Participating and contributing? The role of school and community in supporting civic and citizenship education

Publication Details

This report is the fourth in a series based on the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS), which was undertaken in New Zealand in 2008. It focuses on the role of the school and the community in civic and citizenship education.

Author(s): Rachel Bolstad, New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Date Published: July 2012

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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). Although New Zealand took part in ICCS before NZC was mandated in 2010, the findings are relevant to current civic and citizenship teaching and learning. The participating and contributing key competency and the community and participation for the common good value of NZC are particularly relevant to the findings of this report.

ICCS shows that principals and teachers of Year 9 students see civic and citizenship education as having broad aims. They are likely to select promoting students’ critical and independent thinking as one of the most important aims. In addition, they view the school experience as a whole to be a significant factor in developing students’ civic and citizenship competencies, even though civic and citizenship education has a particular focus in social studies and related subjects.

Principals were asked about student participation in the co-curriculum — those activities undertaken in the school environment, but beyond formal classroom teaching and learning. Students’ co-curricular participation largely comprised sports and cultural activities, with fundraising and engagement with communities on social or environmental issues less common.

Most schools had some form of student representation, with students able to elect peers on school councils or boards of trustees. However, staff and students were likely to have different views on the extent to which student opinion is taken into account. Students were much less likely to think their views were considered on extra-curricular activities and classroom and school rules.

Most students believed they could express a range of opinions in their classrooms, and teachers thought so too. However, teachers were very unlikely to report that most of their Year 9 students suggest class activities, propose topics for discussion or negotiate learning objectives with the teacher.

Year 9 teachers address civic and citizenship education largely through exploring different perspectives on issues. They focus more on social justice issues such as gender equity and care for the environment, and less on civic institutions.
Most Year 9 students (60%) stay informed about political and social issues through watching television, but other ways are much less common. Nearly half of Year 9 students had been involved with collecting money for a social cause, and other types of involvement with social, political, cultural or religious groups were less common. The 2008 general election took place during the period of data collection in New Zealand, and this is likely to have influenced students’ responses to some questions, particularly those relating to political issues. 

Civic and citizenship education literature indicates that there is a wide range of ideas about citizenship. Some authors identify at least three quite different views of what a “good” citizen should be: the personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen or the justice-oriented citizen. The ICCS findings indicate that the practice in New Zealand Year 9 classes aligns most with the personal responsibility and, to a lesser extent, the participatory models of citizenship. ICCS found less evidence that justice-oriented citizenship is a widespread goal of civic and citizenship education in New Zealand schools.

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