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Citizenship education in times of global challenge

Research 6 minute read

Results from the latest international study of civic and citizenship education show students’ civic knowledge decreased significantly between 2016 and 2022.

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) today released a report on the 2022 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS). The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) served as the international study centre for ICCS 2022, led by International Study Director and ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Wolfram Schulz, with the LUMSA University in Rome acting as associate research centre.

ICCS collects information on students' civic knowledge, attitudes, and engagement in issues related to civic and citizenship education. The 2022 study gathered data from 82,000 grade 8 students and 40,000 teachers at about 3400 schools across 24 education systems, mostly within Europe. It is the third cycle of ICCS, following studies in 2009 and 2016.

Across 13 countries that participated in both ICCS 2016 and ICCS 2022, the proportion of students at or above Level B (the second highest of the different achievement levels on the civic knowledge scale) decreased from 70% to 64%. Six of these 13 countries recorded a significant decrease in average student civic knowledge between 2016 and 2022, and none recorded an increase.

The past two decades have seen developments such as globalisation, migration, digital media growth, and environmental sustainability, impacting civic and citizenship education. ICCS 2022 gave additional or increased focus to five areas beyond what was assessed in the previous cycle:

  • sustainability
  • engagement through digital technologies
  • diversity
  • views of political systems
  • global citizenship.

The study investigated students' knowledge and perspectives on these issues.


ICCS 2022 found that students with higher civic knowledge were more concerned about global environmental threats than students with lower levels of civic knowledge. They were also more likely to endorse environmental protection and engage in related activities. This suggests civic and citizenship education plays a crucial role in raising awareness of environmental issues and promoting proactive attitudes among students.

Engagement through digital technologies

Despite the increasing use of digital communication and social media, civic engagement through digital platforms was not as common as in-person discussion about political and social issues. However, higher levels of digital engagement were associated with greater interest in political and social issues, and with higher levels of expected active political participation. The report emphasises the need for civic education to adapt to the changing landscape of digital communication and address the challenges associated with information credibility.


ICCS 2022 explored students' views on gender equality and equal rights for immigrants and ethnic groups. Higher levels of civic knowledge were associated with stronger support for diversity. The report highlights the role of civic and citizenship education in fostering inclusive attitudes and contributing to social cohesion.

Views of political systems

While students generally supported democracy as the preferred form of government, they expressed dissatisfaction with the functioning of their political systems. Trust in civic institutions decreased in many countries and, in countries where the political system is perceived to be more dysfunctional, students with higher civic knowledge have lower trust in its institutions. The findings suggest that civic education might not only influence future voting behaviour but also have implications for more active forms of citizenship.

Global citizenship

Students with higher civic knowledge were more likely to endorse globally oriented citizenship behaviours, such as interest in different cultures and support for initiatives promoting opportunities worldwide. While most education systems participating in ICCS 2022 included global issues in their civic education goals, there were differences in teacher preparation and activities related to global topics.

Looking ahead

The report emphasises the ongoing relevance of civic and citizenship education in preparing young people for the challenges of global citizenship. The authors anticipate extensive use of ICCS 2022 data by secondary researchers, potentially leading to thematic reports and country-specific insights. The IEA’s preparations for ICCS 2027 are underway, with considerations for the increasing impacts of climate change, global interconnectedness, digital technologies, armed conflicts, and a potential focus on conflict resolution and human rights.

Read the full report:

Education for Citizenship in Times of Global Challenge: IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study 2022 International Report, by Wolfram Schulz, John Ainley, Julian Fraillon, Bruno Losito, Gabriella Agrusti, Valeria Damiani and Tim Friedman, IEA (2023).