How Are Young Australians Learning About Politics at School?: The Student Perspective

Abstract

In order to confidently participate in the democratic process, citizens from liberal democracies require knowledge about how their nation’s system of politics and government functions. For the past 30 years, successive Australian governments have endeavoured to educate school students about the political system via a civics and citizenship curriculum. Despite this, official data suggests that current approaches may not be providing young Australians with the level of understanding they require to be active and informed citizens. In this paper, we present a study of Australian school leavers who were interviewed about the civics and citizenship education they received while at school. The first-hand experiences of these young people have enabled us to highlight potential problems with how the curriculum is being delivered and identify ways of improving the political knowledge of young people.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hereafter, the terms ‘young people’ and ‘young citizens’ refer to individuals living in liberal democracies who are aged between 18 and 25.

  2. 2.

    While there have been a range of valuable resources produced by governments and authorities over recent years (such as the Parliamentary Education Office and state and national electoral commissions), it is still up to teachers to decide the extent to which these resources are used in class.

  3. 3.

    The proficient standard is defined by ACARA as ‘a challenging but reasonable expectation of student achievement at that year level (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, p.xv)’.

  4. 4.

    In Australia, government schools are primarily funded by the states and territories. Private and Catholic schools receive funding from private sources (schools fees paid by parents, religious bodies etc.) and also receive government subsidies.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia for funding the workshop ‘The Informed Voter: Improving the Political Literacy of Young Australians’ held on 22-23 August 2019 at Australian Catholic University, North Sydney, where this paper was first presented.

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Correspondence to Zareh Ghazarian.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Ghazarian, Z., Laughland-Booy, J., De Lazzari, C. et al. How Are Young Australians Learning About Politics at School?: The Student Perspective. JAYS 3, 193–208 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43151-020-00011-7

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Keywords

  • Civics and citizenship
  • Political knowledge
  • Young people
  • First-time voters
  • Australia