Newspapers in Education: a Critical Inquiry Into the Effects of Using Newspapers as Teaching Agents

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Educational Research
Vol. 51, No. 3, September 2009, 341–363
Newspapers in Education: a critical inquiry into the effects of using newspapers as teaching agents
Ellen Claes* and Ellen Quintelier
Centre of Political Research, K.U. Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
(Received 1 October 2008; final version received 28 April 2009) Background: More than 52 countries make use of the ‘Newspapers in Education’ programme. In the last 10 years, in Belgium, an application of the international programme Newspapers in Education has become a well-known way of stimulating adolescents to explore the political realm and challenge the way they think about and participate in democracies. However, the longer-term effectiveness of the programme is not fully understood because studies tend to focus on a period shortly after programme participation.

Purpose: This study aimed to investigate whether pupils who participated in the Newspapers in Education programme scored more highly on scales of media use/ habits and social and political attitudes, in a survey conducted more than half a year after programme participation.

Programme description: The programme Newspapers in Education was evaluated. Newspapers in Education makes newspaper reading accessible to young people by providing a free newspaper package containing a variety of national newspapers for each student. This way, the programme aims at connecting young people to current affairs, and wants to stimulate interactive ways of teaching to attain the goals that are often specified when the teaching of citizenship education is concerned. The programme, moreover, has the firm intention of creating a generation of critical thinkers and informed citizens. Sample details: For the assessment of the effects of the Newspapers in Education programme, the ‘Belgian Youth Survey’ was used. The Belgian Youth Survey 2006 is a representative survey conducted in 2006 among more than 6000 15- and 16-year-olds in Belgium (both in the French and Dutch communities). However, for these analyses we focussed on the data of the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, i.e. Flanders (N ¼ 3453), because the Newspapers in Education programme has manifested itself on a continuous basis in this community for several years.

Design and methods: The Belgian Youth Survey 2006 is based on written surveys filled out by the respondents in schools. The response rate at the Flemish school level is 72%. This survey tried to tap into social and political attitudes of young people and also provided us with specific background characteristics, which we could control for when looking into programme effects. Because the aim of this study was to uncover longer-term effects of the Newspapers in Education programme whilst controlling for individual background effects, bivariate and regression analyses were used.

Main findings in relation to the research goals/objectives: Results suggested that the participants of Newspapers in Education may follow the news, particularly on the Internet, more often than their non-participating peers; they also displayed *Corresponding author. Email:

ISSN 0013-1881 print/ISSN 1469-5847 online
 2009 NFER
DOI: 10.1080/00131880903156922
342 E. Claes and E. Quintelier
a slightly higher level of political knowledge. However, many other differences between participating and non-participating groups were not significant. In addition, a slight association was apparent in the media use of students receiving vocational education. The relationship between participating in the programme and tolerance towards ethnic minorities was also significant for the whole sample. Main conclusion: In this study, only minor differences were detected between the media use/habits and social and political attitudes of participants and non-participants in the Flemish Newspapers in Education programme. It is possible that the brevity of the programme itself may make it difficult for its impact to be...
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