A new study shows that Year 10 students’ civics and citizenship knowledge has fallen, but participation in civics and citizenship activity has increased. Julian Fraillon and Eveline Gebhardt report.
The latest report from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) on the 2016 cycle of the National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship (NAP-CC) indicates that student knowledge and understanding in civics and citizenship at the national level has remained stable for Year 6 since 2013, but performance has fallen for Year 10 students.
The report also indicates that Years 6 and 10 students’ already high positive attitudes to civics and citizenship have increased, as has their participation in civics and citizenship activities
The NAP-CC survey, conducted for ACARA by staff from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), investigates the civics and citizenship knowledge, attitudes and participation of a sample of Years 6 and 10 students across Australia every three years. Students’ knowledge and understanding of civics and citizenship are assessed through a test while their attitudes to civics and citizenship and participation in civics and citizenship activity is assessed through a student questionnaire.
NAP-CC measures Year 6 and 10 students’ knowledge and understanding of civics and citizenship and reports student performance against a national scale established in 2004. Student performance is also reported against two proficient standards – one for Year 6 and one for Year 10 – on the NAP–CC scale. The proficient standards represent a ‘challenging but reasonable’ expectation of student achievement at that year level.
National results and trends
In 2016, 55 per cent of Year 6 students achieved at or above the Year 6 proficient standard, similar to the percentage achieved nationally in previous cycles of NAP-CC.
Table 1. Year 6 percentages at or above the proficient standard 2004-16
Significantly higher percentages of Year 6 students in Queensland reached the proficient standard than in all previous cycles of NAP – CC. In SA a higher percentage of Year 6 students reached the proficient standard in 2016 than in all previous cycles except 2010 and in WA the percentage was higher in 2016 than in 2007 and 2004. In each of NSW, Vic., Tas and NT the percentage of Year 6 students reaching the proficient standard was similar to that of previous cycles.
Nationally in 2016, 38 per cent of Year 10 students achieved at or above the Year 10 proficient standard, significantly lower than in 2013 and 2010. The proportion at or above the proficient standard in 2016 is similar to the proportions in 2007 and 2004, indicating that achievement appears to have fallen to similar levels attained in the first two cycles of NAP-CC.
Table 2. Year 10 percentages at or above the proficient standard 2004-16
A significantly lower percentage of Year 10 students in New South Wales achieved at or above the proficient standard than in 2013, 2010 and 2007, while a significantly lower percentage in Tasmania achieved at or above the standard than in 2010.
Differences by background
Nationally, girls substantially outperformed boys on average.
Table 3. Years 6 and 10 percentages of boys and girls at or above the proficient standard
|Year 6||Year 10|
Non-Indigenous students substantially outperformed indigenous students on average and metropolitan students substantially outperforming students from remote locations.
Table 4. Years 6 and 10 percentages of Indigenous and non-Indigenous at or above the proficient standard
|Year 6||Year 10|
Attitudes and actions
More than 80 per cent of students in Years 6 and 10 rated personal efforts to protect natural resources like water-saving, recycling and ethical shopping, and voting in elections as quite or very important. Nine out of 10 students endorsed the notion that Australia should support the cultural traditions and languages of Indigenous Australians.
At Year 10, 84 per cent agreed that Australia benefits greatly from having people from many cultures and backgrounds, and that immigrants should be encouraged to keep their cultural traditions and languages, while 81 per cent agreed that all Australians should learn about different cultures and traditions at school – both significant increases since 2010.
Since 2010 significantly fewer students in Years 6 and 10 reported reading about current events in the newspaper and watching the news on television. In contrast, significantly more students at each year level report using the internet to get news of current events. Despite this shift towards new media as information sources, only 37 per cent of Year 6 students and 29 per cent of Year 10 students reported trusting social media (completely or quite a lot).
Implications for teachers
The report encourages teachers in the years leading up to Year 6 to develop students’ civics and citizenship knowledge and understanding, attitudes and participation by using the Year 6 achievement standard for the Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences as the basis of their programming and unit development.
Possible activities primary school teachers might to incorporate into their programs include:
- making site visits to democratic institutions, such as Commonwealth, state or territory houses of parliament, local council chambers or law courts
- comparing the effectiveness and appropriateness of different forms of participation in Australian democracy – from petitions and protests to lobbying and standing for election
- investigating why and how new laws emerge
- investigating current global issues such as immigration across borders or clearing native forests to establish palm oil plantations in terms of global citizenship.
Teachers working with students in the years leading up to Year 10 are encouraged to use the Year 10 achievement standard for the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship as the basis of their programming or unit development.
Possible activities secondary school teachers might to incorporate into their programs include:
- comparing Australia’s system of democratic election or separation of powers doctrine with systems and doctrines in other countries
- investigating Australian mechanisms to deal with threats to democratic processes such as the influence of vested interests, and corruption and lawlessness
- comparing political rights to freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom of the press in Australia and other countries. ■
NAP Sample Assessment: Civics and Citzenship Report – Years 6 and 10, by ACER’s Julian Fraillon, Eveline Gebhardt, Judy Nixon, Louise Ockwell and Tim Friedman from, and ACARA’s Michelle Robins and Mark McAndrew, is available on the ACARA website.