Conceptualizing civic education and engagement in less liberal contexts

Catherine Shea Sanger*, Wei Lit Yew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapter


Civic engagement education has often been associated with promoting and protecting liberal democracy. What does civic engagement education entail in less liberal or illiberal political contexts? In this chapter, we use the lens of “campus climate” to describe ways that broader political-legal contexts (macroclimates), organizational contexts of universities or colleges (mesoclimates), and localized settings within the college, e.g., residential halls and classrooms (microclimates) combine to facilitate or stymie civic engagement education. Using Singapore as an illustration, we describe formal legal restrictions and implicit norms that constitute macroclimatic barriers to certain types of civic engagement. To foster productive microclimates for civic education in this context, we encourage educators to emphasize community engagement in addition to political activism, inquiry and service over confrontational change-making, and communitarian/ collectivist over exclusively liberal/individualized political approaches. To develop these claims, we introduce a short case study of Yale-NUS College in Singapore. Our case study indicates that, through the provision of a facilitative campus climate, there are robust opportunities for civic engagement education in less liberal contexts. A more in-depth case study of civic engagement education at Yale-NUS College is then presented in section III, with findings from focus groups and content analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching Civic Engagement Globally
EditorsElizabeth C. Matto, Alison Rios Millett McCartney, Elizabeth A. Bennion, Alasdair Blair, Taiyi Sun, Dawn Michele Whitehead
PublisherAmerican Political Science Association
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781878147653
ISBN (Print)9781878147646
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • Civic Education
  • Higher Education
  • Electoral Authoritarianism
  • Post-Colonial Politics
  • Singapore
  • Campus Climate


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