Results from the latest international study of civic and citizenship education have found students’ knowledge in this learning domain is increasing in many countries.
The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) 2016 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) report, Becoming Citizens in a Changing World, reveals that students’ civic knowledge has increased in about half of the 24 countries that participated in ICCS in both 2009 and 2016.
In a number of countries, since 2009 students have become more supportive of gender equality and equal opportunities for all ethnic and racial groups in society. According to the report, students’ endorsement of equal opportunities is associated with higher levels of civic knowledge.
Better informed emerging citizens
ICCS 2016 reports on how well students in Grade 8, or aged 14 years, in 24 participating countries are being prepared to undertake their role in society as responsible citizens. Led by International Study Director, Dr Wolfram Schulz, ACER researchers conducted this study for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) in close cooperation with Laboratorio Pedagogia Sperimentale at the Roma Tre University and IEA Hamburg. ICCS 2016 collected data from about 94 000 lower secondary students and 37 000 teachers in 3800 schools across 24 countries.
According to Becoming Citizens in a Changing World, students’ average civic knowledge scores increased since the first cycle of ICCS in 2009. The finding that civic knowledge has improved was not confined to countries with already high average levels of civic knowledge. Across 18 comparable countries that participated in ICCS in both 2009 and 2016, the proportion of students who typically demonstrate some specific knowledge and understanding of the most pervasive civic and citizenship institutions, systems and concepts increased from 61 per cent to 67 per cent. However, the findings also show that there are still considerable differences in the level of young people’s civic knowledge both within and across countries.
Influence of gender and background
ICCS 2016 also found that civic knowledge is associated with student gender and background, with girls demonstrating higher civic knowledge than boys while high socioeconomic status (SES), measured using parental occupation and the number of books in the home, was strongly associated with student civic knowledge.
Immigrant status and language background were also associated with student civic knowledge. In 14 countries, students from an immigrant background had lower civic knowledge than other students. In 17 countries, students who spoke the language of the ICCS test at home had higher civic knowledge than those who reported speaking another language at home.
Trust in institutions
ICCS 2016 results also showed changes in students’ levels of trust in civic institutions, groups, and information sources between 2009 and 2016. In many countries, the ICCS 2016 students expressed more trust in government, parliament, and courts of justice than did their 2009 counterparts but less trust in media and people in general. In more established and economically stable democracies, more knowledgeable students tend to have more trust in civic institutions. Students in countries with higher perceived levels of corruption and low government efficiency generally express lower levels of trust.
The report notes that students’ perceptions of classroom climate may play a significant role in helping students understand the advantages of democratic values and practices.
ICCS 2016 found a strong association between students’ increased experiences of physical or verbal abuse and low civic knowledge.
ICCS 2016 found that across participating countries more than half of students reported being laughed at or called by an abusive nickname at least once in the past three months. One in five reported having possessions broken by others or receiving threats of physical violence, while 16 per cent reported being physically attacked and 10 per cent being cyberbullied. However, the results also showed that many schools had adopted initiatives to counter various forms of bullying at school.
The results from ICCS support policymakers, educators and education researchers in meeting the educational needs of citizens and society. ■
Becoming Citizens in a Changing World: IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study 2016 international report, by Wolfram Schulz, John Ainley, Julian Fraillon, Bruno Losito, Gabriella Agrusti and Tim Friedman, is available at http://iccs.iea.nl/home.html