One of the key topics at this year's annual congress of the
Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) was the importance of students being able to understand the Australian political system in order to make more informed decisions about their future. The subject was raised by Year 12 Melba College student, Elin Murray, who had observed that she and her fellow students were passionate about many social issues but didn't understand how to engage with the democratic process to make positive change.
In response, the VCAA and the VicSRC recently organised a workshop to begin to develop a new program that will support educators to implement the Victorian Curriculum Civics and Citizenship Levels 3 to 10 and draw increased connections between the curriculum, student voice and civic engagement. At the workshop, they were joined by stakeholders from a selection of Victorian schools and universities, Social Education Victoria, Victorian Commercial Teachers' Association, Parliament of Victoria, Australian Museum of Democracy, National Council of Women, Melbourne School of Government, Victorian Electoral Commission and Second Strike. The workshop began with a presentation by Gerry Martin, Curriculum Manager at the VCAA, who provided an overview of Victorian
Civics and Citizenship Curriculum, explaining that it has been mandated in Victorian schools since 2017 and is structured according to rationale and aims, learning in civics and the three strands: Government and Democracy, Laws and Citizens and Citizenship, and Diversity and Identity. He highlighted that one of the main aims of the curriculum is to ensure that students develop the skills necessary to investigate contemporary civics and citizenship issues and are provided with the opportunity to have real-world experiences through civic engagement and participation.
Gerry was followed by a group of VicSRC student ambassadors, who each provided an insight into how they and their peers have experienced learning Civics and Citizenship. One ambassador commented that students do not know how to analyse political issues, so that when the time comes to vote, they simply follow their parents or friends. Another suggested that schools need to take a more holistic approach to teaching what it means to be a 'good citizen' by expanding the subject beyond voting, to areas such as student voice and action and how they can shape their communities.
The workshop then turned to roundtable question and answer sessions. In response to the question 'How do we support students, teachers and schools in linking the curriculum to contemporary politics and current issues?', participants were unanimous in identifying the need for more, better and easier-to-access resources and professional learning for educators. Other suggestions included:
- Canvas the student's voice at the outset of the school's teaching and learning program development, and provide the option of self-directed research projects.
- Include students in educator professional development opportunities.
- Develop a flexible resource that allows teachers to link the curriculum to contemporary politics and community issues.
Student Vote, an authentic learning program in Canada that provides students with the opportunity to experience the voting process firsthand and to practice the habits of active and informed citizenship.
- Encourage students to participate in programs such as the
Victorian Parliamentary Program,
Youth Parliament and
Model UN, and in competitions such as the
John Button School Prize and the
Premier's Spirit of Democracy Prize.
Over the next year, the VCAA will continue to work with the VicSRC to produce materials and a professional learning program that will help educators realise the fullness of the Civics and Citizenship curriculum. The promise is for our young people to have the knowledge, confidence and understanding of their rights and duties as citizens so that they can shape a better future for themselves and for generations to follow.