15.11.2017 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

Poor performance by youth from Latin American countries in an international study plants challenges in civic and citizenship education

Atilio Pizarro from OREALC/UNESCO Santiago in his presentation on the regional situation.

Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Dominican Republic took part in the study, along with 19 other education systems. Although they did not shine in the world-wide context, young Mexicans and Colombians showed an increase in civic knowledge compared to the last assessment.

Half the students from Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic display no specific knowledge or understanding about civic and citizen institutions, systems and concepts. These are the conclusions at the regional level of the IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS 2016). The five countries had the lowest scores among the 24 education systems analysed.

The data and the challenges that it represents for the region were addressed during the on-line transmission of a regional event to discuss the study, held on 8 November 2017 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) in collaboration with the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago).

ICSS 2016 applied to lower secondary school pupils during 2015, and highlighted changes in each country since 2009. Twenty-four education systems from Asia, America and Europe took part in the study; this is the only large-scale survey to investigate civic skills and attitudes among young people. 

Five countries, different performance levels

Taking the average scores of the 24 education systems in the sample as a whole, two thirds of the pupils were ranked in the two highest performance bands (A and B); in the five participating countries from the Region, however, the average was around 40%.

The performance of the five countries was uneven. Peru and Dominican Republic presented a much higher percentage of pupils in the lowest performance bands (C, D and below D), with more than 60% of pupils in these bands; this contrasted with results from Chile, Colombia and Mexico where the corresponding percentage was 49%. This means that approximately half the pupils from the participating countries in the region display no specific knowledge or understanding about civic and citizen institutions, systems and concepts.

Variation against the previous study, ICCS 2009

These results from the 2016 assessment do not indicate a significant reduction in scores compared to the 2009 assessment (in which Peru did not take part). Colombia achieved an improvement of 20 points in the average score, the 7th largest increase in average score in the whole sample. Mexico also presented a significant increase of 15 points in its average. Dominican Republic (+1) and Chile (-1) presented no significant variation.

Colombia (+10%) and Mexico (+9%) are among the 6 countries in the sample with the greatest increase in the percentage of their pupils ranked in bands A or B. Dominican Republic is in the lower half of the table with an increase of 4%, while Chile's increase of 2% is not significant. Colombia is an especially interesting case among Latin American countries, since the improvement recorded means that over half of its pupils scored in the top two performance bands (52.8%), almost catching up with Chile (53.1%), which is the highest-ranked Latin American country in this category.

In regards to the regional results, Cristián Cox, director of the Comparative Education Policies Centre of Diego Portales University and a member of the assessment committee of the ICCS 2016 Project, commented that this edition of the study is interesting because it raises the question of what happened in school systems in Mexico and Colombia between 2009 and 2015 to cause their remarkable rise in the percentage of pupils ranked in the top performance bands; he added that it would be worth getting experts to explore this question.

Other contextual variations

Gender: While on average the results of the participating countries favoured girls (25 points higher than the average score for boys), in the Latin American countries, Colombia and Peru presented smaller gaps of 9 and 6 points respectively. These results are the more noteworthy considering that 16 of the 24 participating countries presented gaps of at least 20 points. Chile (24), Mexico (21) and Dominican Republic (29) were within the mean range for the international sample.

Immigrants: The average gap in scores between non-immigrant and immigrant populations was 44 points in the sample as a whole. Three of the five Latin American countries presented a larger gap: Mexico (52), Peru (83) and Colombia (116) – this latter had a gap almost 3 times the average for participating countries. Chile (26) and Dominic Republic (23) presented smaller than average gaps. However, the percentage of immigrant pupils is considerably lower in Latin American countries (never more than 3%) as compared with the general average for participating countries (around 7%).

Socio-economic context: Throughout the whole sample, the variable which produced the greatest differences in score was the number of books in the home, average 56 points, while the parents' occupation produced an average gap of 35 points between the two groups. In Latin American countries, the parents' education produced the greatest difference between the two study groups in Chile (58), Dominican Republic (46) and Mexico (45). In Peru the gap was 49 points, but the gap for the number of books in the home was wider. Only Colombia breaks the trend among Latin American countries with a difference of only 19 points when the pupils are separated by parents' education. As in Peru, the variable which generated the widest gap was the number of books in the home.

Other findings

The study showed that in Chile and Peru, young people have very high levels of distrust in the government and the legislative and judicial powers. Wolfram Schulz, research director of ACER's International Surveys Research Program, indicated that this phenomenon can be seen in the context of an increase of civic knowledge in the participating countries in the region, but that there is a negative correlation between greater civic knowledge and active political participation. On this subject, Elisa Salinas of the Chilean Education Quality Agency remarked in her presentation that this lack of confidence can be explained by the greater perception of corruption in these countries, meaning that civic and citizenship education “is a great challenge for our education system.”

These results, among others, show the need to give priority to contents of this kind in the national curricula of countries around the region. “We need education for our citizens, and the teachers are key agents for forming citizens in a plural, interdependent, interconnected world,” stressed Atilio Pizarro of the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago). Pizarro also noted that this approach requires revision of curricula, teaching and learning contents, teaching methods, materials and classroom practices, as well as assessment methodologies and objects, teacher training, career development, leadership and management.

At the same time, he said that “we hope to strengthen and extend strategic alliances to generate comprehensive assessment mechanisms. In the work of the Latin American Laboratory for the Evaluation of Educational Quality (LLECE, coordinated by OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) and the IEA we can recognise ambits for mutual enrichment in order to broaden the contents, cover and impact of these two areas of work, contributing to the common objective of progress in the Education 2030 Agenda.”

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This international event was an opportunity to learn about and discuss the challenges set by Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 (Education) which establishes the Education Agenda for 2030, in particular target 4.7 relating to education for global and local citizenship.

The participants included Dirk Hastedt, Executive director of IEA; Atilio Pizarro, head of the Planning, Management, Monitoring and Assessment Section of OREALC/UNESCO Santiago; Wolfram Schulz, research director of ICCS-ACER; and the researcher Cristián Cox, director of the Comparative Education Policies Centre of Diego Portales University and a member of the assessment committee of the ICCS 2016 Project. The national research coordinators of ICCS 2016: Elisa Salinas, Chile; Julio Valeirón, Dominican Republic; and María Teresa Estefanía Sánchez, Peru, offered their local perspectives.

Presentations:

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