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Active and informed: National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship report

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.

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
Girls 60 42
Boys 50 35

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
Indigenous 20 17
Non-Indigenous 56 39

 

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. ■

Further information:

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.   

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About the author

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

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View selected works of Julian Fraillon

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About the author

Eveline Gebhardt is a Principal Research Fellow in ACER’s International Surveys research program.

More [rd] articles by Eveline Gebhardt

View selected works of Eveline Gebhardt

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