The ‘civic potential’ of students: An investigation of students’ civic knowledge and conceptions of active citizenship in five Asian societies

Kui Foon CHOW, Kerry John KENNEDY

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper contains a person-centered analysis of Asian young adolescents’ intention to participate in the future through political participation including electoral and other active political participation. It is based on the IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study 2009 which investigated the ways in which young people in lower secondary schools were being prepared to undertake their roles as citizens. Data from approximately 23,000 students from five Asian societies, i.e., Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand, were analyzed to inform the homogeneity and heterogeneity of adolescents’ intention to participate within and between societies as well as sub-regions in Asia. This study indicated that Asian students’ conceptions of active citizenship are not unidimensional. Based on their expected participation in five kinds of civic activities, they can be classified into four distinct types: 1) Active Participators: students who are relatively most enthusiastic in participating in various kinds of civic activities; 2) Conventional Participators: students who favor voting most but reject illegal protest while holding possibilities with other activities; 3) Radical Participators: students who are generally not certain about any kinds of activities but hold possibilities about them; and 4) Minimal Participators: students who are relatively least motivated to participate across various activities except they are still positive about voting. The proportion of types varies across the five societies. For example, Taiwan and Hong Kong share parallel proportions across four citizen types. Unlike her East Asian peers, Korea has an exceptionally large proportion of ‘Radical Participators’ students. Despite sharing a similar proportion of ‘Minimal Participators’, Indonesia and Thailand showed large differences in proportions of the other types. In relation to civic knowledge, it is observed across the four participator types that Active Participators possess on average the highest civic knowledge score while Radical Participators the least. Conventional Participators and Minimal Participators are associated with comparable average civic knowledge scores. The results, in general, suggest there may be both complementarity and tradeoff between civic knowledge and intention to participate. The findings reported here challenge the current literature on students’ civic competence, which commonly conceptualizes and measures the term by summing it up in multiple dimensions but ignores the possible contested and diverse nature. Copyright © 2013 IEA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013



Chow, K. F., & Kennedy, K. J. (2013, June). The ‘civic potential’ of students: An investigation of students’ civic knowledge and conceptions of active citizenship in five Asian societies. Paper presented at the 5th IEA International Research Conference, Singapore.


  • ICCS
  • Civic and citizenship education
  • Comparative citizenship education studies
  • Civic knowledge
  • Active citizenship
  • Asia