Isabel Kemper received a judges commendation for the 2021 Masters Dissertation Award for her dissertation “School Councils: Democratic forums or exclusive clubs”
The abstract for her dissertation is below:
School Councils: Democratic Forums or Exclusive Clubs?
In the face of a perceived decline in political participation amongst young people, the European Union’s current Youth Strategy identifies a need to create space for all young people to develop a political voice. The literature on citizenship education highlights school councils as a promising initiative to address this goal. School councils are democratic decision-making forums for students at school. While there has been much research on the outcomes of these councils, there seem to be very few studies examining who has access to them. The aim of this study is to analyse patterns of access to school councils in order to more clearly understand how this form of citizenship education may be perpetuating political inequalities. Using quantitative data from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)’s International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS), a logistic regression analysis and a three-level linear regression analysis are performed to investigate the determinants of access to pupil councils throughout the European Union. The research questions interrogate access at three levels: national, school and individual. Do people in different countries, schools, and with certain socio-demographic characteristics have differential access to participation opportunities on the pupil council? Does this differential access reflect pre-existing patterns in inequitable political participation in wider society? The findings of this study suggest that there are differences in access at all three levels. Most notably, it appears that pupils who have high educational aspirations and are from families with high socio-economic status are associated with much higher levels of participation on councils. It is argued that the patterns apparent in pupil council access both reflect, and perpetuate, political inequalities found in societies across the European Union.