Tag Archives: Australian Curriculum

Schools are not adequately preparing young Australians to participate in our democracy

The Conversation

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As young Australians approach voting age they need simple, clear and practical instructions about the mechanics of how government works and how to vote. Shutterstock

Zareh Ghazarian, Monash University; Jacqueline Laughland-Booy, Monash University, and Zlatko Skrbis, Monash University

Australia’s youth are interested in politics and are passionate about issues but, unless we take note of the latest report into civics and citizenship education, their capacity to participate in democracy and shape society in future may be limited.

Since 2004, the National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship (NAP-CC) has been administered every three years to a national sample of year six and ten students. It’s used to measure students’ level of knowledge about subjects including Australian government, judiciary and democratic processes, and explores their attitudes towards civic participation.

The 2016 NAP-CC report has just been released and the results show some concerning, but familiar, trends.

As with previous assessments, the percentage of Australian students achieving the proficient standard remains low. This is a point on a scale that represents what has been deemed as a challenging but reasonable expectation of student achievement for their year level.

The report shows 55% of year 6 students achieved at or above the standard.

More problematic is the fact the rate of year 10 students attaining this standard was just 38%. This is the lowest result on record.


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Civics and citizenship is a government priority

Enhancing young people’s understanding of civics and citizenship has been a priority for successive Australian governments.

The Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship was developed in 2012/2013 to provide educators with tools to teach students about democracy and civic participation. This curriculum is delivered to students from Year 3 to Year 10. It’s based on the principle that informed and committed citizens will advance a robust democracy and schools play a vital role in preparing young people for the responsibilities of adult citizenship.


Read more: National curriculum review: experts respond


This latest report into civics and citizenship education is the first opportunity for educators to see how students are performing under the new curriculum, and the results are disappointing. It shows by Year 10, Australian school students don’t possess the fundamentals deemed necessary to become active, informed citizens.

So what else should be done to help prepare our young people to participate in the democratic process?

What do young people think?

We have been undertaking research with recent school leavers aged 18 and 19 about their preparedness to participate in the Australian political process.

Many have told us they’re interested in political issues, but are uncertain about how the system works.

They also believe more could’ve been done to address this knowledge deficit while they were in school.


Read more: Young Australians are engaged in political issues, but unsure how democracy works


These high school graduates reported, while they could recall the subject being covered when they were in primary and early secondary school, they did not remember what had been taught.

The young people we spoke to suggested civics and citizenship education be extended through to Year 12. Interestingly, they wanted it to be viewed more as a life skill (similar to drug and alcohol education, for example) and not an academic subject.

They said young people need support when they’re approaching voting age and it would be useful for schools to assist with enrolment and provide basic information about the system of voting.

As one 18-year-old put it:

The last time that my high school spoke about politics I was in Year 9. I was 14 years old. I’m not voting yet, it’s not relevant to me, I’m not even 16. I can’t even go to the doctors by myself.

A simple and clear explanation in late high school would help alleviate the feelings of uncertainty first-time voters can experience when they go to cast a vote at the ballot box.

As another 18-year-old said about her peers:

So many of my friends said to me, “which box do I tick?” and, “what do you mean I have to go above the line and below the line?”. Basic definitions and terminology is really important.

Where to from here?

The 2016 National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship report tells us by Year 10, a majority of school students have little knowledge about Australian civics and democracy. This is concerning, especially as many students don’t encounter the topic later in high school, yet they will be required to vote when they turn 18.

We need to ensure all young people have the basic skills required to engage in Australia’s political process. As young Australians approach voting age they need simple, clear and practical instructions about the mechanics of how government works and how to vote.

The ConversationSchool is the best place to teach this and it should be covered in the senior years. Doing so would help more young people become confident and empowered participants in Australia’s democracy.

Zareh Ghazarian, Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Monash University; Jacqueline Laughland-Booy, Research Associate in Sociology, Monash University, and Zlatko Skrbis, Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Most young Australians can’t identify fake news online

The Conversation

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Media education opportunities should be more frequently available in schools to ensure young Australians meaningfully engage with news media. Shutterstock

Tanya Notley, Western Sydney University and Michael Dezuanni, Queensland University of Technology

In September 2017, we conducted Australia’s first nationally representative survey focused on young Australians’ news engagement practices.

Our survey of 1,000 young Australians aged eight to 16 indicated that while roughly one third felt they could distinguish fake news from real news, one third felt they could not make this distinction. The other third were uncertain about their ability.

In part, we were motivated by the gravity of recent academic and public claims about the impact of the spread of “fake news” via social media – although we are well aware of arguments about the credibility and accuracy of the term “fake news”. In our study, we classified fake news as news that is deliberately misleading.

What we found

Age plays a role here. As children get older, they feel more confident about telling fake news from real news. 42% of Australian teens aged 13-16 reported being able to tell fake news from real news, compared with 27% of children aged 8-12.


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We found young Australians are not inclined to verify the accuracy of news they encounter online. Only 10% said they often tried to work out whether a story presented on the internet is true. A significant number indicated they sometimes tried to verify the truthfulness of news (36%). More than half indicated they either hardly ever tried (30%) or never tried to do this (24%).


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We also asked young Australians how much attention they pay to thinking about the origin of news stories, particularly those they access online. More than half indicated they paid at least some attention or a lot of attention to the source of news stories (54%). However, 32% said they paid very little attention and 14% said they paid no attention at all.

To us, the circulation of fake news on social media is troubling, given what we know about how social media platforms create news filter bubbles that reinforce existing worldviews and interests.

Even more concerning, though, is the way many social media platforms allow people with vested interests to push content into feeds after paying to target people based on their age, location or gender, as well as their status changes, search histories and the content they have liked or shared.

There is often no transparency about why people are seeing particular content on their social media feeds or who is financing this content. Furthermore, much online content is made by algorithms and “bots” (automated accounts, rather than real people) that respond to trends in posts and searches in order to deliver more personalised and targeted content and advertising.

Where are young Australians getting their news?

Given these concerns, we used our survey to ask just how much news young Australians get through social media.

With all the hype around young people’s mobile and internet use, it might come as a surprise that social media did not emerge as their top news source and nor is it their most preferred.

80% of young Australians said they had consumed news from at least one source in the day before the survey was conducted. Their most frequent source was family members (42%), followed by television (39%), teachers (23%), friends (22%), social media (22%), and radio (17%). Print newspapers trailed a distant last (7%).

However, this is not to diminish the significance of young people’s use of social media to consume news. Two-thirds of teens said they often or sometimes accessed news on social media (66%) and more than one third of children stated they did so (33%).

For teens, Facebook was by far the most popular social media site for getting news with over half (51%) using it for this purpose. For children, YouTube was by far the social media platform used most for news. 37% got news from this site.


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What should we be doing?

There is no doubt that legal and regulatory changes are needed to address the issue of fake news online.

However, education must also play a critical role. Media education opportunities should be more frequently available in schools to ensure young Australians meaningfully engage with news media.

Media Arts in the Australian Curriculum is one of the world’s only official systematic media literacy policies for children in preschool to year 10, but it is being under-used. Our survey suggests only one in five young Australians received lessons in the past year to help them critically analyse news, and only one third had made their own news stories at school.

The curriculum also needs to ensure young people understand the politics, biases and commercial imperatives embedded in technologies, platforms and digital media.

The ConversationOur survey shows that young people are consuming lots of news online. However, many are not critiquing this news or they don’t know how to. The implications of this are not necessarily self-evident or immediate, but they may be very wide reaching by influencing young people’s capacity to participate in society as well-informed citizens.

Tanya Notley, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media, Western Sydney University and Michael Dezuanni, Associate professor, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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