Results of the International civic education study
These and many other interesting findings are the results of the International Civic Education Study, a study of the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievements (IEA), in which 90 thousands of 14-year-old pupils from 28 countries took place. Contrary to other studies it didnít focused only to comparison of studentsĎ knowledge and skills with help of a multiple choice test, but through a special questionnaire it tried to examine also their civic attitudes and opinions. In the Czech republic the study was conducted on 148 randomly sampled basic schools and multi-year gymnasia.
Czech pupilsí knowledge and skills in civic education
Czech pupils reached very good results in the knowledge test; pupils from only four countries reached significantly better results Ė Poland, Finland, Cyprus and Greece. Students from Australia, Denmark, Hong-Kong, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Norway, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden and USA showed approximately the same level of knowledge. Pupils of other eleven countries reached significantly worse results in the test than the Czech pupils.
In the knowledge and skills test the Czech pupils of the multi-year gymnasia reached better results than the pupils of the same age firm the basic schools, and the differences between results of these two types of schools are statistically significant. While the average result of the basic school pupils is at the level of the international mean, the result of the gymnasia pupils lies highly above this international mean.
Knowledge, independent thinking or development of values?
Czech pupils reached very good results in the knowledge test. This success was probably affected by the orientation of the instruction in Czech schools, which places the main emphasis on knowledge transfer. More than two thirds of the pupils evaluate the instruction in civic education and history as a exposition of facts and dates, that they have to learn by heart, which is the way how to perform well in these subjects. This finding corresponds with opinion of most of their teachers - they claim that in schools the most emphasis is given to knowledge. At the same time, however, they suppose, that the most emphasised goal should be development of independent thinking and development of values.
It seems that the Czech teachersí vision of the civic education instruction and its goals donít work in fact. Only one quarter of pupils are taught by teachers, who think the civic education instruction is focussed on development of values. Only 18 % of pupils are through the civic education educated towards independent thinking. Although in multi-year gymnasia the instruction orientated towards development of critical thinking concerns more pupils (almost one third), it is still quite small portion.
Very grave finding in this sense is mainly the fact, that only few Czech pupils feel the classroom climate during the civic education and history instruction as open for free discussion or expressing their own opinion. In many classrooms rather certain opinion uniformity is emphasised than a discussion on various opinion. Only 11 % of the Czech pupils stated, that the teachers often encourage pupils to discuss the topics, on which people have different opinion. In comparison with feelings of the pupils in other countries, the Czech pupils feeling concerning opportunity for discussion and free creation and expression of their opinion is very sceptical. It reflects again, however, mainly feeling of the basic schools pupils, because pupils of multi-year gymnasia feel the classroom climate as much more free (above the international mean).
Czech pupils and civic activities
While in the test the Czech pupils showed a level of knowledge, that were above the international mean, their attitude towards civic activities is very passive in comparison with pupils in other countries. Our pupils are relatively little certain of importance of various conventional individual activities as voting, entering a political party or following and discussion on political events. They are a little more convinced about importance of social movement activities, in international comparison, however, this attitude is also below average.
Future civic activity of the pupils is somehow predicted by their contemporary interest in school life and a determination to influence it in active way. Czech pupilsí trust in effectiveness of such activity is, however, much lower than in most of the countries (relatively low is also for example a ratio of Czech pupils participating in student councils and parliaments activities), as well as their low readiness to influence the social or community life in the future through political activities.
Together with some other post-communist countries, the Czech republic belongs to countries, whose pupils also relatively little take part in activities of various civic organisations for youth. Extremely low in international comparison is forgiveness of Czech pupils to collect money for social causes and to take part in other similar activities. On the other hand, they are also relatively little in favour for participating in illegal activities.
It appeared that education towards civic activity is not a goal of the civic education instruction in Czech schools. Only less than 4 % of pupils are taught by teachers, that stated this goal as a priority in their civic education instruction.
Do Czech schools help to educate future voters?
It seems that social environment in the Czech Republic doesnít motivate young people to participate in political and civic activities. Some reserves can be found, however, in a extent, to which our pupils are educated to take over their civic roles in schools. Only 42 % of Czech pupils suppose, that they were enough informed about importance of voting, when only in 5 countries this portion is lower. 65 % of Czech pupils plan probably or definitely to take part in elections in the future. In comparison with other countries this is a very low portion (lower only in Bulgaria and in Switzerland). The multi-year gymansia pupils showed more positive attitude towards their future participation in elections (90 % of them plan to take part in elections in the future) than pupils of basic schools.
Insufficient informing about importance of voting is weak point of the instruction also in the school headmastersí view, as well as the civic education and history teachersí view. 20 % of basic schools pupils and 30 % of multi-year gymnasia pupils receive the civic education instruction from teachers that donít consider voting to be an attribute of a good citizen.
What Czech pupils expect from government and to what extend they trust in its institutions?
Czech pupils, together with the pupils of most of the post-communist countries, showed relatively very low trust in state institutions. As well as pupils in other countries they most trust in courts and police, the least in parliament and first of all in political parties, which are trusted always or at least mostly by only one fifth of Czech pupils.
Czech pupils, as well as pupils in other countries, suppose that government should have certain society-related responsibilities. Czech pupils in this sense expect for the government to ensure peace and order in country (97 % of pupils), providing basic health care and ensuring adequate living conditions to old people (91 %). A little less of the pupils think the government is responsible for providing basic education free (85 %) and for support of citizensí honest and moral behaving (81 %). When treating the level of government responsibility for stated society-related things in general, Czech pupils donít differ in their attitude from an average international attitude, Czech multi-year gymnasia pupils, however, see the governmentís responsibility much higher than basic schools pupils.
The basic schools pupils are, on contrary, stronger supporters of economy-related responsibilities of government (also here their attitude doesnít differ from an international average). They most call for governmental price-control (91 % of pupils) and for ensuring of job for everybody who is interested (88 %). They are less positive about need of government support for unemployed people and support for industrial growth and the least of Czech pupils expect in this sense, that government will decrease income and property differences among people (64 %). In general, as for the government economy interventions, Czech pupils showed more liberal attitude than is common in most of the post-communist countries.
Positive attitude towards nation
Positive attitude towards their country and nation was the only one of the examined attitudes, where the position of Czech pupils was found as significantly over average, mainly thanks to basic schools pupils, whose attitude toward nation was significantly more positive than attitude of their mates from multi-year gymnasia. The basic schools pupils at the same time much more agreed with an opinion, that in school they have learned to be patriotic and loyal citizens.
Opinions towards womenís rights and towards immigrants
In the questionnaires pupils expressed their opinion on equal rights of men and women in political and economical sphere and on rights of immigrants to keep their cultural identity and to be equal citizens of their new country. Czech pupils expressed in comparison with pupils from other countries bellow average support for womenís rights and average attitude towards immigrants, while results of pupils from most of other post-communist countries are internationally significantly bellow average. In case of these two attitudes the biggest gender differences were found, when girls showed much stronger support both for womenís rights and for the rights of immigrants than boys. Multi-year gymnasia pupils then expressed significantly stronger support for womenís rights than basic schools pupils.