Latvian students are aware of the value of democracy and are able to identify the guarantors of Latvia’s security, but the group of students who do not believe in Latvia’s sustainability and future is a cause for concern, said Ireta Čekse, the leading researcher of the University of Latvia, presenting the first results of the international civic education study “ICCS 2022”.
Since the last study conducted in 2016, the level of civic knowledge of pupils has remained unchanged, but the number of pupils with a high level of civic competence has increased – 36% of Latvian pupils correspond to level B, which is also above the international result.
20% of Latvian students correspond to the highest level, while the performance of 31% of students is assessed according to level C – students understand the basic principles and broad concepts that are the basis of citizenship and citizenship. Meanwhile, every fifth student in Latvia, or 20%, has demonstrated basic knowledge of the basic features of democracy and recognizes human rights. The results of the study also showed that 2% of Latvian schoolchildren do not have an understanding of the main democratic functions, and they are easily manipulated by the media and social networks.
Students could choose to take the test in their native language. As the results show, students who took the test in Latvian showed higher achievements than the average result in the country. Meanwhile, the performance of students who took the test in Russian decreased by about ten points compared to 2016.
Also, students from Riga and cities have shown high performance, while their performance in rural areas and national cities is almost 20 points behind the average performance in the country. This could be explained by a higher proportion of educational institutions where the language of instruction is Russian.
The results of the study show that the most knowledgeable students consider a cohesive, educated society, as well as membership in NATO and the European Union (EU), to be the guarantor of national security. Meanwhile, students with weaker knowledge express more support for Russia as a guarantor of security.
Similar trends have also emerged in the pupils’ vision of Latvia after ten years – 75% of pupils continue to see Latvia as a member state of the EU and NATO. Most of them are students who have demonstrated high knowledge in civic education. Meanwhile, 25% of students believe that in ten years Latvia will either be a neutral country, or will be part of Russia, or will not exist as a country.
“The question of what to do with them is how to take these students out of their “bubble” and how to “put” them in an environment that gives them new understanding and action potential,” said the researcher, adding that one should also think about raising the level of knowledge of young people.
Students’ knowledge and understanding are mainly influenced by their family, friends and schoolmates, according to the results of the study. Therefore, one should think about how to promote the common understanding of the whole society on the issues of participation, democratic values and national security.
In the international comparison, students from Taiwan, Sweden and Poland have the highest achievements in civic education in the study – above 550 points, while the lowest – students from Colombia, Bulgaria and Cyprus, whose performance is assessed below 460 points. The average achievement of Latvian students is 490 points. This is lower than the average of the member states of the study, which is 508 points.
The overarching goal of the study is to investigate to what extent young people in the member states of the study are ready to take on different civic roles. It was attended by 22 world countries and two German states North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein. Latvia is participating in the study for the fourth time.
Four areas are highlighted in the “IEA ICCS 2022” cycle: sustainability, digital environment, diversity, young people’s view of political systems. The study determined students’ civic knowledge and ability to analyze and search for reasons on the topics of civic education. Content-related questions were asked about civic institutions and systems, civic principles, civic participation, civic roles and identity.
For the second time, Latvia participated in the study with national issues. This time, questions were included in the survey, with the help of which students’ opinions about the guarantors of national security, their sense of belonging to Latvia and their authority, information dissemination were clarified.
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