Log in

Civics, Citizenship & Political Literacy Working Group


Formed at the AGM in 2014, the objectives of the Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy Working Group are:

  • To support civics and citizenship for all students in New Zealand Aotearoa
  • To improve working relationships between teachers and the NZPSA - to consider how political scientists can help professional development of educators and support teaching and learning
  • To help inform national conversations about civics and citizenship in a period of rapid change

To this end the tasks of the working party and the needs of schools were the focus of a two day workshop in August 2015 at University of Canterbury hosted by the working party and including representatives of the Social Studies Teachers Association, Education Advisors to the Ministry of Education and Electoral Commission, as well as allied researchers and student representatives. This meeting confirmed the immediate tasks presented and confirmed by NZPSA  at the national conference in December 2015 to;

1. Develop a web page portal that directs readers to networks for citizenship, civics and political literacy and provides some brief exemplars of best practice teaching and community learning

2. Contribute to national conversations and strategic policy reviews about civics, citizenship and political literacy

3. Source funds and resources to support the capacity and capability of teachers of civics, citizenship and political literacy in local areas through teacher fellowships, local academic / student speakers

Where to next with Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy Education in Aotearoa NZ?

This online 2020 workshop with an NZPSA panel of experts who share their views about new curriculum developments including Prof Bronwyn Hayward (UC), Prof Angus Macfarlane (UC), Dr Bronwyn Wood (VUW), Dr Lara Greaves (AU), Katie Potter (Cognition Education), Richard Thornton (NZ Electoral Commission), Alylia Denzeisen (Islamic NZ Women’s Council), and Josiah Tuamaili’I (Pacific youth leadership and Transformation) can be viewed here.

Other Initiatives

The working group has also made formal submissions to the review of the NZ Education Act December 2015, and to a hui called by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage in February 2016 to discuss teaching and learning about citizenship.

The working group also co-hosted a parliamentary national workshop on Civics, Citizenship, and Political Literacy on the 10th of October 2016, and a write up about the workshop can be found here.

A new discussion paper, Our Civic Future: Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy in Aotearoa New Zealand A Public Discussion Paper was released in November 2018, with a launch at Parliament (more below). 

Key terms

The following working definitions have been proposed for key terms:

What is Civics?

In political science, civics is used broadly to refer to the knowledge, skills and shared expectations of citizens who participate in, and sustain, democracies.

What is Citizenship? 

It is both a legal status and lived experience. In legal terms citizenship is conferred on those in a community who hold rights to make claims and seek support from a community (the right to vote, to assemble, the right to access to education, health and social needs for example) and in turn have legal responsibilities to sustain and maintain that community, (through for example, paying taxes, obeying laws, voting and becoming informed).

However citizenship is also the outcome of lived experience, of being, belonging and participating in a community, in ways that support, maintain and enable a community to function effectively.

What is Political Literacy?

The ability to understand and interpret information about how and why community decisions are made (or not made), to support citizens to think critically, and make informed choices or take action where necessary, (often in cooperation with others), to advance particular concerns and interests, while also considering the possible consequences and impacts of these choices and actions for themselves and others.

Discussion Paper: Our Civic future

Read our new discussion paper that brings together contributions from researchers, educators and advocates working to improve the way we ‘do civics’ in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This discussion paper follows on from the 2014 working party and subsequent NZPSA workshops held between 2015 and 2017. It reflects the input and contributions of political and social scientists, community advocates, educators, business and young leaders who have worked as writers, or reviewers to summarise best practices for teaching civics, citizenship, and political literacy through-out life. We consider what governments, communities, schools and businesses can do to strengthen our democracy by supporting the citizen’s capacity to participate in public life. The choice of what sort of democracy we aspire to, and the values and skills we think are important for citizenship, are ultimately decisions and choices for the whole community. This report aims to inform public discussion about how to build resilience into our democratic system.

Our Civic Future.pdf

Our Civic Future launch programme.pdf


Associate Professor Bronwyn Hayward University of Canterbury Chair

Dr Nigel Parsons School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University

Associate Professor Bethan Greener School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University

Dr Patrick Barrett Chair of Social Sciences, University of Waikato

Dr Tom Gregory Politics and International Relations, University of Auckland

Associate Professor Jennifer Curtin Politics and International Relations, University of Auckland

Dr Bryce Edwards Department of Political Studies, University of Otago

Associate Professor Vicki Spencer Department of Political Studies, University of Otago

Dr Jane Verbitsky Auckland University of Technology

Dr Lindsey Te Ata o Tu MacDonald University of Canterbury

Dr Alex Tan University of Canterbury

Associate Professor Maria Bargh Victoria University of Wellington

Professor Robert Patman University of Otago

Dr Therese Arseneau University of Canterbury Adjunct Senior Fellow

Associate Professor Kate McMillian Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Iati Iati Department of Politics University of Otago

Will Dryer, PhD student, Victoria University of Wellington

Expert Advisors

Mary Greenland NZ Social Sciences Teachers Co-convenor

Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane Māori Research, University of Canterbury

Professor Martin Thrupp Dean, Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, University of Waikato

Richard Thorton, Education Advisor NZ Electoral Commission

Julia Whaipooti Chair, Just Speak

Dr Bronwyn Wood School of Education, Victoria University Wellington

Brigid Raymond, Head of Social Studies Avonside Girls High SchoolNZ PPTA Representative

Associate Professor Carol Mutch Head of School, Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland

Rachel Bolstad NZ Council for Education Research

Rose Hipkins NZ Council for Education Research

Dr Tara Ross Media and Communication Department, University of Canterbury

NZPSA Postgraduate Representatives

If you wish to the join the working group and be a part of our mailing list, please contact Prof. Bronwyn Hayward: bronwyn.hayward@canterbury.ac.nz

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software