An Analysis of the Australian Curriculum
Introduction With the introduction of the Australian National Curriculum into all education systems across the country, many questions and debates have occurred in reference to its effectiveness. From the often perceived conflicting curriculum definitions to the unfortunate failures of past attempts of curriculum implementation, every member of the community has an opinion on this significant shift in the way Australia thinks of its children’s education (Rudd, 2007).
The Australian Curriculum however, has attempted to provide answers to these misgivings and societal concern, from an easy to use website interface, transparent developmental process and state/ territory inclusion of common educational individualities.
The Australian Curriculums development has been that of promise and hopeful success (Brady & Kennedy, 2010).
The Australian Curriculum should make it easier for teachers to incorporate community and student centred learning opportunities within the classroom, whilst allowing for additional time and streamlining of assessment procedures, due to a short and precise teacher focused curriculum document. Therefore the current Australian Curriculum process is the best opportunity for the development and implementation of a world class curriculum that enables Australia’s future leaders to compete in a globalised world (MCEETYA, 2008; Shelly & Gunther & Gunther, 2012). Definition of curriculum
Definitions of curriculum are numerous and often believed to be conflicting. This can be especially so when delineated by the intended purpose of the curriculum as well as individual bias from specific stakeholders. Wiles (2005) lists varying definitions for four common curriculum purposes; curriculum as a plan, as subject matter, as an experience and as an outcome (appendix 1). Upon analysing these purpose related definitions it could be argued that each different definition ultimately alters the detail of what can be generally deciphered as a common intent, with individual stakeholder inclusions of specific content.
Hutchins (as cited in Wiles, 2005) (appendix 1), when defining curriculum as a subject matter explains that curriculum should consist of grammar, logic, mathematics and the greatest books of the western world. In contrast Bestor (as cited in Wiles, 2005) includes the study of grammar, literature and writing, mathematics and the ‘mother tongue’ as the basis for his definition. As a result both academics can be seen to desire the same thing, extensive discipline based study; however have both included individualities perceived important to themselves.
In order to define its intent, the Australian Curriculum has attempted to simplify the term curriculum through an explanation of purpose and intent. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012a) simply define the Australian Curriculum as “… what all students should learn as they progress through school … ” [as a] “… foundation for their future learning, growth and active participation in the Australian Community” (para. 2). Through the defining of the curriculums purpose, the Australian Curriculum encompasses such academic inclusions of definition as noted by Wiles (2005) within its structure.
As subject matter, the Australian Curriculum has included a discipline-based method of curriculum encompassing twelve learning areas with nationally significant individualities, through the incorporation of ‘Cross Curricular Priorities’. As a plan the Australian Curriculum has included ‘General Capabilities’ that ensure student future success with identified essential skills such as information and computer technology capability, ethics and intercultural understanding; amongst others (ACARA, 2012b) (appendix 2).
Thus, the Australian Curriculum has defined itself as an individual curriculum idea through the incorporation of multiple intents within its structure. Development of the Australian Curriculum and curriculum models related to this development Since as early as 1980, numerous attempts at the development of a National Curriculum with varying levels of support and enacted implementation have been made (Brady & Kennedy, 2010).
The Australian political structure and the level of authority the federal government has over state/territory and independent organisations over educational policy, may have been a contributing factor for this lack of committed development and intended eventual nationwide implementation (Marsh, 2010). Learning from previous governments’ attempts implementing a national curriculum, the federal government from 2009, enacted a series of shaping reforms, with the aim of successfully gaining support and legal authority over the implementation of a national curriculum (Marsh, 2010).
The request for state/territory appointed representatives, statements of open consultation in development, through to what Brady and Kennedy (2010) refer to as ‘hard policy’, including the establishment of ACARA as a statutory body over all manner of educational policy and the linking of funding repercussions to the implementation of the Australian Curriculum (Schools Assistance Bill, National Education Agreement) has led to all educational organisations agreeing to the use of the impending curriculum documents.
Brady and Kennedy (2010) state that no single form of curriculum model is commonly used by developers, therefore using specific components of different models and designing a process that works for the organisation or individuals intent. As such the Australian Curriculum developers have appeared to take such an approach. With the foundation of a Naturalistic model of development, including the use of discussion, interaction and negotiation of developers and stakeholders, the Australian Curriculum developers have additionally used a fundamental aspect of an Objectives model of development (Brady & Kennedy, 2010).
The use of defined standards or content descriptions (Objectives model) as depicted by the national curriculum has been incorporated both after initial targeted discussion between stakeholders and before final consultation prior to publication (ACARA, 2008). As a consequence the important developmental principles of curriculum development as described by Marsh (2010) that all decision making in the development of an Australian Curriculum is transparent whilst alleviating societies concern over a discipline-based curriculum was met by the initial and ongoing consultation being undertaken.
Structure of the Australian Curriculum The Australian Curriculum has been published on the Internet in order to allow maximum flexibility in viewing and the organisation of content. As such the interface is user friendly and easy to understand. The Australian Curriculum is currently broken down to cover four subject areas with an additional eight areas to follow from 2013 (ACARA, 2012a; MCEETYA, 2008). Each subject area is broken down into year levels encompassing Foundation to year ten (with eventual inclusion of years eleven and twelve).
In order to differentiate different subject sub topics; strands and sub strands have been developed to allow focus of content descriptions (statements of required student learning). English for example covers three interrelated strands; language, literacy and literature, with content descriptions grouped into sub strands, which enable the visual identification of development of knowledge, understanding and skills (ACARA, 2012f). Content descriptions are then listed, which describe the required learning that students must be exposed to within each subject, strand and sub strand.
The content descriptions provide detailed information of learning opportunities, cross curriculum opportunities and a glossary of terms. Additionally digital resource information is also available that relates to each relevant content description. A wealth of information for educators, parents and the general community is available on the internet for the Australian Curriculum, including student work samples of content description attainment, which may negate any uncertainty surrounding student expected learning and eventual assessment practices the curriculum requires.
Complimenting the subject areas and included content descriptions are cross curriculum priorities. ACARA (2012e) states that these priorities of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia and sustainability, will enable student relevance and address the issues that the students will face throughout their lives. The opportunities for inclusion of cross curricular priorities are embedded within the subjects curriculum documents where appropriate, however with differing levels of relevance for individual subjects (ACARA, 2012e).
The Melbourne Declaration (MCEETYA, 2008), incorporated a set of seven general capabilities that were deemed important for student future success by acting as a foundation for current and future learning. Student capabilities include literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology competence, critical and creative thinking, ethical behaviour, personal and social competence and intercultural understanding (ACARA, 2012b).
Again it is seen that these basic capabilities will enable student success in a globalised workforce by enabling competiveness through the inclusion of 21st century needs of today’s students. Australian Curriculum in relation to the needs of 21st Century learners In the Federal governments’ educational reform document, The Melbourne Declaration (MCEETYA, 2008), the diverse needs of 21st Century students were acknowledged and a series of objectives established. The world is becoming ever more globalised with international mobility and competitiveness at the forefront (MCEETYA, 2008; Shelly et al, 2012).
Therefore the Australian Curriculum set to include a series of “general capabilities” (ACARA, 2012b) that would enable student future success by acting as a foundation of current and future learning. In addition, the inclusion of Information and computer technology (ICT) as a cross-subject enhancement tool, in order to address the needs of students of a digital age has also been included. The Melbourne Declaration (MCEETYA, 2008) defines ICT as “essential in all 21st Century occupations” (p. 5).
Within the realm of ICT as a learning tool, educators are able to create authentic and meaningful learning opportunities across all subjects, as well as allowing the successful inclusion of differing learning styles of students through the use of digital resources such as podcasts, speech to text applications and web resources, amongst many others (Shelly et al, 2012). The Australian Curriculum provides these opportunities throughout and are indicated were appropriate throughout the content descriptions.
The Australian Curriculum has set to include all students regardless of gender, race, socio-economic status and language ability the opportunity to succeed with the Australian Curriculum and provide them the best chance to be successful contributors to society (ACARA, 2012d). Teachers are able to make professional judgements on how to teach and assess the knowledge required to be learnt (ACARA, 2012d). Teachers are provided the flexibility to adjust the delivery of content to the needs of individual students to allow for maximum learning successes.
Comparison of Australian Curriculum to local (state) and international models Prior to the publication of the Australian Curriculum in English, Mathematics, history and science, the Northern Territory was using a curriculum document titled Northern Territory Curriculum Framework (NTCF). The NTCF is vastly different in design to that produced by ACARA due to the NTCF being an outcome based curriculum model compared to the Australian Curriculums assessment of student achievement against explicit learning area achievement standards (NTCF, 2012).
Similarities do exist between both the NTCF and Australian Curriculum incorporating a set of desired student personal attributes called EsseNTial Learnings in the NTCF document and General Capabilities within the Australian Curriculum documents. Both the NTCF and Australian Curriculums goals in the development of these personal development outcomes were to prepare students to be valuable members of the community and successfully contribute in a competitive globalised world (ACARA, 2012b; NTCF, 2012).
The similarities in curriculum content continue through to the structure of subject content and related standards and outcomes of achievement. The Australian Curriculum content description for Mathematics – Foundation – Statistics and Probability, states that “[students] answer yes or no to questions to collect information” (ACARA, 2012c). In contrast, the NTCF outcome for Mathematics – Chance and Data, Key Growth Point two for foundation, states “learners use everyday language to state opinions on the possibility of a given event occurring” (NTCF, 2012).
Although the similarities in content within both the Australian Curriculum and Northern Territory Curriculum Framework are many, the difference in detail and length of the documents is significant. As noted by Kevin Rudd in the document titled New Directions for our schools (Rudd, 2007), state and territory curriculum organisations tend to develop curriculum documents that are far to detailed than necessary. This is especially evident when comparing the NTCF’s Australian Curriculum document implemented in semester two 2012.
A quick glance clearly indicates the substantial difference as the original NTCF mathematics document consists of 130 pages compared to that of the NTCFs Australian Curriculum implemented document totalling six pages for transition to year ten levels (Appendix 3 – further comparison of current NTCF and NTCF Australian Curriculum documents). Thus the simplification of the documents may lead to teacher instructional enhancement and clearer levels of required attainment, enhancing student success working with the curriculum.
Conclusion The Australian Curriculum is an extensive yet precise document detailing what is essential for student learning to enable success in the future. The Australian Curriculum has invented itself as a transparent holistic educational document with a clear purpose and intent. Additionally, the Australian Curriculum has learnt from the errors of past attempts at a national curriculum and incorporated soft and hard policy (Brady & Kennedy, 2010) that enforces the use and implementation of the document nationally.
By incorporating an online presence with a thoughtful inclusion of student needs for success in the 21st century through the development of cross curricular priorities and general capabilities, the Australian Curriculum is enabling student success in a soon to be Asian dominated globalised world (MCEETYA, 2008). The Australian Curriculum has incorporated what is deemed significant throughout Australia’s diverse individual curriculums and indeed created a document that shares a common intent for education specifically with the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework.
The Australian Curriculum is at the precipice of complete national implementation. Only time will tell if it is successful in its attempts at creating a world class curriculum for Australia’s leaders of tomorrow (MCEETYA, 2008). References Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2008, July 17). Professor Barry McGaw AO, welcome address, Queensland Consultation Forum [Streaming video]. Retrieved from http://www. acara. edu. au/news_media/vodcasts . html Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012a).
Overview. Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum. edu. au/Curriculum/Overview Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012b). General capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum. edu. au/File/85028d2c-d680-402b-84c7- 9fdd00ecac82. Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012c). Foundation to Year 10 Curriculum (Mathematics). Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum . edu. au/Mathematics/Curriculum/F-10
Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012d). Diversity of learners. Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum. edu. au/Mathematics/ Diversity-of-learners Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012e). Cross Curriculum priorities. Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum. edu. au/CrossCurriculumPriorities Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012f). Content Structure (English). Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum. edu. au/English/ Content-structure Brady, L. & Kennedy, K. (2010). Curriculum Construction (4th ed). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson. Marsh, C. (2010). Becoming a teacher: Knowledge, Skills and Issues (5th ed). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson. McMillan, J. (2010). Classroom Assessment: Principles and Practise for Effective Standards- Based Instruction. Boston, USA: Pearson Education. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Melbourne, Australia: MCEETYA. Northern Territory Curriculum Framework (NTCF). 2012). Retrieved from http://www. det. nt. gov. au/teachers-educators/curriculum-ntbos Rudd. , K, & Smith. , S. (2007). New Directions for our schools. Canberra, Australia: Australian Labour Party. Shelly, G. , & Gunther, G. , & Gunther, R. (2012). Teachers discovering computers: Integrating technology in a connected world (7th ed). Boston, USA: Cengage. Wiles, J. (2005). Curriculum essentials: a resource for educators (2nd ed). Boston, USA: Pearson. Appendix 1 Wiles (2005) definitions of curriculum: Curriculum as Subject Matter
The Curriculum should consist of permanent studies-the rules of grammar, reading, rhetoric and logic, mathematics and, at the secondary level, the greatest books of the western World (Robert Hutchins) The Curriculum must consist essentially of disciplined study in five areas: command of the mother tongue and systematic study of grammar, literature and writing, mathematics, the sciences, history and foreign language. (Arthur Bestor) The Curriculum should consist entirely of knowledge that comes from the disciplines (Philip Phenix) A Curriculum is a written document. George Beauchamp) Curriculum as a Plan The Curriculum is a planned program of learning opportunities to achieve broad educational goals and related objectives. (William Alexander) The Curriculum is all the learning of students that is planned by and directed by the school to attain its educational goals. (Ralph Tyler) The Curriculum is (a set of) planned and guided learning experiences for the learners’ continuous and wilful growth… (Daniel and Laura Tanner) A Curriculum is a plan for learning. (Hilda Taba)
Curriculum as an Experience A Curriculum is those experiences set up by the school for the purpose of disciplining students and youth in group ways of thinking and acting. (B. O. Smith, William Stanley, and Harlan Shores) The Curriculum is generally considered to be all the experiences that learners have under the auspices of the school. (Ronald Doll) The Curriculum is that series of things students and youth must do and experience. (Franklin Bobbitt) The Curriculum is the life and program of the school… n enterprise in guided living. (Harold Rugg) Curriculum as an Outcome The Curriculum is a planned learning outcome for which the school is responsible (James Popham and Henry Baker) The Curriculum is a structured set of learning outcomes (objectives) resulting from instruction. (k. Howell, S. Fox, and K. Morehead) Appendix 1 Curriculum is concerned not with what students will do in the learning situation, but with what they will learn as a consequence of what they do. Curriculum is concerned with results. (Maurice Johnson) Appendix 2
General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2012b) Retrieved from http://www. australiancurriculum. edu. au/File/85028d2c-d680-402b-84c7-9fdd00ecac82 Appendix 3 Comparison of Northern Territory Curriculum Framework (NTCF) and NTCF Australian Curriculum document. Figure 1: Demonstrates the amount of additional detail the NTCF document includes, in comparison to the NTCFs new Australian Curriculum document implemented in July 2012 (Note: NTCF does not have an independent History Curriculum) (ACARA, 2012; NTCF, 2012)