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Student Parallel Election Program (Student Vote) Evaluation

Section 1 Introduction

1.1 Background

The Student Vote program is a parallel election for students under the voting age, coinciding with official election periods. Student Vote is the flagship program of CIVIX, Canada's leading civic education organization. Elections Canada supports Student Vote as part of its civic education mandate, and it has partnered with CIVIX to provide the program free to schools during every federal election since 2004, including the 2015 federal election.

The objective of Student Vote is to increase student awareness and understanding of Canadian democracy, elections and voting. Student Vote provides young Canadians with an opportunity to experience the voting process first-hand through a parallel election run in their school. Student Vote seeks to encourage the practice of voting among students before they reach voting age, with the goal of building the habits of an informed and engaged citizenship.

The Student Vote program was initiated in 2003 and, since that time, has conducted more than 30 parallel elections, at all levels of government, including five federal elections. During the 2015 federal election, 6,662 schools participated in Student Vote, and 922,000 students cast a ballot. The results of the parallel election mirrored the official results, with students selecting a Liberal party majority government and the Conservative party as the Official Opposition.

1.2 Research Objectives

The evaluation assessed the overall impact of the Student Vote program in the context of the 42nd federal election. The results of the evaluation will inform CIVIX and Elections Canada about the success of Student Vote in meeting its program and participation objectives and help to improve it for future elections. The program objectives for Student Vote were to:

  • Impart knowledge and understanding of Canada's democratic system among students.
  • Generate appreciation of the importance of voting and civic engagement among students.
  • Provide educators with a better ability to teach civic knowledge and civic education concepts, specifically focused on the democratic process, in an experiential and hands-on manner.
  • Contribute to future democratic participation among Canadian youth.

The participation objectives of the Student Vote program were to:

  • Meet or exceed the 2011 school participation rate.
  • Meet or exceed the 2011 student participation rate.
  • Ensure participation in the program by students in every province and territory and at each of the elementary (grades 4 to 8) and secondary (grades 9 to 12) school levels.
  • Ensure participation in the program in both English and French.
  • Achieve a 90% satisfaction rate among educators who participated in the program.
  • Exceed the registration and participation rates obtained in the province of Quebec during the 2011 program.

In addition to assessing the impact of the Student Vote program, the evaluation also assessed the impact of the CIVIX Democracy Bootcamp. Democracy Bootcamp is a professional development conference for teachers designed to improve their democratic engagement and instructional capacity. The goal of the Democracy Bootcamp is to expand teachers' knowledge and interest in politics. During the 2015 federal election, Democracy Bootcamps were hosted in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario. The Democracy Bootcamps provided teachers with an insider's look at campaigns, explored political research and trends, and introduced new tools for civic education. The evaluation investigated the impact that attending a Democracy Bootcamp had on educator and student outcomes.

1.3 Scope of the Study

The scope of the evaluation was limited to the Student Vote program in the context of the 2015 federal election. Information for the evaluation was collected from participants and control groups of students, teachers and parents. The findings regarding program outcomes were generated from survey questions determined in consultation between Elections Canada and CIVIX. Qualitative data were collected from students, educators, parents and program stakeholders to provide context and a deeper understanding of the program results. Due to concerns about the appropriateness of the control group (see Section 3.3), the analysis was limited to assessing changes in outcomes over the course of Student Vote. The evaluation explored the impact of participating in Student Vote and assessed its unique contribution to outcomes when other, possibly confounding, variables were isolated (e.g. previous experience with Student Vote). The conclusions and recommendations of this evaluation were drawn from the synthesis of the different data collection methodologies and participant groups.