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Study flags civics and citizenship knowledge

The percentage of Australian school students with the skills and knowledge required to be active and informed citizens has remained stable between 2010 and 2013, but there is room for improvement, as Julian Fraillon explains.

The latest figures from a report by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on the National Assessment Program in Civics and Citizenship (NAP-CC), released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in November, reveal that half of the Year 6 and Year 10 students who participated in the sample assessment meet or exceed the ‘challenging but reasonable’ proficient standard.

While the percentage of Australian school students with the skills and knowledge required to be active and informed citizens has remained stable between 2010 and 2013, the report clearly indicates that half of the sample are yet to reach the proficient standard.

The NAP – CC measures students’ knowledge and understanding of civic systems and civic life in Australia as well as their civic attitudes and values, and participation in civic-related activities. The ACER report for ACARA provides the results from a representative sample of more than 11 000 Year 6 and Year 10 students in the 2013 NAP – CC assessment cycle. This was the fourth cycle of NAP – CC and the first time, the assessment was delivered to students online.

Common misunderstandings

Many students demonstrated knowledge and understanding of broad aspects of Australian civic systems and life, but far fewer demonstrated knowledge of the details of these aspects. For example, while 46 per cent of Year 6 students could identify that the Governor-General represents the Queen in Australia, only 19 per cent of Year 10 students could identify that the Queen is Australia’s head of state, and only 39 per cent of Year 10 students could recognise a definition of a trade union.

Asked what happened on 25 April 1915, 46 per cent of Year 10 students could identify the specific historical event recognised on ANZAC Day by referring either to Gallipoli by name, or as a battle in World War I.

Gender, indigeneity and socioeconomics

Trends at the national level since 2010 reveal no significant change for either year level, and no significant change in the test performance of boys and girls, although Year 6 girls continue to outperform boys by 21 NAP – CC scale points, the equivalent of about six months of schooling, while Year 10 girls outperform boys by 14 scale points, the equivalent of about two months of schooling.

Non-Indigenous students scored higher than Indigenous students by almost 100 scale points, the equivalent of four years of schooling, at each year level, while students in metropolitan schools had higher average test scores than those in remote schools, a respective difference of 94 points in Year 6 and 99 points in Year 10.

The report suggests that students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds achieve higher scores than students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Attitudes and engagement

In terms of students’ attitudes and engagement, the report indicates that:

  • the level of Year 6 students’ trust in civic institutions has risen from 2010  to 2013;
  • girls expressed higher levels of trust in civic institutions than boys at both Year 6 and Year 10 levels;
  • although most students expressed positive attitudes towards Australian Indigenous cultures, Year 10 boys showed less positive attitudes than Year 6 boys, while girls in Year 10 expressed more positive attitudes than those in Year 6; and
  • the percentage of Year 10 students who read the newspaper fallen between 2010 and 2013, but the percentage of students using the internet for information and listening to radio news has risen. ■

Read the full report:

Download the National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship Years 6 &10 Report 2013.

RD

About the author

Julian Fraillon is the Research Director of ACER's Assessment and Reporting: Mathematics and Science research program.

More [rd] articles by Julian Fraillon

View selected works of Julian Fraillon

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