Wednesday, 4 May, 2022 - 16:45
School Educational Programs Civics

Young people are increasingly passionate about driving the conversation on issues facing our society – from climate change and mental health, to equity and discrimination.

Last year’s School Strike 4 Climate events – part of a global youth-led movement calling for urgent action on climate change – was testament to the growing ‘voice’ of young Australians, as thousands of students walked out of their classroom to join events around the country.

And yet national research suggests the majority of Year 10 students lack a sound grasp of how to be active and informed citizens.

The NAPLAN survey of Australian students’ knowledge of the core aspects of democracy, civic processes and citizenship rights found that just 38% of Year 10 and 53% of Year 6 students met the benchmark for proficiency in those areas.

Students’ attitudes were gathered through a student survey, which focused on two aspects: attitudes towards civics and citizenship issues and participation in civic activities.

Key findings from the student survey included:

  • A large majority of Year 10 students expressed positive attitudes towards Australian diversity.
  • Approximately nine out of every 10 Year 6 and Year 10 students expressed positive attitudes towards Indigenous cultures.
  • Students were primarily concerned about pollution, climate change and water shortages.
  • Year 10 students who talked about political or social issues with their families or friends, and those that had greater participation in school governance activities or extracurricular civics and citizenship activities, were more likely to have higher levels of NAP–CC achievement.
  • There was widespread agreement among students about the value of taking civic action.


A standout finding of the survey was that students with more interest in civic issues, more confidence to actively engage, or greater belief in the value of civic action had greater intentions to promote important issues in the future.

So how do we encourage our students to become more engaged and involved in civics and citizenship?

The Australian Civics and Citizenship curriculum provides students with the knowledge and skills to understand and participate in democratic processes to improve sustainability for the wellbeing of all life into the future.

Learnings from the curriculum can also be boosted through school activities, school excursions and school camps that focus on personal values and leadership, and the role of government, political and civic engagement.

For example, the Whitlam Institute’s ‘How to Think Big’ school activity for primary school students invites students to think about what they would change if they were Prime Minister. The workshop encourages young people to consider the type of world they would like to inhabit – and empowers them to use their voice to understand how individuals can participate in positive social change.

The ‘How to Make Change’ program is tailored for secondary students and combines an understanding and practice of civic education with the philosophy of positive social change. Students reflect on what makes a good leader, how to employ different styles of political communication and advocacy, and discover what democracy and citizenship means for them. Source:

Educators can also make civics and citizenship learning dynamic and relevant by helping students explore democratic ideas and political processes through role-play, negotiation and problem solving.

The Parliamentary Education office offers a booklet ($2) containing nine experiential learning activities for upper primary and secondary students that are aligned to the Australian Civics and Citizenship Curriculum.

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