Australian Curriculum

The Australian Curriculum is a national curriculum for all primary and secondary schools in Australia under progressive development, review, and implementation. The curriculum is developed and reviewed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, an independent statutory body. Since 2014 all states and territories in Australia have begun implementing aspects of the Foundation to Year 10 part of the curriculum.[1]

Credentialing, and related assessment requirements and processes, remain the responsibility of states and territories.[2]

The full Australian Curriculum can be accessed at its own website.[3]

Learning areasEdit

The learning areas in the Australian Curriculum are as follows:[4]

Learning area Foundation to Year 2 Year 3 to Year 4 Year 5 to Year 8 Year 9 to Year 10 Year 11 to Year 12
Arts X X X X  
English X X X X X
Health and Physical Education X X X X  
Civics and Citizenship   X X X  
Economics and Business     X X  
Geography X X X X X
History X X X X X
Languages X X X X  
Mathematics X X X X X
Science X X X X X
Technologies X X X X  
Work Studies       X  


A nationwide curriculum has been on the political agenda in Australia for several decades. In the late 1980s a significant push for a national curriculum in Australia was mounted by the Hawke federal government. Draft documentation was produced but failure to achieve agreement from the predominately coalition state governments led to the abandonment of this initiative in 1991.

In 2006, then-Prime Minister John Howard called for a "root and branch renewal" of Australian history teaching at school level, ostensibly in response to building criticism of Australian students' (and Australians more widely) perceived lack of awareness of historical events. The Howard government convened the Australian History Summit in August 2006 to commence the process of drafting a national History curriculum. The Summit recommended that Australian History be a compulsory part of the curriculum in all Australian schools in years 9 and 10. The Australian History External Reference Group was then commissioned by the government to develop a Guide to Teaching Australian History in Years 9 and 10. The Reference Group comprised Geoffrey Blainey, Gerard Henderson, Nicholas Brown and Elizabeth Ward, and was presented with a draft proposal prepared earlier by the historian Tony Taylor. The Guide was released to the public on 11 October 2007, but little was achieved toward its implementation following the Howard government's defeat at the federal election in November 2007.

In April 2008, the Rudd government established the independent National Curriculum Board.[5] Taylor, who had written the original draft for the Howard government-appointed Australian History External Reference Group, told The Age that he expected that the Reference Group's Guide to Teaching Australian History would be discarded by the new Board. Taylor had expressed public disapproval of the changes made to his original draft, both by the Reference Group and, Taylor suspected, by Howard himself. Taylor was of the opinion that the Guide had sought to establish a curriculum that was "too close to a nationalist view of Australia's past", and hoped that the new Board would produce a curriculum that was more in line with what Taylor saw as Rudd's "regional and global world view".[6] In September 2008, the Board appointed four academics to draft "framing documents" which would establish a broad direction for the National Curriculum in each of four subject areas: history (Stuart Macintyre), english (Peter Freebody), science (Denis Goodrum) and mathematics (Peter Sullivan). In May 2009 the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), a statutory authority, was established to oversee the implementation of the planned nationwide curriculum initiative.[7] In March 2010 a draft national curriculum was released.

Implementation issues and criticismEdit

The Australian Curriculum has experienced implementation issues due to reluctance or slowness by some States in changing state curricula. New South Wales in particular has delayed its roll out of the new curriculum.[8]

In May 2010, Anna Patty, an education editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, criticised the Australian Curriculum on the basis that it "threatens to water down the content" for senior students, compared with the existing Higher School Certificate. Under the new curriculum, students would have to learn statistics in mathematics, while the Extension 1 and 2 topics would be replaced with an easier specialist maths course.[9] Patty said that the English courses would focus more on language and literacy, and less on literature, and that the curriculum would disadvantage gifted students.[9]

In September 2010, the NSW Board of Studies criticised the then-draft Australian Curriculum, saying that it was inferior to the NSW curriculum. Among other criticisms, the Board said that the draft K-10 curriculum lacked an overarching framework, was overcrowded with content, diminished the teaching of literature, and that the maths curriculum failed to cater to the full range of students.[10]

In October 2010, Peter Brown, a mathematics lecturer of the University of New South Wales, criticised the Australian Curriculum for lack of flexibility within the Year 9-10 and the Year 11-12 syllabuses by the removal of extension maths courses.[11] Brown also said that the National Curriculum would "dumb down" the year 12 curriculum then offered in NSW.[11]

In October 2013, conservative economist Judith Sloan criticised the business and economics components of the Australian Curriculum in particular, and offered the general criticism that "[t]he real rationale for a national school curriculum relates to the pursuit of centralised control by the federal government and the scope to impose fashionable values dressed up as the pursuit of educational excellence".[12]

Indigenous criticism and engagement with colonial educationEdit

Indigenous disadvantage within the Australian Curriculum has been the subject of policy decisions and ongoing parliamentary inquiries in an effort to achieve equality for Indigenous students [Gray and Beresford 1]. In accordance to findings done by the Australian Human Rights Commission, Indigenous people suffer grossly disproportionate rates of disadvantage in comparison to non-Indigenous peoples in all areas of society [Australian Human Rights Commission 1]. Due to a history of dispossession, inequity, and the ongoing effects of colonisation in Australia, the well-being of Indigenous peoples and communities alike has been impacted on extensively and is directly reflected in areas like the education. Gray and Beresford argue that the historical policies of segregation and assimilation have been key factors in the sufficient lack of education for generations of Indigenous people, and has continued to impact the success of Indigenous students through intergenerational disadvantage today [Brown 3].

Despite efforts made by the Australian Government through projects such as the "Closing the Gap" policy which outlines the targets of higher success rates, attendance and pathway programs for Indigenous students, Indigenous educational disadvantage still remains as only about 47% of Indigenous high school students will pass year 12 or an equivalent [Australian Bureau of Statistics]. Through policies such as Closing the Gap, inequality has become a normalised representation of Indigenous students throughout the Australian Curriculum and positions "disadvantage as an inherent part of Aboriginality" [Brown 3]. Thus, the sustained oppressive structures that have institutionally disadvantaged Indigenous peoples is disregarded to favour the colonial take on Indigenous peoples having a biological lack of intellectual properties and basic human decency [Justice 3]. This can be exemplified through the "higher rates of attendance" target from the Closing the Gap policy as poor attendance is generally blamed on the students parents and community to divert attention away from the socio economic barriers that Indigenous students and their families face [Thompson et al 333].

The curriculum as a whole has been employed as a form of colonisation over Indigenous peoples as settlers have "destroyed to replace" the systems of knowledge passed down over generations of pre-colonial culture [Justice 10]. By making the settler sovereign as the determiner of truth and knowing, colonisers have been able to embed a process of elimination throughout every colonial structure and disregard any forms of knowledge that go against their Truth [Tuck and Gaztambide-Fernandez 76]. The Australian curriculum therefore is able to inform and justify the harmful and misunderstood portrayals of Indigenous peoples and culture within the classroom as well as skim over Australia's history to fit a more comfortable narrative for non-Indigenous students and teachers. This subsequently continues to perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage that Indigenous people face within the schooling system and society, and misinforms future generations of Australia's history and how colonialism continues to be reasserted in contemporary society. This process is also referred to in terms of deficit discourse, or the "disempowering patterns of thought, language and practice that represent people in terms of deficiencies and failures" [The Lowitja Institute 1]. Most prevalent in the curriculum as the national program of education, by narrating that Indigenous peoples are biologically lacking, whether this be in ambition, hygiene, morals, humanity, and presenting colonisation as a way of "saving the savages", Indigenous peoples are presumed as inferior to our non-Indigenous counterparts [Justice 2]. This translates quite obviously into how Indigenous students will be seen by and treated as such in the classroom. The achievements of Indigenous students are read as proof of successful assimilation into white ideals and, in turn, their failures as inherent to our cultural character. Indigenous students have the burden of excellence as they are constantly measured against the supposed "truth" of their deficiencies, where even their "strengths are presented as evidence of [their] inadequacy" [Justice 3].

Following the implementation of the National Curriculum in 2014, a debate on what should be included in the curriculum to benefit Indigenous students has generated despite any real changes being made. The general census is for acknowledgement of the past as well as the impacts of colonial policies in the education system today [Brown 11]. However, this will need to be implemented in a way that genuinely benefits and values Indigenous students and their unique cultural knowledge. This is necessary as non-Indigenous Australians are usually positioned as the "benevolent patrons of goodwill in the present" [Brown 11], thus, silencing any real acknowledgement and denying any action that could be taken to improve Indigenous disadvantage.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority infographic
  2. ^ "Frequently asked questions". Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Australian Curriculum". Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  4. ^ "Learning Areas / Subjects". Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  5. ^ Minister for Education (12 October 2008). "Media release: Delivering Australia's First National Curriculum" (Press release). Archived from the original on 22 June 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  6. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (9 January 2008). "Rudd to scrap Howard's history". The Age. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  7. ^ Minister for Education; Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (3 June 2009). "Joint Media Release with the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment Training and Youth Affairs" (Press release). Archived from the original on 22 June 2009.
  8. ^ "Education: NSW goes slow on primary curriculum as Commonwealth chalks up changes". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  9. ^ a b "National curriculum content not up to scratch: critics". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  10. ^ "New curriculum slammed by studies board". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  11. ^ a b "No water to throw on heated debate". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  12. ^ "National curriculum mired in half-baked fads". The Australian. Retrieved 15 May 2017.

External linksEdit