How much do school children know about their rights and responsibilities, and has Australia improved in educating its children on civics and citizenship? The 2016 National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship report reveals the answer. (AAP: Dan Peled)
A new report has found that about two-thirds of Year 10 students do not have the basic knowledge required to become informed and active citizens in Australia’s democracy, a result that Education Minister Simon Birmingham has described as “woeful”.
Civics and citizenship education is a component of the Australian curriculum that measures students’ understanding and knowledge of Australia’s system of government, historical and current governance practices, diversity and multiculturalism, and awareness of Australian identity and culture.
RMIT ABC Fact Check provides a quick summary the nature of the assessment, and the main findings.
What is the civics and citizenship assessment?
The 2016 National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship, which comprises a test and a survey, has been conducted every three years since 2004.
Example test question for Year 6 students, 67 per cent of whom answered it correctly. (ACARA)
The latest assessment was undertaken in October and November 2016 by 10,400 students drawn from a sample group of Year 6 and Year 10 students from schools across Australia.
The test section of the assessment focuses on students’ knowledge and understanding of civics and citizenship.
The survey section collects data on their attitudes and values, and the extent to which they participate in civic and citizenship activities.
How is it marked?
The test ranks six levels of achievement (below 1 to 5).
Two standards for proficiency, one each for Year 6 and Year 10, are used as key performance measures, with the “proficient” standard representing a “challenging but reasonable” expectation of student achievement.
The assessment is managed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).
Example test question for Year 10 students, 65 per cent of whom answered it correctly.
What the 2016 civics and citizenship assessment found
1. Sixty-two per cent of Year 10 students failed to reach the proficient standard for that year level — the largest percentage since the civics and citizenship assessment was introduced in 2004.
This result is a decline of six percentage points from the previous round of testing in 2013, a steep downturn in Year 10 performance.
By way of comparison, 56 per cent of students failed to reach the proficient standard in 2013, and 51 per cent failed to reach it in 2010.
The situation was worse before that. Fifty-eight per cent failed to reach the proficient standard in 2007 and 61 per cent failed in 2004.
So, apart from a slight improvement in 2010 and 2013, the latest results are in line with those of 2004 and 2007.
The latest results were described by Mr Birmingham as “woeful” and “of serious concern”.
Nationally, the percentage of year 10 students who did not meet the proficient standard has increased since 2010
2. Year 6 students fared better, with 45 per cent of students failing to reach the proficient standard for that year level.
This is similar to the standard attained in four previous assessment cycles: 48 per cent (2010 and 2013), 47 per cent (2007) and 50 per cent (2004).
Nationally, the percentage of year 6 students who did not meet the proficient standard has decreased slightly since 2010
3. The NT was the worst performing jurisdiction with 66 per cent of Year 6 students and 77 per cent of Year 10 students failing to reach the proficient standard.
4. The ACT was the best performing jurisdiction, with 59 per cent of Year 6 students and 46 per cent of Year 10 students achieving at or above the proficient standard.
5. Nationally, girls in both year levels performed significantly better than boys.
In Year 6, six out of 10 girls reached the proficient standard, versus five in 10 boys.
For Year 10 students, the percentages were 42 and 35 respectively. This represents a significant decline in the performance of both boys and girls compared to the previous two assessment cycles in 2010 and 2013.
6. Among Year 10 students, those born in Australia outperformed those born overseas. The difference, although considered “significant”, was small. There was no significant difference in performance between Year 6 students born in Australia and those born overseas.
7. Among both year levels, students strongly endorsed the idea that Australia benefitted greatly from having people from many cultures and backgrounds (84 per cent), and that immigrants should be encouraged to keep their cultural traditions and languages (84 per cent).
8. Approximately 40 per cent of Year 10 students endorsed the notion that Australia would become less peaceful as more people from different backgrounds came to live here and that having people from many different cultures and backgrounds made it difficult for a country to be united.
9. The police and the law courts were civic institutions most trusted by students in both Year 6 and Year 10. The least trusted were social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram, and media more broadly, including TV, radio and newspapers.
Example test question, answered correctly by 24 per cent of Year 6 students and 50 per cent of Year 10 students.
10. Approximately half of all students viewed discussing politics as an important citizenship activity.
11. Voting in elections and making a personal effort to protect natural resources, such as water, were rated as the most important “citizenship behaviours”. Discussing politics was viewed as least important.
12. Across both year levels, about nine out of 10 students supported the idea that Australia should support the cultural traditions and languages of Indigenous Australians.