National civics and citizenship report releasedResearch 22 Jan 2021 7 minute read
A new report reveals the proportion of Australian school students with the skills and knowledge required to be active and informed citizens has not changed since 2016, leaving significant room for improvement.
The findings of the sixth National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship (NAP-CC) were released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in January 2021. A nationally representative sample of 5611 Year 6 students and 4510 Year 10 students completed the online assessment and questionnaire in Term 4, 2019.
NAP-CC assesses students’ skills, knowledge and understandings of Australian democracy and its system of government, the rights and legal obligations of Australian citizens and the shared values which underpin Australia’s diverse society. It also provides an indication of student attitudes and their engagement in civic-related activities at school and in the community.
A team of researchers from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) facilitated NAP-CC in collaboration with ACARA. ACER led the test development and sampling, assessment administration, marking operations, and data analysis.
As part of Australia’s National Assessment Program, NAP-CC measures progress towards Australia’s education goals. From 2008 until December 2019 these were detailed in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, before being superseded by the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration. Each of these declarations includes content related to information collected and reported in NAP–CC, and an overarching target for all young Australians to become active and informed citizens.
The Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia sets out the relevant proficient standards in NAP-CC for students at Year 6 and Year 10. The proficient standard represents a ‘challenging but reasonable’ expectation of student achievement at a year level with students needing to demonstrate more than elementary skills expected at that year level.
At Year 6, students at or above the proficient standard are able to demonstrate knowledge of the broad features of Australian democracy. For example, they recognise the cultural significance of the land to Indigenous Australians and can demonstrate familiarity with simple mechanisms of community engagement and how civic actions inform and influence change.
In 2019, 53 per cent of Year 6 students met or exceeded the proficient standard, similar to all previous cycles of NAP-CC. Girls outperformed boys, with 58 per cent of girls attaining the Year 6 proficient standard compared to 47 per cent of boys.
At Year 10, students at or above the proficient standard are able to demonstrate knowledge of core aspects of Australian democracy. For example, they can demonstrate awareness of the connection between fundamental principles such as fairness and their manifestation in rules and laws, and are able to make simple evaluations of given mechanisms of civic action.
In 2019, 38 per cent of Year 10 students attained the proficient standard, similar to the previous cycle in 2016 and the first two cycles in 2004 and 2007, but lower than in 2010 and 2013. Girls again outperformed boys, with 42 per cent of girls attaining the Year 10 proficient standard compared to 35 per cent of boys.
The NAP-CC questionnaire measured students’ perceptions of the importance of citizenship behaviours, students’ trust in civic institutions and processes, students’ attitudes towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and Australian diversity, and students’ perceptions of problems affecting Australia.
- Approximately nine out of every 10 Year 6 and Year 10 students expressed positive attitudes towards Indigenous cultures.
- A large majority of Year 10 students expressed positive attitudes towards Australian diversity.
- Students had higher levels of trust in some civic institutions and processes – in particular, the police and law courts – than in the media and social media.
Compared to the previous survey in 2016, a smaller proportion of Year 6 students perceived conventional citizenship, such as supporting a political party, as important. A smaller proportion of Year 6 students believe that learning about political issues from the media is an important attribute of being a ‘good citizen’, and a smaller proportion of Year 6 and Year 10 students believe learning what is happening in other countries is an important attribute.
NAP-CC also measured students’ participation in civics and citizenship activities at school and in the community; students’ interest in civic issues, confidence to actively engage and belief in the value of civic action, and students’ intentions to engage in civic action.
- Students in both Year 6 and Year 10 were more likely to access their news from internet sources than from traditional media such as television, in comparison with previous cycles.
- Year 6 students had less interest in a range of civics and citizenship issues and less confidence to actively engage in civic action than in 2016.
- 63 per cent of Year 10 students have collected money for a charity or social cause – a small but significant increase from 61 per cent in 2016.
The responses also revealed strong links between student participation and achievement.
- Students with greater participation in school governance activities or extracurricular civics and citizenship activities were more likely to have higher levels of NAP-CC achievement.
- Among Year 6 students, confidence to actively engage and belief in the value of civic action were the most positively associated with achievement.
- Among Year 10 students, confidence to actively engage in civic action, interest in civic issues and intentions to promote important issues in the future were the most positively associated with achievement.
- Year 10 students who talked about political or social issues with their families or friends were likely to have higher levels of NAP-CC achievement than those who did not.
As ACARA Board Chair, Belinda Robinson, says in her foreword to the report, the importance of civic responsibility has been highlighted locally and globally since students completed NAP-CC in 2019. The results show that a large proportion of Australian students do not yet have the skills and knowledge to be active and informed citizens. ■
Read the full report:
NAP Civics and Citizenship 2019, by Julian Fraillon, Dr Tim Friedman, Louise Ockwell, Kate O’Malley and Dr Judy Nixon (ACER) and Mark McAndrew (ACARA), Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2019.