Learning to “labor”? Learning to “citizen”? a case study on the citizenship cultivation of auto mechanics students at a private vocational high school

Su Chiu Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Current literature indicates that vocational high school places primary importance on cultivating workers at the expense of cultivating citizenship. The literature on political participation additionally shows that vocational high school students engage less in civic participation than those at academic schools. This article examines students’ experiences of citizenship education at vocational high schools and explore how students at these schools practice citizenship. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, three determinants are identified as contributing to current low performance in citizenship education at vocational high schools. First, students at vocational high schools are perceived as “others” as opposed to mainstream advancement culture in education, alienating themselves from citizenship education curricula. Second, a master-apprentice culture at vocational high schools put more emphasis on the process of worker cultivation more than on democratic citizen cultivation. Third, student self-governance organizations are lack of appropriate training in civic participation skills, which fails to develop students’ competency in democratic participation. These three factors are argued to be responsible for students failing to fully engage as democratic participatory citizens. This does not mean, however, that students practice submissive citizenship, constantly complying with community norms. By contrast, students practice citizenship as cynical citizens, who aim to resist and elude governing power while failing to critically challenge power structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalBulletin of Educational Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Citizen cultivation
  • Cynical citizen
  • Master-apprentice culture
  • Vocational education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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