The Australian curriculum: Under review

In June this year the country’s education ministers agreed to a review of the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum. The Australian Curriculum has been in place since 2015 and to varying degrees shapes and underpins the curriculum in Australia’s states and territories.

According to the Terms of Reference agreed by the federal and state ministers, the review undertaken by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is aimed at refining, realigning and decluttering the content of the curriculum within its existing structure. It will be underpinned by the most recent national statement of education goals, the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (2019).

ACARA is undertaking international comparative work and has a number of work groups including a Reference Group and a team of subject matter ‘experts and practitioners’. State and territory authorities are to undertake specific activities to engage their respective stakeholders.

Unfortunately, ACARA has not involved the education unions directly in its specific reference group but at the state and territory level the IEU branches will be actively involved to ensure that their members are represented and heard.

The IEU has raised for many years that, particularly in the primary years, the Australian Curriculum is overcrowded and agrees that many schools and teachers want a curriculum that in addition to being less crowded, provides flexibility and scope for greater depth of learning, and one that provides more meaningful connections within and across its three learning dimensions – learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities.

Aims of the review

  • refine and reduce the amount of content across all eight learning areas with a priority on the primary years, and to focus on essential or core concepts
  • improve the quality of content descriptions and achievement standards by removing ambiguity and ‘unnecessary’ duplication, and ensuring consistency and clarity of language and cognitive demand
  • rationalise and improve content elaborations to ensure they are fit for purpose and suggest to teachers the most authentic ways to treat general capabilities and cross curriculum priorities when teaching the learning content
  • improve the digital presentation in line with agreed content changes and user experience requirements.

Scope of the review

  • all eight learning areas for F to Year 10 with Mathematics and Technologies reviewed first
  • particular attention to the F to Year 6 curriculum in order to reduce overcrowding and provide manageability and coherence in the primary years
  • Chinese, French, Italian and Japanese will be completed first, with the 12 other languages completed by 2023
  • the elective Years 9-10 Australian Curriculum: Work Studies will not be included in the review.

Key directions

ACARA, in undertaking the review process, says it is looking to identify how the content of the curriculum can be refined, realigned and decluttered and has a number of specific foci in each of the main areas:

  • Learning areas or subjects including reviewing, aligning,decluttering and improving the content descriptors, achievement standards, and content elaborations
  • General capabilities, including revisiting and improving ‘where necessary’ the learning continua such as for critical and creative thinking and literacy and numeracy, improving the relationship with the learning area content, removing repetition of content between the General Capabilities and the learning areas, and
  • Cross-curriculum priorities, including revisiting and improving if necessary, the organising frameworks for the cross-curriculum priorities with reference to current research, decluttering the content by improving the relationship with the learning areas and replacing the current ‘icon tagging’ for cross curriculum priorities with a more user-orientated approach.

Key dates

July – December 2020: discussion of revisions by review teams

February – June 2021: two 10-week public windows on proposed revisions to the curriculum

July – December 2021: revisions finalised and endorsed by Education Ministers

Early 2022: revised curriculum available on a new Australian Curriculum website.

Further details of the review are available on the ACARA website

The Terms of Reference document provides specific detail of the proposed areas of review and aims. Compiled by Cathy Hickey Assistant Secretary IEU Victoria Tasmania.