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Discovering civic knowledge, 
attitudes and engagement

Discovering civic knowledge, 
attitudes and engagement

Research 3 minute read
ACER and partners release findings from the largest international study on civic and citizenship education ever conducted.

Findings from the largest international study on civic and citizenship education ever conducted reveal that, despite the realm of politics being dominated worldwide by men, girls in lower secondary education have on average higher levels of knowledge and understanding of civics and citizenship than boys.

The International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS 2009) aimed to determine how well prepared students are to be citizens in a fast-changing world and how much they have learned about civic issues through their formal education. It reported on students’ civic knowledge, as well as student attitudes and engagement related to civic and citizenship education.

Teacher and school questionnaires gathered information about the context in which civic and citizenship education is taught, including reports on teaching and learning in this area, as well as on school governance and school climate. A national context survey collected information about the provision of civic and citizenship education in each participating country.

In cooperation with the National Foundation for Educational Research in the United Kingdom and the Laboratorio di Pedagogia sperimentale  at the Roma Tre University in Italy, ACER acted as the International Study Centre for ICCS 2009, conducting the study under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). ACER’s Dr John Ainley and Dr Wolfram Schulz acted as project coordinator and research director respectively.

The study involved more than 140 000 students in their eighth year of schooling and 62 000 teachers from more than 5000 schools from 38 countries. The main survey was conducted in 2008 in countries following a southern hemisphere school calendar and in 2009 in those with a northern hemisphere school calendar.
A report on the initial findings was released in June 2010. It found:

Different approaches to civic and citizenship education are evident in the participating countries. These approaches include providing a specific subject for this learning area, integrating civic-related content into other subjects and including citizenship content as a cross-curricular theme.
Students from Finland, Denmark, Korea and Chinese Taipei showed the strongest results in civic knowledge.
Substantial gaps in achievement were found between the higher and lower achieving countries as well as within countries.
In almost all countries, girls outperformed boys in their knowledge and understanding of civics and citizenship.
Fifteen participating countries had taken part in a previous IEA study of civic education, known as CIVED, in 1999. In seven of those 15 countries, there has been a significant decline in civic content knowledge since 1999. In only one (Slovenia) has there been a significant increase.
A strong endorsement of gender equality was found. However, females were more supportive of gender equality than males in all participating countries.

Since the release of the initial findings, an extended international report and a technical report have also been published. The international database of results and accompanying user guide were released to the public in 2011 to allow further analyses. Regional reports released for Europe in 2010 and Latin America in 2011 address issues of civic and citizenship education of special interest in these parts of the world. A regional report for Asia will be released in 2012, as will an encyclopaedia on the approaches to civic and citizenship education in all participating countries.

Preparations have already begun on the next implementation of ICCS, scheduled for 2016.

Find out more:
Further information about ICCS is available from <>