The paper focuses on the formation of the political and civic attitudes of Czech students. The analysis presented is based on data from international and national surveys. In the context of the concept of political socialisation, the paper explores the attitudes of young Czechs to democracy and citizenship.
Political socialisation is an academic sub-discipline concerned with the process of formation of political and civic attitudes and activities. It draws mainly on approaches and findings from sociology and political science,
but also on other disciplines such as education and psychology. Its basic premise, backed up by much empirical research, is that political and citizenship attitudes are shaped in childhood and adolescence.
There is the empirical evidence that civic attitudes and activities could be influenced by the following factors: family, school, civic edu-cation, curriculum and student knowledge, school climate, school type, out-of-school activities, media (including Internet), peer groups, and social context (size of the place of residence, unemployment rate, levels of crime in the community etc.).
Only limited amount of information is available about the state of civic attitudes and activities of young people in the Czech Republic. The only survey that studied their civic knowledge, skills and attitudes was the IEA CIVED Study carried out in 1999. On the other hand, some important information is also available from OECD PISA and also from the national longitudinal survey PISA-L.
On average young Czechs exhibit better knowledge in the area of civic education than their foreign peers, but they lag behind in the area of civic attitudes and activities. Research shows that civic attitudes are strongly differentiated according to the type of family and attended school and are related to many other circumstances like participation in out-of-school activities.
With an eye to educational policy is ex-tremely interesting and important that the influence of different factors (school, parents, etc.) varies with specific aspects of citizenship. It is clear that children of educated parents are more active in civic activities, but this difference does not emerge when it comes to willingness to break the law. Respect for law depends is correlated instead with size of settlement and is higher for children from villages and small towns, while level of civic activities does not differ much between rural areas and Prague.
Education policy-makers from all around the world agree that the formation of civic attitudes and habits is an important way of preventing the undesirable radicalisation of youngsters, and is a guarantee of the healthy development of a society and strengthens its cohesion. They recommend devoting more attention to groups with lower social and economic status that are at risk of exclusion. In the Czech education system the most at-risk group are those who leave the education system prematurely, and students at what are known as middle vocational education centres (the lowest form of secondary school education). Our analysis shows that in their civic attitudes and knowledge vocational students differ from their contemporaries who are on track for full general school-leaving qualifications (the „maturita“), and that at they same they are disadvantaged by their family back-ground and lesser opportunity for further development. There should be more efforts to ensure that these students are included in-out-of school activities. The proven influence of peer groups suggests that it is important to encourage heterogeneity in school collectives to increase possibilities for mutual teaching and learning and exchange of views. It is also important to avoid situations where at-risk students are all concentrated together, thus strengthening problem attitudes.