What do our students think about New Zealand, democracy and freedom?

Publication Details

This is the second of a series of publications based on the results of the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS). It focuses on the view of Year 9 students on New Zealand and its institutions, and on issues of democracy, freedom, equal rights and religion within the context of civic and citizenship education.

Author(s): Paul Satherley, Research, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: November 2011

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Executive Summary

Civic and citizenship education is a topic embedded in the principles, values and key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). ICCS explored dimensions of student civic knowledge and values that link to the NZC key competencies and learning areas. Although New Zealand took part in ICCS before the NZC was mandated in 2010, the findings are relevant to current civics and citizenship teaching and learning.

The results show that a large majority of Year 9 students viewed New Zealand and its key institutions and symbols positively, including having pride in and respect for New Zealand, its political system and its flag. Nearly two-thirds of students agreed or strongly agreed with the personal importance of the Treaty of Waitangi. Although 84% of Year 9 Māori students agreed or strongly agreed that the Treaty of Waitangi is personally important, the percentage was less among Pasifika students (75%), and markedly less among Pākehā/European students (60%) and Asian students (53%).

The armed forces and the police were the New Zealand institutions in which the largest proportion of students had complete trust. Political parties and the media had the largest proportion of students not trusting them at all.

Almost all students agreed or strongly agreed with rights of freedom of expression, respect for social and political rights, free elections, being allowed to protest about laws believed to be unfair, and that political protest should not be violent. Students with greater civic knowledge were more likely to support democratic freedoms.

A large majority of students expressed support for equal rights for men and women, but girls’ support for gender rights was much stronger than boys.

Year 9 students strongly supported equal rights for different ethnic groups. This includes access to good education, equal opportunities to get good jobs, that schools should teach students to respect members of all ethnic groups, and that members of all ethnic groups should have the same rights and responsibilities. Similar proportions of Pākehā/European and Pasifika students supported equal ethnic group rights. A slightly larger proportion of Asian students than their Pākehā/European and Pasifika peers supported equal ethnic group rights. However, a smaller proportion of Māori students supported equal ethnic group rights.

A large majority of students supported immigrants’ rights to speak their own language, to continue their customs, and to have opportunities for education and voting. The strength of agreement on immigrant rights was strongly associated with students’ own immigrant status: immigrant students supported immigrant rights much more strongly than their non-immigrant peers. Students with greater civic knowledge were more likely to support equal rights for gender, ethnic and immigrant groups.

More than three-quarters of Year 9 students supported religion having a place in the modern world.

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