A Parents Guide to Understanding the Australian Curriculum

Posted By Tanya Harper  
14:00 PM

The roll out of the new national curriculum started in 2008. So while no longer really ‘new’ there are still so many questions about what it all means, especially for those parents just starting out in the education system. Where did it come from? How is it implemented? What does it mean for my child?

The new national curriculum was agreed to by all states and territories. It was designed to focus on literacy and numeracy in the early primary years as the foundation for further learning.  As students progress through their primary years to year 10 they build knowledge, skills and understanding across the eight learning areas of the curriculum.  Importantly the new curriculum doesn't specify how the content is to be taught, which allows teachers to individualise lessons based on individual, classroom, school and community dynamics.   

Prior to 2008 WA schools followed the Western Australian Curriculum Framework.  Most schools in WA today are teaching a combination of the two curriculums as the new national Australian Curriculum is phased in. There will always be some learning areas where it's important (not to mention culturally and contextually appropriate) to keep some of the old WA curriculum framework, especially in relation to HASS (history and geography) and the arts.

The new curriculum is designed to take up around 80% of classroom time from foundation to year 10, Australia wide. The remaining 20% of classroom time gives teachers room to personalise their planning and to cover other areas including those mentioned previously that are WA specific. All of the knowledge and skills developed through the new curriculum are aimed at preparing your child to be a positive and active member of society, meaning to give them the skills for “civic, social and economic participation” (ACARA).

Three Dimensions of the Australian Curriculum

The whole curriculum is made up of three dimensions;

  • Learning areas: These are the subjects that your child will learn during their time at school (you may recognise them) and include technologies, the arts, mathematics, english, science, humanities & social sciences, languages and health & PE.
  • General Capabilities: These are included in the content of each learning area and are developed to prepare our kids to live and work in modern society. The capabilities include literacy, numeracy, ICT (Information and communication technology), critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding.
  • Cross-curriculum priorities: This includes Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders Histories and Culture, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia and Sustainability. Cross-curriculum priorities are included in the learning areas and subjects where they naturally fit and allow children to make links across the different learning areas.

So what the National curriculum really means for parents is a continuity of learning. To know that your child is receiving the same quality and content of education as all other Australian children regardless of where you live.  NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) is a national assessment conducted annually for years 3, 5, 7 and 9 students.  While just one aspect of each schools assessment of students knowledge, NAPLAN provides an indication of how students are performing in literacy and numeracy based on a banding or year level.

I find it comforting to know that a part of the development of the curriculum is related to preparing our kids for their future. I’ve heard it said so many times that most of the jobs our kids will have in their working lives don’t even exist today. I know when I was at school there were no web designers, digital marketers or wellness coaches. So we need our kids prepared for what's to come.

Over the coming weeks I'll be breaking down the Australian Curriculum and looking at the outcomes (otherwise known as what your child is expected to know) for each year level. I'll also look into assessment, NAPLAN, the ULNA and provide as much information as I can, along with helpful suggestions, as to how you can support your child as they move through these stages of learning and development.

Tanya Harper

All information for this blog was taken from documents on the ACARA website. For more information and access to the full Australian Curriculum please follow this link.