ERIC Identifier: ED435585
Publication Date: 1999-12-00
Author: Torney-Purta, Judith - Schwille, John - Amadeo, Jo-Ann
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science
Education Bloomington IN.
The IEA Civic Education Study: Expectations and Achievements of
Students in Thirty Countries. ERIC Digest.
What are adolescents expected to know about democratic practices and
institutions? How do societies convey a sense of national identity? What are
young people taught about diversity and social cohesion? In short, what
expectations do democratic societies hold for the development of political
knowledge, skills, and attitudes among young people? And how does a country's
political or economic situation influence these notions of citizenship and
democracy? These questions were examined by researchers from countries in
Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Australia during the first phase of
the IEA Civic Education Study. The International Association for the Evaluation
of Educational Achievement (IEA) is a consortium of educational research
institutes in 53 countries (headquartered in Amsterdam). This Digest treats the
origins, purposes, and methods of the IEA Civic Education Study.
In 1971, IEA conducted a study of
civic education in nine countries including the U.S., Finland, Israel, Italy,
and Germany (Torney, Oppenheim, and Farnen 1975). In the next decade and a half,
interest in research on civic education declined. The early 1990s, however, saw
several attempts to revive research about political socialization and civic
education among political scientists (Niemi and Hepburn 1995) and psychologists
(Haste and Torney-Purta 1992). A National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP) took place in 1998 (Patrick 1997), and at the end of the decade a
reanalysis of the 1988 NAEP data appeared (Niemi and Junn 1998). In 1993, the
General Assembly of IEA decided to mount an ambitious two-phase study of civic
education, the first phase more qualitative and the second more quantitative.
THE IEA CIVIC EDUCATION STUDY OF THE 1990s.
The goal of the current IEA Civic Education Study is to identify and examine
in a comparative framework the ways in which young people are prepared for their
roles as citizens in democracies and societies aspiring to democracy. The study
focuses on the school but is not restricted to the formal curriculum. For
purposes of the study, subjects related to civics are defined to include
history, geography, government, and mother tongue studies (and religion in some
countries). There are also attempts to foster citizenship across the curriculum
without tying it to a specific subject.
Both phases of the study were designed to provide information regarding 15
questions of interest to policymakers and educators. For example, "what is the
status of citizenship education as an explicit goal for schools?"
Three content domains are covered in the study: "Democracy, Democratic
Institutions and Citizenship," "National Identity and International Relations,"
and "Social Cohesion and Diversity" (including an understanding of
discrimination). These domains were chosen through vote by the study's National
The following countries participated in both phases of this study: Australia,
Belgium (French), Bulgaria, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, England, Finland,
Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal,
Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United States. In addition,
Canada and the Netherlands participated only in Phase 1. The following countries
participated only in Phase 2: Chile, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia,
Norway, Slovak Republic, and Sweden.
The first and more qualitative phase of the study relied on national research
coordinators in each country interviewing experts on civic education about
expectations for adolescents. Researchers also analyzed curriculum frameworks,
national standards, and textbooks. Focus groups were used in some countries.
These data were summarized in answers to 18 "Case Study Framing Questions" on
the expectations for student learning about topics such as elections, individual
rights and obligations, national identity, relations with other nations,
political parties, civil society, the role of the media, local problems, and
links between economics and politics.
The first publication from the study, "Civic Education across Countries:
Twenty-four National Case Studies from the IEA Civic Education Project"
(Torney-Purta, Schwille, and Amadeo 1999) provides chapter-length summaries of
these national case studies. An introductory chapter describes the study's
theoretical framework and summarizes a dozen themes identified across countries,
including the following:
* There is a common core of content topics across countries in civic
* There is unanimity among the authors of the national case studies that
civic education should be based on important content that crosses disciplines,
and that it should be "participative, interactive, related to life, conducted in
a non-authoritarian environment, cognizant of the challenges of societal
diversity, and co-constructed with parents, the community, and non-governmental
organizations, as well as the school" (Torney-Purta, Schwille, and Amadeo 1999,
30). No country, however, has achieved these goals for all students.
* In all these countries there are courses designated to have specific
responsibilities in this area, only some of which bear the label "civics." The
goals of civic education are also addressed throughout the curriculum, the
entire school day, and the cultures of the school and classroom. Out-of-school
influences play a major role, too.
* There is a widely perceived gap between the goals for democracy expressed
in the curriculum and the reality of the society and school. Implementing
ambitious programs has been difficult, and there is concern about teacher
* Although educators often try to convey the excitement of the political
process and the importance of participation, students frequently show a general
disdain for politics. To counteract these tendencies, some countries employ
student-generated projects or encourage youth to volunteer in their communities.
* Social diversity is an area where there is tremendous concern in nearly all
of these nations, without much sense of the best direction for program
The national case studies contributed to the design of instruments for Phase
2 of the study, in which approximately 120,000 students age 14 and 17-18 from
nationally representative samples were tested during 1999. The International
Coordinating Center is at the Humboldt University of Berlin.
The instruments are not limited to the cognitive domain. It was nevertheless
a priority to build a keyable test that was strong psychometrically and
represented content that participating countries thought important. Over a
two-year period, 38 multiple choice items measuring knowledge and skills (for
14-year-olds tested in 30 countries) and 42 items for an upper secondary
population (tested in ten countries) were chosen from a pool of 140 items
matched to the expectations for learning about democratic principles and issues
cross-nationally. For both age groups there are also measures of students'
concepts of democracy and citizenship, and scales assessing attitudes, that do
not have correct answers.
Perhaps most importantly, items measuring political engagement and reported
behaviors -- actions and community service which the adolescent could
perform--were included. Students were asked to which organizations they belonged
and what political actions they expected to undertake as adults.
Finally, the study examines the influences of both fact-based instruction and
the climate for expressing opinions in the classroom, as well as opportunities
for participation in student government and in other organizations. In addition,
it takes account of out-of-school influences such as the family or the media
which may either reinforce or compete with what is presented in school. Teacher
and School Questionnaires were also administered.
The Phase 2 Release Report, including basic tables and comparative analysis,
will be made available to the press and the public in early 2001.
The recently enhanced interest in civic
education programs across the world has not been matched by extensive evaluation
or research. The IEA Civic Education Study, which is the collaborative work of
researchers in more than 30 countries, takes a substantial step toward filling
that gap. The initial publication of the current IEA Civic Education Study, "Civic Education across Countries: Twenty-four National Case Studies from the
IEA Civic Education Project" (622 pages), is available from IEA (Amsterdam) or
the National Council for the Social Studies (IEA's U.S. distributor). To order,
call toll-free 1-800-683-0812 (#409501). The price of a single copy is $33.
References and ERIC Resources.
The following list of resources includes references used to prepare this
Digest. The items followed by an ED number are available in microfiche and/or
paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information
about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield,
Virginia 22153-2852; telephone numbers are (703) 440-1400 and (800) 443-3742.
Entries followed by an EJ number, annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS
IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through EDRS. However, they can be
located in the journal section of most larger libraries by using the
bibliographic information provided, requested through Interlibrary Loan, or
ordered from commercial reprint services.
Haste, Helen, and Judith Torney-Purta, Eds. THE DEVELOPMENT OF POLITICAL
UNDERSTANDING. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1992.
Niemi, Richard, and Jane Junn. CIVIC EDUCATION: WHAT MAKES STUDENTS LEARN?
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
Niemi, Richard, and Mary Hepburn. "The Rebirth of Political Socialization."
PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE 24 (Winter 1995): 7-16. EJ 515 395.
Patrick, John J. THE FRAMEWORK FOR THE NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATIONAL
PROGRESS IN CIVICS. ERIC Digest. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social
Studies/Social Science Education, 1997. ED 410 179.
Torney, Judith and Others. CIVIC EDUCATION IN TEN COUNTRIES. New York:
Halsted Press of John Wiley, 1975. ED 132 059.
Torney-Purta, Judith, John Schwille, and Jo-Ann Amadeo. CIVIC EDUCATION
ACROSS COUNTRIES: TWENTY-FOUR NATIONAL CASE STUDIES FROM THE IEA CIVIC EDUCATION
PROJECT. Amsterdam: IEA and Washington, D.C.: National Council for the Social
Studies, 1999. ------