ICCS (International Civic and Citizenship Education Study)

An educational study that aims to investigate the ways in which young people are prepared to undertake their roles as citizens in the 21st century.

ICCS Publications, Key Findings and Data

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report. For links to New Zealand ICCS publications please refer to the 'Related Pages' inset box (top right). For further ICCS information please refer to the 'Where to find out More' inset box (right). To download international ICCS reports please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box (below right).


The Ministry of Education's Comparative Education Research Unit is New Zealand's National Study Centre for ICCS.

Key Facts : ICCS in New Zealand

When:      Main survey data for Southern Hemisphere countries was collected between October and December 2008.

Who:        Around 3,900 Year 9 students, 1,400 Year 9 teachers and 120 principals from a random sample of 146 schools across New Zealand.

What:       Civic and citizenship education (part of the Social Sciences curriculum in New Zealand).

How:        Conducted under the auspices of the IEA; managed within New Zealand by the Ministry of Education.

Where:     38 countries around the world.

The ICCS data collection has several key components:

  • Cognitive tests of students' knowledge, conceptual understanding and competencies in civic and citizenship education.
  • Background student questionnaires to collect information about student activities, attitudes and behaviours relating to civics and citizenship.
  • Teachers and principals completed questionnaires to provide a background context to civic and citizenship education in their schools and classrooms.
  • Participating countries completed a survey to describe the national context for civic and citizenship education in their country.

ICCS is conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), which is also responsible for other international studies such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

The study builds on previous IEA studies of civic education, particularly the 1999 Civic Education Study (CIVED). New Zealand participated in the first civic education study in 1971 but did not take part in the CIVED study. A major advantage of international studies of student achievement is that results can be compared across all participating countries.

About Civic and Citizenship Education

Civic and citizenship education (CCE) is part of the New Zealand social sciences curriculum and is central to the principles, values and key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum. CCE helps our students become active, informed, and responsible citizens – all essential skills to be successful in the 21st Century.

In CCE students typically learn about the roles, rights and responsibilities of citizens, how the state is governed, how decisions are made and what influences them. CCE also covers principles such as equality, freedom and social connectedness and looks at how we can participate in communities. ICCS looks at students' knowledge, understanding, attitudes and perceptions of these areas.

New Zealand Key Findings

  • In October/November 2008, almost 4,000 New Zealand Year 9 students, 1,400 teachers of Year 9 students and 122 principals from 146 schools participated in ICCS. A combination of cognitive test items and background questionnaires examined students' knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and activities relating to CCE.
  • It should be noted that New Zealand's participation in ICCS took place prior to the implementation of the new curriculum in February 2010, and that ICCS data collection took place around the same time as the 2008 New Zealand general election.
  • New Zealand students significantly outperform the international average on civic knowledge. New Zealand's average score on the civic knowledge scale was 517, which was significantly above the international average of 500 score points.
  • The four top-performing countries were Finland, Denmark, Republic of Korea and Chinese Taipei. New Zealand's average score was similar to England, Slovenia, Norway and Belgium (Flemish). While it was not reported in this publication, New Zealand's average civic knowledge score was significantly below 10 other participating countries and significantly above 16 countries.
  • However, within the 21 participating OECD countries, New Zealand's performance can only be regarded as average. New Zealand's average civic knowledge score was significantly above only five other OECD countries (Austria, Chile, Greece, Luxembourg and Mexico).
  • Thirty-five percent of New Zealand students achieved scores at the highest proficiency level (Level 3) compared with an average of 28 percent across all ICCS countries. At the other end of the scale, 14 percent of New Zealand students had scores below proficiency Level 1 compared with the international average of 16 percent.
  • It should be noted that Australia, Canada and the United States did not participate in ICCS, which reduces the scope for evaluating our own performance against countries with similar education systems to New Zealand.
  • Across all countries including New Zealand, girls typically achieved at a higher level than boys in civic knowledge. The average for New Zealand girls was 532 points compared with 501 for New Zealand boys. This gender difference (31) was larger than the international average difference of 22 score points.
  • This report also presents some initial findings on student attitudes, behaviours and activities relating to CCE. Like other ICCS countries, New Zealand Year 9 students generally agreed with positive statements about gender equality and disagreed with those that were not supportive of gender equality. Female students tended to be more positive towards gender equality than male students.
  • Students were asked to rate their level of trust in a number of different institutions. Over two-thirds (68 percent) of New Zealand students trusted schools "completely or quite a lot" which was slightly lower than the ICCS country average of 75 percent. Trust in central government was 66 percent and 42 percent in political parties, about the same as other countries on average. Only 49 percent of New Zealand students trusted the media, which was significantly lower than the ICCS average of 61 percent.
  • New Zealand students were significantly more likely to express a preference for a particular political party than ICCS students on average. Two-thirds of New Zealand students expressed a preference for a political party, compared with around half of students across all countries. New Zealand was one of only a few countries where one-quarter or more of the students reported a high level of support for a particular political party (note that the questionnaire does not ask students to name political parties). However New Zealand students expressed only average levels of interest in political and social issues.
  • Most New Zealand Year 9 students expect to vote in national elections when they are adults (84%). Civic knowledge was much higher among New Zealand students who expected to vote as adults; 'potential voters' scored over 80 points higher on average than 'potential non-voters'. The 'potential voters' group also showed higher levels of interest in political and social issues than the 'potential non-voter' group. Note that the ICCS data collection took place around the same time as the 2008 New Zealand general election.
  • ICCS asked students for their views on classroom climate. New Zealand students scored significantly above the international average on an index of perceptions of classrooms as open forums for discussion. For example, New Zealand students were more likely than the average student across all countries to report that they were encouraged to express their opinions, bring up points for discussion and make up their own minds about issues.
  • Three-quarters of New Zealand teachers thought that the most important aim of CCE was to promote students' critical and independent thinking, compared with only half of all teachers across the ICCS countries.
  • The findings support the New Zealand Curriculum's overall purpose and the approach New Zealand has taken to integrate civics and citizenship into appropriate curriculum areas, particularly social sciences. Note that New Zealand's participation in ICCS took place prior to the implementation of the new curriculum in February 2010.

Related Pages

Where to find out more

Contact Us

For queries about the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) please email the: ICCS Mailbox