‘On 12 June 2020, education ministers agreed that it was timely to review the Foundation – Year 10 Australian Curriculum, which had been in place since 2015. ACARA welcomed this opportunity to ensure that the national curriculum continues to meet the needs of students and teachers across the country, now and into the future. During the review, ACARA will be working closely with teachers, education sectors and other key stakeholders to ensure Australian students and teachers continue to have access to a truly world-class Australian curriculum.
Background to the review and information about the approach and scope are outlined in the Terms of reference. ‘Refining, realigning and decluttering’ the curriculum will occur within the existing structure: 8 learning areas, 7 general capabilities and 3 cross-curriculum priorities. For Australian Curriculum: The Arts, the ‘existing structure’ includes curriculum from Foundation to 10 for 5 subjects: Dance, Drama, Media Arts, Music and Visual Arts.
ACARA CEO David de Carvalho provides regular video updates about the review via ACARA’s YouTube channel. See him here:
Read information about the timeline, a fact sheet and an outline of the governance and advisory structure on the Review website.
ACARA has been monitoring implementation of the Australian Curriculum since 2015. The curriculum team has participated in international curriculum projects, and conducted studies comparing the Australian Curriculum with curricula from other high-performing jurisdictions, particularly those that have reviewed their curriculum in the last 5 years. ACARA also follows media and research reports and innovations in education and industry. Reports about this research are available at https://www.acara.edu.au/ and in the publications section of Australian Curriculum website. Findings relating to The Arts include
- learning about the Arts practice of First Nations people is essential
- learning in and through The Arts enables and promotes transferable knowledge, skills and dispositions seen as essential for today’s world, 2030 and beyond
- Arts learning involves making and responding / doing and thinking as artist and as audience
- Arts curriculum needs to offer flexible delivery options
- most Arts curricula preference discipline-based delivery whilst acknowledging multi/hybrid/trans – arts forms and methodologies
- Arts education like Arts industry settings reflects constantly changing forms and practices
- providing quality Arts learning within available time is a global challenge
- Arts learning is delivered by specialists, classroom teachers, teaching artists and cultural organisations
Since the review began, ACARA has spoken with teachers, professional associations, academics and industry-based stakeholders. They’ve consistently described the strengths of the current Australian Curriculum: The Arts as
- including curriculum for 5 Arts subjects which facilitates the entitlement of every child to an arts education
- providing openness and flexibility for teachers to develop local curriculum that meets the needs of their students, for example through learning that connects to local contexts and practitioners or promotes qualities such as resilience, health and well-being
- allowing teachers to develop students’ general capabilities, particularly critical and creative thinking, and their understanding of key ideas relating to the cross-curriculum priorities through the three- dimensional curriculum model
- connecting the making and responding organising strands (especially helpful in the primary years)
- articulating a sequence of learning for each of the Arts subjects and providing the Examples of Knowledge and Skills resource to outline developmental sequences of learning relating to core content such as the elements of music
Music stakeholders have noted that aspects of the curriculum need updating to
- ensure the curriculum is obviously inclusive of First Nations peoples and intercultural perspectives (music from diverse cultures and musical traditions) and the development of digital music making,
- incorporate the notions of collaboration and social music making more explicitly in addition to the emphasis on the individual
They’ve also suggested that the review
- consider ‘create’ in place of ‘compose’, acknowledging the exploratory and playful nature of creating
- refine the language of the curriculum to ensure that it is accessible to primary classroom teachers as well as to specialist music teachers
- refer to ‘aural skills’ rather than ‘aural training’ and acknowledge aural/oral traditions of music-making more explicitly
Analysis of the existing content descriptions and content elaborations raises some questions and opportunities for decluttering. For example, are there particular elements of music that should be included in the content at specific levels or should the curriculum give flexibility for teachers to plan a sequence of learning that develops students knowledge of all the elements of music concurrently? For example when we sing or play an instrument, two elements – pitch and rhythm – can be identified as central. However the elements of dynamics, articulation, tempo are also present. Every work has a form, all music has texture and all instruments have timbre.
At Year 3-4, a current content description is
- Practise singing, playing instruments and improvising music, using elements of music including rhythm, pitch, dynamics and form in a range of pieces including in music from the local community
Options for decluttering and refining this content include
- omitting the list of elements of music, for example, ‘practise singing, playing instruments and improvising music in a range of forms’ including music from the local community’. This approach gives teachers flexibility to structure learning activities relevant to the needs of their students. But does it provide teachers with the information they need, for example, about the elements of music? Can this information be provided through a glossary or the Examples of knowledge and skills?
- Omitting references to ‘the local community’ giving teachers flexibility to choose music from any time or location. For example, ‘practise singing, playing instruments and improvising music in a range of forms’.
And a perennial question has been raised – for which music education contexts is this curriculum relevant?
That’s an interesting question with more than one answer. You might see the curriculum as
- a curriculum for music learning that happens in schools across Australia
- a curriculum for music educators who are required to use it by schools, systems or jurisdictions. That is, ACARA makes the curriculum available, it is implemented by states, territories, school systems and schools.
Here’s a third response to the question:
- it’s a curriculum that reflects the goals of the Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Education Declaration. Signed in December 2019, this Declaration builds Australia’s previous Education Declarations (Hobart, Adelaide and Melbourne). It affirms the scope of the curriculum and sets out a vision for education in Australia and a commitment to improving educational outcomes for young Australians. The Mparntwe Declaration includes 2 goals and makes a statement about what it will take to achieve them:
Goal 1: The Australian education system promotes excellence and equity
Goal 2: All young Australians become:
- conﬁdent and creative individuals
- successful lifelong learners
- active and informed members of the community.
Achieving these education goals is the responsibility of Australian Governments and the education community in partnership with young Australians, their families and carers and the broader community.
I invite you to download a copy of the Declaration, read it (or read it again). and, consider the role music education can contribute to meeting these goals. For example, how can music learning develop students’ capacities to
- be inquisitive and experimental, and have the ability to test different sources and types of knowledge
- be responsive and adaptive to new ways of thinking and learning
- plan activities independently, collaborate, work in teams and communicate ideas
- continue to improve through formal and informal learning in further education, and training or employment, and acquire the skills to make informed decisions throughout their lives
- make sense of their world and think about how things have become the way they are
- be confident and motivated to reach their full potential.
The Declaration asks educators to consider the needs and rights of all students. For example, the Australian Curriculum aims to address two distinct needs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education:
- that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are able to see themselves, their identities and their cultures reflected in the curriculum of each of the learning areas, can fully participate in the curriculum and can build their self-esteem
- that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority is designed for all students to engage in reconciliation, respect and recognition of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures.
A key focus in the process of refining and decluttering Australian Curriculum: The Arts – Music is to ask how the curriculum allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to see themselves, to see their identities and their cultures reflected and how it allows all students to engage in reconciliation, respect and recognition of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures.
Reviewers are discussing the questions raised in this article, and many other questions as they draft proposed revisions to the curriculum. This draft will be available for public consultation from the end of April-early July 2021. Follow the Review website or ACARA’s social media posts for details and further information. If you have comments or questions, please email