Civic Education in an Emerging Democracy: Students’ Experiences in Malaysia’s Projek Warga

  •  Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk    
  •  Azrina Husin    


This article aims to look at the relevance of civic education in Malaysia—an illiberal democracy—by using data collected from students participating in Projek Warga throughout the year 2009. While civic education as advocated by the state is geared towards legitimizing the status quo and therefore does not necessarily converge with democratic norms and values, Projek Warga stresses the importance of active citizenship by exposing participants to the need for civic engagement at the local level. This is achieved by educating students on how public policies are formulated as well as its dynamics. It is hoped that after participating in the project, students will in turn internalize that democracy is not a spectator’s sport and consequently value active citizenship as an indispensable element in public life. The results suggest that participation in the project has succeeded in increasing students’ understanding of public policy and the democratic process in general. As most students entered the project without prior knowledge of public policy, their understanding of the different dimensions of public policy—its processes as well as parties involved—have significantly increased. Similarly, they are also able to see the importance of exercising their rights as citizens so as to make their community a better place. In light of these findings, it could be argued that civic education propagated by a non-governmental organization that is geared towards instilling social responsibility and citizenship is more likely to succeed in promoting “civic respect”.

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