With Kevin Rudd’s government, the momentum for a national curriculum picked up and the first draft was published in 2010. Alan Porritt/AAP
So, the momentum fizzled out. That is, until Kevin Rudd’s 2007 election promise of an education revolution garnered the political support to develop the Australian Curriculum.
The first draft was published by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority in 2010.
What about the states’ curricula?
While the responsibility for developing the curriculum shifted federally, the states retained the autonomy to implement the curriculum. This is because each state and territory has its own senior assessment and tertiary entrance system. Although there have been attempts at an Australian Certificate of Education to mark the end of compulsory schooling, the proposal has never gathered momentum.
The curriculum authority now has the remit to develop the curriculum and the states the responsibility to implement it.
Teachers get the curriculum directly from the website. For these teachers, the Australian Curriculum is like Google Maps. It tells them what to teach.
This is why what is written in the curriculum is of utmost importance. The curriculum authorities in these states and territories exist to support implementation, providing advice on how much of the curriculum teachers are required to implement.
But Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, use an intermediary document (or syllabus) in place of the Australian Curriculum. These interpretations, written by their curriculum authorities, repackage the Australian Curriculum. In NSW, for instance, the syllabuses package the content in stages. These each represent two years of schooling (stage 2 is for years 3 and 4, for example).
Occasionally these state packages contain a bit more or less content compared to the Australian Curriculum. For example, the Victorian Curriculum for The Arts has Visual Communication Design as an additional content area.
Adding further complexity, some states have not yet updated some subjects (such as languages in Western Australia or the creative arts in NSW) to align with the Australian Curriculum.
Despite these differences, there is still a great degree of alignment in curricula across the states and territories. Prior to the Australian Curriculum some of this was more coincidental than coordinated.
So, why is the curriculum controversial?
Many things influence the curriculum’s development, including the power struggles between federal and state governments and their sometimes differing political ideologies.
The curriculum also needs to be responsive to the needs of today’s students, while preparing them for their future. It must prepare them for jobs that don’t currently exist, with skills we can only imagine, while also ensuring they can navigate the transitions from childhood into adolescence and beyond.
Education Professor Kerry J Kennedy has written curriculum debates are not just an academic argy-bargy over what should or should not be included, but also reflect a “nation’s soul”. It is an insight into what we value. Hence the many heated debates about what is “important” for young people to learn become value laden.
But with a clear rationale we can build the map for Australian teachers to plan their students’ learning journey.
This article is republished, with thanks, from The Conversation of November 19, 2021, under a Creative Commons licence.