the closing of the program. I would also like to acknowledge Professor Ing Heng, Director of Continuing Education Center, for his ongoing support and understanding during my study. Moreover, my sincere thanks go to Sister Luise Ahrens, advisor to the Rector of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, for her sustained support and encouragement.
Further, I have been fortunate to have an extraordinary team of close friends—Mr Sok Say, Mr Chan Rotha, Mr Ou Sivhuoch, Mr Som Ratana and Mr Meng Pokun, who have been of enormous help in providing useful comments on my paper, proofreading and for all the ongoing support and encouragement.
I, as well, owe a special thanks to Mr Sok Soth, Mr Kuon Vannsy, Madam Meas Vanna, Mr Seng Phanith, Mr Long Sopheap, Mr Mao Vathanak, Mr Soeung Samnang, Mr Sorn Sopheak, Miss Toeuk Phalleuk, Miss Chheang Chanthou, Miss Khor Kirin, Miss Chay Navy and Miss Uy Sithavy for all the kind assistance during the data collection. I wish to also thank Mr Bun Sambath for providing me with many useful documents.
My special thanks also go to all the questionnaire respondents, without whose valuable participation during the data collection process, this research report would never have materialized.
Also deserving of mention are my parents—both my side and my wife’s side—for all the support, encouragement and their trust in me.
Finally, though far from least, I am indebted to my wife, Pheavy, and my lovely daughter, Soniza, for all their love, motivation and reasons for my hard working, and for their patience, tolerance and understanding when I was away from them.
LISTS OF TABLES AND FIGURES
TABLE 1: GENDER OF RESPONDENTS
TABLE 2: AGE OF RESPONDENTS
TABLE 3: RESPONDENTS BY FACULTY
TABLE 4: PERCENTAGE OF CIVIC ACTIVITIES DONE BY RESPONDENTS
TABLE 5: FREQUENCY OF OTHER ELECTORAL ACTIVITIES
TABLE 6: FREQUENCY OF ACTIVITIES TO EXPRESS POLITICAL VOICE
FIGURE 1: RESPONDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS ABOUT CIVIC ACTIVITIES
FIGURE 2: PERCENTAGE OF RESPONDENTS WHO VOTED IN THE COMMUNE OR
FIGURE 3: RESPONDENTS’ ATTENTIVENESS TO POLITICS/GOVERNMENT
FIGURE 4: TYPES OF GROUP OR ORGANIZATION VOLUNTEERED FOR BY RESPONDENTS
FIGURE 5: REASONS FOR VOLUNTEERING FOR A GROUP OR ORGANIZATION
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
This chapter introduces the topic of the paper by briefly presenting its historical context in Cambodia. This is followed by the problem statement and continues with the research objectives and research questions. After the rationales for and significance of the study, this part also states the scope and limitations of the study. The framework of the paper ends this chapter.
1.1 Historical background
Although not much work has been done on civic engagement, it is not a new concept in Cambodia. Different forms of civic engagement have been in existence and practiced in this country for decades. The levels and forms of civic engagement are varied in different regimes. The following is a brief history of civic engagement in Cambodia starting from the Sihanouk Sangkum Reastr Niyum Regime of the 1950s until the current Cambodian government.
During the Sihanouk Sangkum Reastr Niyum period (1953-1970), civic engagement was present in Cambodia, although it took varied forms. For instance, people participated in national elections, which is a form of civic participation. Civic activism was also reflected in the ways that students took part in different demonstrations and the establishment of student associations (Chandler, 1993). As Bit (1991) stated, Prince Sihanouk “organized associations of special categories, such as youth, women, men and school children.” However, these organizations in existence during the time were only established to serve “the political party’s goals and were supervised closely by cadres” (Bit, 1991, p. 49). This may, therefore, not show that the people were aware of their civic duties and gathered together for a common purpose.
The Lon Nol Regime (1970-1975), the U.S.-backed government, was born immediately following the coup which overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970. During this period, different forms of civic participation still existed. However, the most noticeable form of civic activism is related to political engagement to express one’s own opinion about politics in the country. As Chandler (1993) describes, protests in favor of Sihanouk broke out in many places across the country, yet what is important to note is that this participation was not based on the willingness of the people; rather, it was due to the pressure from the top. As can be seen, therefore, this is not a real form of civic engagement. The people were used only as political weapons for political interests of certain elite groups.
The Khmer Rouge Genocidal Regime (1975-1979) was a political era that suffocated the spirit of collectivism and civic traditions of the people in Cambodia. All schools, universities, and pagodas were closed down. No private meetings or gatherings were allowed. People were deprived of their rights as citizens of Cambodia; in fact, this utopian agrarian regime put an end to all forms of activities meant to promote civic engagement and civic duties of all Khmer people. People were also taught to trust no one and to spy on one another, even their family members (Bit, 1991; Nee, 1995). That is why the sense of communal and collective activities badly eroded during this period and even extended into the next regime. As Mysliwiec (2005) points out, “no period has had a more devastating impact on the whole of society as the Khmer Rouge regime, leaving deep scars among Cambodian people” (p. 9).
During the People’s Republic of Kampuchea and the State of Cambodia (19791993), different forms of civic engagement resurfaced, although they were somewhat limited and compulsory rather than voluntary. Students digging dams and solidarity groups working together to cultivate land are two examples of civic participation during that period (Chandler, 1993). Many different kinds of activities considered civic involvement were more often than not required by the authorities. Only certain traditional forms of volunteerism and mutual help in pagodas or rural communities were more voluntary. This limited participation was more likely due to the impact of the Khmer Rouge regime and the political atmosphere during that period.
The contemporary Cambodia (1993 - present) has witnessed the re-emergence of various forms of civic engagement after the 1993 national elections because of the establishment of many local and international non-governmental organizations (Frieson, 1996), working toward promoting civic engagement and community service in Cambodia. The establishment of such organizations as Youth Star Cambodia working toward promoting volunteerism to help people in rural communities is a positive sign for bolstering civic activism. Further, the transitioning of Cambodia from a communist country to a democratic nation with a free market economy has also contributed to high levels of participation by individual citizens in electoral and political activities. People feel freer to be involved in election campaigns, express their ideas through media and participate in peaceful marches or demonstrations.
1.2 Problem statement
Over the past three decades, Cambodia has undergone several different types of regime, which has positively or negatively affected civic engagement depending on the type of regime. From the 1950s Sangkum Reastr Niyum of Prince Norodom Sihanouk (the first Kingdom of Cambodia) until the contemporary Cambodia (the second Kingdom of Cambodia), the level of civic engagement of the individual Cambodian citizens has fluctuated. Civic engagement is seen as a crucial tool for promoting peace and social justice, strengthening democracy, and moving a country toward sustainable development. For these reasons, this baseline study with a specific focus on the overall levels of civic engagement among students at the tertiary level may be able to cast some light on our understanding of civic engagement in Cambodia, and on whether higher education has any significant role to play in promoting civic engagement among university students.
1.3 Research objectives
The central aim of this paper is threefold. First of all, this paper proposes to document the levels and aspects of civic engagement that the students at the tertiary level may be involved in and the reasons for which they participate or do not participate in civic activism. Second, this paper also aims at identifying whether higher education has any significant role to play in fostering civic involvement among university students. Last but by no means least, this study also tries to make recommendations as to what should be done in order to make tertiary education an opportunity for postsecondary students to learn to be active citizens. In particular, this research aims to answer the following key research questions:
1. What is the level of civic engagement among the students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh?
2. What categories of civic engagement are they more involved in and why?
3. Why do they choose not to be involved in civic engagement?
4. Does higher education have any role to play in promoting civic engagement?
1.4 Rationale for and significance of the study
I am attracted to this topic for several reasons. First, because civic engagement has a vital role to play in developing a healthy democracy in a country, I am interested to find out the levels of civic engagement among the university students and whether the levels are high enough to help democracy survive in Cambodia. Second, I would also like to identify the reasons that contribute to the varying levels of civic engagement among the students. Last, I would like to know whether tertiary education in Cambodia has any role to play in fostering civic participation among university students.
This study is significant because its findings will offer a better picture of the level of civic engagement among the students at Royal University of Phnom Penh. Moreover, it will provide the researcher with a clearer understanding of the impact of higher education on civic engagement in the context of the university in particular, and it may shed some light on the role of higher education in Cambodia in general. In addition, as Cambodia is now in the process of being democratized, the researcher sees the significant role civic engagement has to play in promoting democracy. Therefore, from the researcher’s opinion, the findings from this study at least serve as an awareness raising tool about the role and benefits of civic engagement in promoting democracy and development. Finally, seeing that there is a lack of literature and work on this topic, it is hoped that this study may partially fill this blank space in the discourse of civic engagement in the Cambodian context.
1.5 Scope and limitation of the study
This study concentrates only on three categories of civic engagement: (a) civic activities, (b) electoral activities, and (c) political voice activities. Any other possible aspects of civic engagement will not be discussed in the study because the three categories seem to be complete enough to explain the topic being explored. Moreover, time constraint is another limit for the writer to investigate the topic in a broader and deeper way. In addition, this study looks at civic engagement among students at the tertiary level only by using a case study at the Royal University of Phnom Penh; no other universities in Cambodia are included in the study.
This study has many limitations. First, because this is an off-campus mode of study, there was a lack of books and other informative resources. These factors restricted the researcher’s access to broader literature published previously on this subject and therefore limited the extent and scope of this research. In particular, this study is not based on any established theoretical underpinning due to this shortage of needed resources. Second, because of time constraint, the researcher could not include more cases in this study. Even at one university, an across-year-level study could not be conducted. Lastly, because of the difficulty in randomly selecting the sample, the respondents were purposively contacted through some networks. Hence, the sample may not be representative enough, and any generalizations made must be stated in a cautious manner.
1.6 Framework of the paper
This paper consists of six chapters. Chapter One introduces the study. It provides information about the historical background, problem statement, research objectives and questions, operational definitions, as well as the rationales for and significance of the study, and scope and limitations of the study. Chapter Two provides definitions of the key terms and a brief review of related studies. It also outlines the conceptual framework which identifies the indicators used to measure civic engagement in this study. Chapter Three covers the research methodology, which discusses the sampling design, sample size and data collection tools. It also touches upon the ethical issues in the study. Chapter Four is entirely devoted to the description of the case under investigation—Royal University of Phnom Penh. Chapter Five presents the results together with analyses and discussions. The sixth, and final, chapter sums up the whole paper, makes recommendations and provides suggestions for further research as well as the concluding remarks of the researcher.
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter begins by defining the key terms used in the study. This is followed by a short review of related literature before presenting the conceptual framework which lists the core indicators used to measure civic engagement in this study.
2.1 Definitions of key terms
The following key terms need to be explained in order to understand the study in this context.
2.1.1 What is “higher education”?
Different people use somewhat different words to refer to higher education according to their contexts. For instance, post-secondary education or tertiary education is intended to mean higher education, which refers to the education after secondary education. Microsoft Encarta (2007) defines higher education as “education generally begun after high school, usually carried out at a university or college, and usually involving study for a degree or diploma.” As can be seen from this definition, higher education is referred to as post-secondary school education. This is the core definition of higher education in this study.
2.1.2 How is “civic engagement” defined?
There is no one set definition of civic engagement. The following definitions of civic engagement are currently defined in different contexts.
In a study by Raill and Hollander (2006) about How Campuses Can Create Engaged Citizens: The Student View, the student authors from the Raise Your Voice campaign define civic engagement as involving more than just volunteering and voting. It is, in fact, “a combination of voice, action, and reflection” (p. 5). This means that civically engaged individuals need to be well informed about different social and political issues, digest the information obtained, and make their voices heard by being actively involved in discussions and debates on those issues. The student authors also note that civic engagement:
Exists when individuals recognize that they have responsibilities not only to themselves and their families, but also to their communities—local, national, and global—and that the health and well-being of those communities are essential to their own health and well-being. They act in order to fulfill those responsibilities and try to affect those communities for the better. Those actions, in turn, give them an even deeper understanding of their interdependence with communities. (Raill & Hollander, 2006, p. 5)
The definition of civic engagement by Thomas Ehrlich and his colleagues (2000) emphasizes the importance of knowledge, skills, values and motivation of individuals to be able to make a change in their communities. Civic engagement, based on this definition, covers not only political but also non-political activities. For them, civic engagement means:
Working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes. (Ehrlich, 2000, p. vi)
Hauser (2000) defines civic engagement as “the interaction of citizens with their society and their government”. This definition looks at civic engagement as a commitment to building and sustaining relationships with neighbors, communities of interest as well as the governing levels.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) is based in the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, whose mission is to promote research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans between the ages of 15 and 25. It also supports projects whose aim is to promote young people’s involvement in politics and civic life. CIRCLE (2002) defines civic engagement in the framework of three broad categories: civic activities, electoral activities and political voice activities. Civic activities primarily focus on improving ones’ local community and helping people in the community such as volunteer service. Electoral activities mainly look at the political process such as voting. Political voice activities refer to all the things people do to express their political or social viewpoints such as protesting. The definition of civic engagement, in this sense, seems to cover the key points in the other definitions above. It is therefore used as the definition of civic engagement in this study.
2.1.3 What is “volunteerism”?
Volunteerism is defined somewhat differently in different settings, especially in the Cambodian and Western contexts. Many Cambodians define volunteerism as an effort which is “at times paid,” whereas the “Americans consider the non-paid aspect of volunteerism to be an essential ingredient of the definition of volunteerism” (Nhong, 2006, p. 152). Omoto and Snyder, and Schroeder et al., as cited by Nhong (2006), define volunteerism as donating one’s time and effort to a charitable or service organization to help other people.
UNDP ESSENTIALS (October 2003) conceptualizes the term volunteerism by listing the following key universal principles: (a) actions are carried out freely and without coercion, (b) financial gain is not the main motivating principle, and (c) there is a beneficiary other than the volunteer. In this sense, the non-paid aspect is one key characteristic of volunteerism.
The Recommendations on Support for Volunteering of the UN Resolution 56/38 defines volunteerism as “a wide range of activities, including traditional forms of mutual aid and self-help, formal service delivery and other forms of civic participation, undertaken of free will, for the general public good and where monetary reward is not the principal motivating factor” (as cited by Mysliwiec, 2005, p. 4). Once again, financial reward is not the primary aspect of volunteerism, which is the essential characteristic of volunteerism as defined in this study.
2.2 Volunteerism in Cambodia
A conceptual analysis on motivations for volunteering by Batson and his colleagues (2002) identifies four types of motivation for volunteering or acting for the common good. First—egoism—is to increase one’s own welfare. Human action is always directed toward self-benefit as the ultimate goal. An example of this type of motivation would be (a) students may volunteer for a local environmental group to gain work experience to be well-prepared for related work after they graduate. Second—altruism— is to increase the welfare of one or more other individuals rather than oneself. In this sense, however, Batson et al. remind us that altruistic feelings are more likely to be felt for those who are friends or kin, or to whom we are related in some way. Third— collectivism—the ultimate goal is to increase the welfare of a group or collective. The collective may be a neighborhood, a city or a nation, or it may be a race, religion, a political party, or a social class. A student, for instance, may volunteer to improve the welfare of the homeless or orphans, a group to whom the volunteer does not necessarily belong. However, we tend to care more about collectives of which we are members, rather than those to whom we do not belong. Finally, principlism is to uphold moral principles such as justice. The major problem with this point, however, is knowing when and how a given principle applies. This is no simple task.
Volunteerism is an essential part of civic participation. In different cultures, volunteerism manifests itself in different forms. In Cambodia, volunteerism is not a strange concept. It has been imbedded in Khmer tradition, and for centuries, mutual assistance has characterized Khmer culture, particularly in rural communities. One instance of volunteerism, as Mysliwiec (2005) has shown, is seen in pagoda associations, the associations which comprise of people in the villages nearby, the monks and others in a pagoda that come together as a group for a common purpose of improving the pagoda and upholding Buddhism. This aspect can still be seen in some rural communities in current Cambodia. However, different regimes in Cambodia, in particular the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime, have changed people’s attitudes and behaviors toward the concept of volunteerism. The economic values, as a result of the marketizing and globalizing of the Cambodian economy, and “rural-urban migrations” (Mysliwiec, 2005), have had a strong influence on the forms of volunteerism as well as the reasons why people volunteer.
If we look at the motivations for volunteering among old people in Cambodia, earning merit for the next life seems to be the most important reason. This is, perhaps, followed in importance by the desire to see communities in harmony, that the poor be supported to live decent lives, and the culture and tradition preserved (Mysliwiec, 2005). As Mysliwiec (2005) clearly stated in her feasibility study in preparation for the establishment of a youth service program in Cambodia, the university students in Cambodia volunteer because it offers youth an opportunity to “develop self-awareness, improve their knowledge of social issues and democracy, test their values and increase their sense of self-confidence and worth.” The opportunity to gain work experience and to increase their employment prospects is also another key motivation. Similarly, in a study conducted by Nhong (2005) to examine volunteerism as a social-psychological mechanism in rebuilding Cambodia, she found that people volunteer mainly because they want to gain more experience and to help society.
2.3 Higher education and civic engagement
In a study conducted by Egerton (2002), using longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey to examine the civic engagement of young people both before and after experiencing higher education, the findings showed that young people who had entered higher education had higher levels of civic and social engagement than those with less education. However, based on this study, higher education did not have significant effect on students’ civic engagement.
The analysis using the data from the Current Population Survey November Supplements (1984 to 2004) and the Civic and Political Health of the Nation Survey conducted in April and June 2006, in which 19 core indicators were used to measure civic involvement among 18 to 25 year olds in America, shows that young people who have some college experience have higher levels of civic engagement, electoral participation, and political voice, compared to their peers who have no college experience (Lopez & Elrod, 2006). It is important to note that the 19 core indicators of civic engagement are categorized into three broad themes: (a) civic activities, (b) electoral activities, and (c) political voice activities. The study also shows that young people with college experience have a higher level of participation compared to their counterparts who have not attended college. This was demonstrated by the presence of the core indicators of civic involvement such as volunteering, community problem solving, charity activities, general fundraising for charity, and group membership. Volunteering was the single activity gaining the largest number of youth participants. Apart from community activities, college attendance is highly correlated with electoral participation and political voice expression except for protest activities.
By means of the data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88), Lopez and Brown (2006) found that in the United States education is highly correlated with political and civic participation. However, Lopez and Brown caution the fact that education has a strong link with political and civic engagement and does not necessarily mean that colleges and universities strengthen students’ civic skills and interests; rather, as they point out, “education confers social advantages that aid civic participation” (p. 1). This demonstrates that one needs to be cautious when making a statement about the causal relationship between education and civic engagement.
The results of this analysis offer information on three main forms of engagement: voting, volunteering, and following the news. For volunteering, those who attended 4- year institutions reported higher levels of volunteering than those who attended 2-year colleges, who in turn reported volunteering at a rate higher than those with no college experience. In terms of voting, those who attended 4-year institutions report the highest level of voter registration, followed by those who attended 2-year colleges and those without college experience. Concerning news consumption, all the groups seem to have a low rate of newspaper consumption; however, those who have no college experience reported the highest level of daily television news viewership, while those with the greatest level of college exposure reported the lowest level of television news viewing. In short, although there is not enough evidence to state the causal relationship between higher education and civic engagement in this analysis, the findings seem to suggest a high correlation between higher education and civic involvement.
In another comparative analysis between “college-attending” and “non-college attending” 18-25 year olds by using the data from the Current Population Survey November Supplement (1972 to 2000), Lopez and Kolaczkowski (2003) find that noncollege attending young Americans voted at a lower level than college-attending youths. Possibly because of college exposure, college attending youth are more likely to view voting more important than those without college attendance. In terms of volunteering, as the findings suggest, non-college attending young people are much more likely never to have volunteered than their college attending counterparts, although both groups seem to show little difference in relation to donating to a church or community organization. Attitudes toward civic education between both groups should also be taken into account. From this analysis, college attending 18-25 year olds are more likely to support a community service requirement as well as civics or government class requirements in high school than their non-college attending counterparts. This is apparently because the exposure to higher education has provided the college-attending youth with certain resources which they can use to reflect on the importance of civic involvement. As Lopez (2002) points out, “the greater a young person’s level of educational success, the greater is the support for making civics and government courses a requirement for a high school diploma” (p. 7).
A number of previous studies have confirmed a positive relationship between higher education and civic engagement (Almond & Verba, 1965; Field, 2005; Lopez et al, 2006). Further, a recent study, by using the data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, shows that “civically-engaged teenagers make greater scholastic progress during high school and subsequently acquire higher levels of education than their otherwise equal peers” (Davila & Mora, 2007). This is likely to prove that civic engagement and higher education are reciprocally reinforcing. The findings from this analysis also indicate that community service performed as part of course requirements or on a voluntary basis has a positive and statistically significant effect on educational attainment.
In a discussion about the civic volunteerism model based on a socio-economic model of participation, as further analyzed by Whiteley et al. (2003), Verba et al., Brady et al., and Parry et al. raised the importance of resources for participation. They stated that “the better educated, more affluent and more middle class people are, the more likely they are to participate” (Whiteley et al., 2003, p. 445). This, therefore, indicates that, among others, educational resources play an important role in promoting participation.
However, according to Verba et al. as cited by Whiteley et al. (2003), using the socio-economic model is not enough to explain the motivations for civic volunteerism. First, to Verba et al., resources not only include economic and educational assets but also time constraints. Some people are not politically engaged because they have little free time (Whiteley et al., 2003). Second is the importance of citizen’s sense of efficacy. “The more people feel their opinions and actions are likely to have an influence on the outcome of decisions, the more likely they are to engage in political action” (Whiteley et al., 2003, p. 445). For this reason, citizens may choose to not engage in political activism because they feel that their engagement does not bring out any change in decisionmaking or because they feel that they are not able effect change. Thirdly, general involvement in the political system such as holding “party identification and political engagement” is very important and should as well foster civic engagement (Whiteley et al., 2003). Finally, as Verba et al. emphasized, mobilization is very significant in promoting individual participation. Whiteley et al. (2003) point out that:
Even when people are resource-rich, have plenty of free time and have a strong sense of efficacy, they may still fail to participate if they are unaware of the importance of their involvement or if no one has tried to elicit their co-operation. Being asked to participate by other people is an important catalyst for individual participation. (Whiteley et al., 2003, p. 446)
In brief, based on the study results aforementioned, higher education has some sort of relationship with civic engagement, although this correlation may not be a causal relationship. In particular, we have seen that those who have experienced college or higher education are very likely to be more involved in civic engagement.
- Quote paper
- Vicheth Sen (Author), 2008, Higher Education and Civic Engagement in Cambodia, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/149269