Student test scores on democracy plateau

Student test scores on democracy plateau

Despite many young people considering themselves “keenly political”, more than half of senior students lack proficient civics and citizenship knowledge, a new report shows.

The latest National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship (NAP–CC), which tests students’ understanding of Australian democracy, system of government and civil rights, revealed that Australian students’ performance has plateaued when it comes to understanding the importance of our democracy and appreciating our national values.

According to the report, just 38% of Year 10 students reached the proficient standard and 53% of Year 6 students have achieved the benchmark.

While this is not significantly different from the previous cycle in 2016 or the first two cycles in 2004 and 2007, it is significantly lower than the results achieved nationally in 2010 and 2013 (2016 – 38%, 2013 – 44%, 2010 – 49%, 2007 – 42%, 2004 – 39%).

ACARA CEO, David de Carvalho, said while the percentage of Year 10 students achieving proficiency has not changed since 2016, it is considerably lower than in 2013 and 2010.

"The proficient standard is set at a 'challenging but reasonable' level of achievement, linked to the expectations in the Australian Curriculum. The report reveals important insights into students’ understanding and appreciation of democracy, civic processes and institutions, and how they are perceived,” he said.

“It is disappointing that the results suggest our next generation isn’t demonstrating a sufficient level of understanding of the significance and history of our democracy and shared values.”

Fortunately, work is underway to help improve education in this important area.

Education not-for-profit Cool Australia partnered with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to create an 18-lesson unit for Year 7-10 which aims to broaden students’ understanding of democracy and its function throughout history with captivating curriculum for history and civics and citizenship classes.

“Students can never know too much about democracy if they are to become active and informed citizens,” Chris Vella, the head of education at Cool Australia, told The Educator.

“These curriculum linked-resources support students from years 7-10 to building a critical understanding of human rights and responsibilities, and to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills to apply human rights in everyday life”.