Youth Electoral Study (YES) - Report 5: Youth, schools and learning about politics

Updated: 18 July 2012

9. Teachers and the school context

Numerous studies have documented the importance of the teacher's style and the classroom climate in the study about the government. For example, we know that an authoritarian teacher or a repressive classroom climate is not likely to provide an atmosphere for learning about democracy and the acquisition of democratic values.

We do not have measures of classroom climate or of teaching style, but we do have measures of whether the student likes school, and whether the student claims to get along well with teachers. The question about teachers was the following: "How well do you get along with the majority of your teachers this year?" The response categories were "very poorly", "not satisfactory", "satisfactory" and "very well". The question about school was as follows: "Do you like being at school?" The response categories were "No. I hate it", "No, not particularly", "Yes, it's alright", and "Yes, very much".

The per cent of responses to the two questions are given in Figure 8. We have slightly changed the designated response categories to be able to combine the variables in one bar chart.

Student attitude to school context

* There were 4898 valid responses (out of 4923 students) to the question about teachers, and 4771 responses to the question about liking school. The disparities are due to missing data.

While the responses to the two questions appear similar, there are some differences. Most students seem to both get along with their teachers, and like school. However they get along with their teachers more than they like school. The average score for first is 3.39 (out of a maximum 4), and for the second 2.82. The correlation for the responses to the two questions is .40.

Does the school context have any relationship with the intention to vote. One could argue, for example, that the more integrated a student is with the school, both its teachers and its culture, the more likely the student will be integrated with society generally. Researchers who study schools often argue that schools are microcosms of society. Therefore it can be argued that the willingness to accept the school culture is consistent with a willingness to accept the general culture of a society.

In Figure 9, we display the relationships (correlation coefficients) between the school context variables, and the students' perceptions of being prepared to vote and their commitment to vote. The longer the bar, the stronger is the relationship between the variables. The red bar represents the correlation between the school context variables and perceptions of being prepared to vote. Neither correlation (the two red bars) is very large, being .094 and .079. On the other hand, the correlations with the student commitment to vote (the blue bars) are much larger though somewhat modest, being .217 and .215.

Correlations between school context variables and prepared to vote and will vote variables

The data in Figure 9 make it very clear that getting along with teachers, and liking school, are two dimensions of the school context which positively affect student attitudes toward voting. The more students have a positive relationship with the school, the more likely they are to feel prepared for voting, and say they will vote. But what is somewhat surprising is that having positive relationships with the school are not as strongly related to perceived voter preparation, compared to commitment to voting.