What Is The Australian Curriculum?

What is the Australian Curriculum? The  Australian Curriculum is the Australia wide school curriculum standard. It is managed by the Australian Federal Government. It is secular.

It  was  introduced in 2012 for all schools in Australia and it’s goal is to standardise teaching outcomes around Australia. Consequently, schools in Queensland, Northern Territory, Canberra (ACT), South Australia and Tasmania have all followed the Australian Curriculum as laid out in the federal government website.

However, New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria incorporate the national curriculum into their state syllabi.

The national curriculum is outcome based.  It focuses on what students should achieve rather than focusing on what is taught.

You can find the full government curriculum here.

At My Homeschool we have written our curriculum to comply with the Australian Curriculum.

What Is The Australian Curriculum

Syllabus & Curriculum Compliance Stress

Now because of the push by a few states, particularly NSW, families planning to home education in Australia have found that following the curriculum has become their principal concern. This has meant that much of a home educators’ planning time is spent trying to understand and replicate the content of the Australian Curriculum to their children in order to say to the powers that be, “I teach to the syllabus.” The content, and the sequence of teaching this content, hampers home educators’ ability to develop their ideas on education because they have been forced to comply with this new standard. And as a result, the quality and suitability of the children’s education has suffered.

The overfull Australian Curriculum has kept many homeschooling parents preoccupied as they try to sort out how to cram everything in to their children’s timetables. This has resulted in parents choosing quick fix solutions and ‘tick-the-box’ schoolish resources just because they have been marketed as complying with the Australian Curriculum. Some parents find their children are getting bored and missing out on rich educational opportunities. Their curriculum lacks the structure of a balanced education because it has now become about meeting a stage outcome, ticking a box, and teaching to a test.

How to stop worrying about the Australian Curriculum?

I know that when some of you read the above sentence that it will send a cold shiver down your spine. You’ll probably think: What if my child falls behind? What if I lose my homeschool registration? What if my child can’t get into university? All of these are normal fears, and I’ve had them as well. However we need to take a step forward and free ourselves from this curriculum trap and turn our attention to examining what a balanced education looks like for our child. The National Curriculum can still be a part of that education, but it should not be the major focus.

Let’s instead look at the National Curriculum as a guide, and not as the chief document that dictates what our children’s education should look like. Whilst it is a good idea to understand the basics of the Australian Curriculum (if needed for registration) you do not need to know or follow it in great detail. To gain understanding you can read the Australian Curriculum (it’s an easier read than the NSW Syllabus). I’ve also written a few homeschooling guides that you might find helpful.

Instead of starting with a state syllabus let’s instead look for resources that teach according to the philosophy or method that best suits the individual needs and personalities of our children.

Making Your Australian Home Education Balanced

I had twelve years of home schooling behind me before I was expected to present a plan showing I was following the NSW Syllabus. It did take time. After a great deal of reading, and connecting content, I could see that I was already teaching at least 85% of the Australian Curriculum. After that I made a short list of content that I needed to add in order to comply with the National Curriculum. I decided I’d incorporate this list into my curriculum rather than throwing out what I already knew was a balanced education.

On my need to comply list I added the following:

  • Incorporate indigenous history and literature into my reading list most years
  • Include more Asian studies in my history lessons in high school
  • Teach environmental science within geography in high school.
  • Give lessons in using technology for presentation

The order of teaching content was not the same but I still had most of it. If questioned by the powers that be I could usually identify the approximate year I was planning on teaching a particular topic.

However the greatest revelation was how much more I was teaching that wasn’t in the Australian Curriculum. For example I discovered that my Charlotte Mason based program was:

  • 50% – 70% more literature rich,
  • covering 70% more geography of the world,
  • teaching 60% more history and teaching it chronologically,
  • encouraging thoughtfulness and the knowledge of God.

Australian Curriculum NSW or WA?

I have often suggested that you can use the Australian Curriculum or the WA curriculum or NSW syllabus for planning.

Recently I was contacted by a homeschooler who told me at her registration visit that their homeschool NESA assessor said they must use the NSW Curriculum and not the Australian Curriculum to plan. Whilst I knew this perception was prevalent it got me thinking – what is the actual difference between the these curriculum documents and would an assessor in NSW or WA even know if I planned according to the Australian Curriculum or the NESA syllabus or the Western Australian Curriculum?

This led me on a search to find out what the actual differences were and if they really mattered.

If you are homeschooling in NSW or homeschooling in WA you’ll find this information helpful. 

What’s the Difference Between the Terms ‘Curriculum’ and ‘Syllabus’

‘Curriculum’ refers to the overall content that is presented – the big picture. In this case everything taught in all subjects from Foundation to the end of high school along with teaching ideas and goals.

‘syllabus’ is more specific referring to particular subjects and it’s usually more descriptive – the details.

The NESA syllabus has much more information to absorb than the Australian Curriculum.

The Content is Similar

There is not a lot of difference in the content however not all state subjects have an Australian Curriculum equivalent.

Within the WA curriculum and NESA syllabus, Australian Curriculum (ACARA) codes are referenced and matched.

For example the NESA Syllabus for English Key shows how they reference the Australian Curriculum content codes and the NESA Syllabus codes.

Look at the Western Australian Curriculum and you will also see all the ACARA codes. 

Main Differences – Outcomes and Order

There is no real difference with the WA Curriculum and the Australian Curriculum. However a notable exception is in the area of languages. In all states except WA, language lessons are required but learning a second language in depth is optional. However, in WA their education policy states all children from Year 3 to Year 6 will focus on learning a second language from 2021.

The NESA syllabus is an outcome based syllabus. Outcome based curricula are the new favourite catch phrase in education, another way to phrase it would be educational goals or objectives</e. They talk about what you want to achieve rather than focusing on what is taught.

There is also an addition of Technology and Design to the science curriculum. In the Australian curriculum this is embedded across the curriculum.

In the math curriculum there is also a slight difference in the higher grades on when certain concepts arise, for example – when simultaneous equations are taught.

In most cases the Australian Curriculum’s learning content has been rephrased into an assessable NESA Syllabus outcome by adding a verb to the content statement like: identifies, describes, explains or demonstrates. This slight difference is a philosophical one about children being tested on their knowledge rather than a teacher just making sure she taught it – this theoretical debate is one for academics and teachers and home educators needn’t worry about it.

Here is an example shown from NESA Syllabus Science Stage 2 – Physical World

  • NSW Outcome Syllabus – Code ST2-7PW: identifies ways heat is produced and that heat moves from one object to another
  • Australian Curriculum Content – Code ACSSU049 : Heat can be produced in many ways and can move from one object to another.

See how the difference is just in the phrasing.

The Australian Curriculum is divided into four general stages whereas NSW is divided into six stages:

  • Foundation to Year 2 (which is Stage 1 NSW)
  • Year 3 to Year 6 (which is Stage 2 and 3 in NSW)
  • Year 7 to Year 10 (which is Stage 4 and 5 in NSW)
  • Year 11 and Year 12 (which is Stage 6 in NSW)

The Australian Curriculum is written in grades/years even though the curriculum is actually still based on the concept of teaching students in stages.

At times one outcome can meet a few content requirements. For example in the NSW Syllabus for English Stage 2

  • uses effective handwriting and publishes texts using digital technologies (NSW Syllabus Code EN2 -3A) meets four codes in the Australian Curriculum:

Year 3

  • ACELY1684 – Write using joined letters that are clearly formed and consistent in size (or begins cursive)
  • ACELY1685 – Use software including word processing programs with growing speed and efficiency to construct and edit texts featuring visual, print and audio elements

Year 4

  • ACELY1696 – Write using clearly-formed joined letters, and develop increased fluency and automaticity (or becomes confident with cursive)
  • ACELY1697 – Use a range of software including word processing programs to construct, edit and publish written text, and select, edit and place visual, print and audio elements

The Australian Curriculum Achievement Standards are almost the same as the NESA Stage Statements. They both use the same content and both have an outcome based approach that describes the learning expected in each subject’s stage or year. However the Australian Curriculum gives a little more instruction on the content.

The Australian Curriculum has general stage statements for each stage; this is not the same as the NSW stage statements.

The NSW Syllabus spends more time explaining the depth to which content is to be covered. Whilst these can be helpful, if you need clarification, you are not required to use these elaborations when planning.

For more information on WA syllabus and the Australian Curriculum for homeschooling.

If you are interested in the Victorian Curriculum and Australian Curriculum Differences here is an article to help you.

Jenny’s Story

Jenny lived in NSW and she was trying to work out her first Australian home education plan. She was swimming in a pool of paperwork that she had downloaded from the powers that be and she was buying workbooks and joining online websites all because they had the magic phrase – conforms to the Australian curriculum. She wanted to offer her child a new way to learn but she was feeling strangled by the Australian Curriculum. What should she do? She had no idea how to tick the government boxes and still give her child the opportunities she had dreamed of when she first began contemplating Australian home education.

We Have A Solution

Following the registration curriculum requirements is becoming a problem for many Australian homeschoolers, not just me.

Some of my friends are too scared to register, one of my friends even moved states just to avoid registration.  As registration criteria tightens in each state, many people give up their educational philosophy and just go back to worksheets, textbooks and online tick the box products, some don’t register and hope they wont get caught, some send their kids back to school and some just lied about what they were teaching in order to pass registration.

But none of those options are good ones!

Our My Homeschool Curriculum is especially for Australian home educators and it shows you how to use the Charlotte Mason method for registration. One lady recently described our curriculum as ‘pots of gold’ reporting it had made her homeschool journey ‘so much easier’.

An Australian Charlotte Mason Inspired Curriculum For Australian Children

You won’t need to be Australianising our content. We have mapped our curriculum to the Australian standards for each state and territory and we’ve done it for you in a Charlotte Mason way.

We use:

  • Australian literature and poetry.
  • Australian spelling and grammar lessons for English,
  • Foundation Font for our handwriting lessons,
  • Australian examples for science, geography and history,
  • Metric measurements and Australian money,
  • Australian land forms, plants and animals for nature study,
  • Famous Australian art works for picture study,
  • Indigenous content and books in all grades.

But we don’t limit our curriculum to only Australian content.

We want your children to have a rich feast of ideas presented to them so we also include world history, foreign languages, classic literature and a range of resources that encourage your child to learn about the world around them.