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The role of the education system for civic knowledge achievement in 15 OECD countries

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


Why are some education systems more effective in producing high levels of civic knowledge than others? Applying hierarchical linear models to data from the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) 2016, this study identifies education system features that explain varying degrees of civic knowledge in OECD countries. High and equally distributed levels of civic knowledge in society are a fundamental prerequisite for the functioning of democracy. There is scholarly consensus that the education systems since their early days have played a major role for civic and citizenship education. The knowledge of how they can contribute to high levels of civic knowledge across all parts of society is however still scarce. A first step of the analyses shows that OECD countries strongly differ in the levels of civic knowledge among high schoolers but also in the degree to which civic knowledge achievement is dependent on students family backgrounds. While civic knowledge in all countries is to a certain degree determined by family backgrounds, some education systems perform better in reducing the civic knowledge gap between students from different social backgrounds. But what are the key features in the education system, that are responsible for these cross-national differences? The results of this study show that several education system conditions have an impact on civic knowledge achievement of students from various social backgrounds: A strong private school sector and tracking by performance diminish civic knowledge especially among students from highly educated family backgrounds. A strong culture of discussing political issues in the classroom and an integration of civic issues into the curricula of other school subjects have positive impacts on civic knowledge achievement among students from all social backgrounds. A high teacher qualification in secondary education is particularly beneficial for students from less educated families and is therefore a means to reduce social inequality of civic knowledge. Other education policies such as the variety of civic education curricula contents or the weekly instruction time do not have the expected impact. Overall, the study shows that education policy can moderate the accessibility of civic knowledge across all parts of society.


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