A curriculum is a fundamental aspect in the educational processes of any nation. This is because there are certain functions that are fulfilled by an educational curriculum. The first role that a curriculum plays is that it elucidates the educational content that the learners should be presented with. In the Australian context, different educational subjects require that learners are exposed to different sets of knowledge and educational experiences so as to attain the set educational intents. The second function of a curriculum is that it makes cleat to the Australian educators the pedagogical techniques that are most suitable to be applied in the coaching of different types and classes of learners.
In addition to this, without a curriculum it would be quite complex to elucidate the purposes of the educational process and the benefits is has for those whom it affects. In Australia an effective curriculum will also depict the most favorable time to present learners with educational content. With inclination towards the Australian case, this paper will discuss the different definitions of a curriculum, the development of the Australian curriculum, curriculum models, structure of the Australian curriculum, Australian curriculum in relation to the needs of diverse 21st century learner’s and a comparison of Australian English curriculum to that of the US. This will be followed by a conclusion and a list of the references quoted in this paper.
2.0 Definition of Curriculum
The areas of concern that cloud the concept of curriculum are those that pertain to the fundamental premises of a nation’s educational systems. Many scholars have come up with different definitions of the term ‘curriculum’. According to Ross (2000, p. 8) a curriculum is said to connote the content that is to be learn in a classroom situation. On the other hand, Hirst and Peters (1970, p. 60) claim that a curriculum refers to the course of teaching and learning sets of procedures which are structured in a fashion that ensures all the involved parties, particularly the learners and teachers, meet the set educational objectives.
Such a definition implies that the curriculum is the driving force behind the entire educational process and that in the absence of curriculum educational processes would be inconsistent and disorganized. A curriculum is utilized to ensure that the set educational processes in any nation are not just achieved, but achieved in the most favorable contexts for the learners. Another definition of a curriculum as indicated by Daniel turner 1980 is that a curriculum is a premeditated and directed learning set of procedures and goals that are designed through a process of restructuring knowledge and life occurrences in learning institutions; such reconstructions are aimed at the personal and social development of the learner.
Mash (2004) agrees by stating that a curriculum is a composition of linked up life occurrences and plans which a learner undertakes in the supervision of educational experts. In the Australian national curriculum, the nature of knowledge in curriculum development includes the selection of appropriate educational content, the structuring of the selected subject matter in the different educational subjects, an elucidation of the pedagogical techniques to be applied in the learning process. There are certain factors that determine the manner in which the educational subject matter is selected and structured; these include the criteria, scope and sequence. Under sequence importance is assigned to the increased complexity of knowledge in different levels of education; criteria refers to the different levels of relevance and importance that is assigned to the curriculum subject matter while scope defines the quantity and depth of educational content presented to the learners.
3.0 Development of the Australian Curriculum and Curriculum models
As indicated by Brady and Kennedy (2010, p. 3), one of the most fundamental processes in the educational system of any nation, not just Australia, is the development of an effective curriculum; this is due to the fact that, more often than not, a curriculum is the manifestation of a people’s system of beliefs, life aspirations, values and mindsets. According to Sowell (2005) there are four level of curriculum development; the experiential, instructional (tutor, evaluate, feedback), institutional (founded in school) and societal level (determined by stakeholders). In the nation of Australia the process of Curriculum development is comprised of a certain set of fundamental procedures that need to be adhered to by the relevant curriculum developers and educational experts.
These processes include a definition of the nation’s educational philosophy, an elaboration of the intents and objectives of education, guidelines on the preferred pedagogical practices, an outline of the specific goals and results of the teaching-learning process as well as the selection of appropriate educational content and assessment of related tasks. The learning activities for different learners and at different levels of the learning process are also deliberated upon.
A well designed curriculum should be able to respond to the needs of the learner as well as those of the community. Marsh (2004) indicates that the greatest purpose of a curriculum is to cater for the diversity of learners through the processes of differentiation and inclusion. The society needs from an educational system include the need for literacy, acquisition of interpersonal and vocational skills, preservation of an accepted level of morality and social order, the passing on of the societal and cultural values from one generation to the next as well as the need for creativity and ingenuity. The learner’s needs include the need to develop their cognitive, psycho-social, linguistic, moral-affective and vocational abilities.
Curriculum models tend to be designed by the application of theories formulated to describe the process of teaching and learning and elucidate on the pedagogical methodologies and practices that are most suitable for learning; the curriculum models of Australia are designed in a manner that allows them to address the features as well as requirements of diverse groups of learners. According to Brady and Kennedy (2010, p. 161) there ate two main models for curriculum development in the Australian nation; these are the technical and descriptive models. The technical models refer to those that are concerned with an evaluation of the set of procedures adopted by curriculum developers as regards the educational content, pedagogy and assessment criteria.
As indicated by Tyler (1994) this model is founded on four main principles: The desired educational objectives, the necessary educational experiences that can achieve the educational objectives, the effective structuring of such experiences and tools to assess the extent to which the educational intents have been achieved. This method is a holistic approach to education which was formulated in post-war Australia to improve education and enable teachers to take their role more seriously; it was also at this time that the formative form of evaluation was adopted in the educational process. This technical model by Tyler (1994) is perceived as being more reflective of the actualities of curriculums.
The descriptive model on the other hand, focuses intently on the approaches of curriculum development; a descriptive curriculum can only be successfully applied when there is agreement by the educational stakeholders about the perspectives and possible solutions in education. The descriptive technique of curriculum development is based on three main stages: design, deliberation and platform. The platform stage acknowledges the diversity of mindsets and beliefs by the curriculum developers about the alterations and objectives of the curriculum; through deliberations, however, compromise is achieved by highlighting the shared values.
There are certain outcomes that are expected to emanate from the application of an effective curriculum; these include evidence of learning and noticeable internal transformations by the learners. According to Willis and Kissane (1997) outcome-based education refers to the demonstration of the expected educational outcomes by the learners; the main emphasis here is placed on what the learner has gained from the learning experience rather than what they were taught. Outcomes are developmental and they demonstrate the transformations in learners as observed from one educational stage to the other. In spite of this, in the Australian context the outcome-based education has lost its popularity in the recent days; this is due to the unpopularity of outcome-based assessment techniques which required justifications to be founded on the demonstrated educational outcomes.
In addition to this, many Australian parents were concerned that the levels indicated by outcome-based education were inconsistent with the normal educational grades (Willis, 1997, p. 12). While a curriculum defines the expected end results from an educational process, the educators determine the means; learning outcomes are thus perceived as distinct from the pedagogical techniques applied in teaching and learning. Brady and Kennedy (2007, p. 178) explain the Skilbeck’s situational analysis process which is applied in the evaluation of the developed curriculum in its operational context. This process is comprised of the internal, external considerations as well as five sets of procedures; these five steps include assessment of the situation, establishment of goals, structuring of the program, execution and the process of supervision, monitoring, evaluation, feedback and reform (Brady and Kennedy, 207, p. 178).
4.0 Structure of the Australian Curriculum
As indicated in the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website (2012), the Australian curriculum is responsible for outlining the foundational knowledge as well as skills and wide-ranging capacities that the Australian learners should be equipped with. The Australian curriculum was formulated based on the Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals for Young Australians in December the year 2008. The goals of the Australian curriculum include: The promotion of excellence and equity in education, ensure all young Australian are knowledgeable, successful, self-assured and ingenuous. This curriculum is influenced by the 21st century needs of the learners, the Bill of Human Rights, multicultural education and Australian nationalistic principles.
The Australia curriculum has several elements that guide its application. It contains a rationale which describes the objective of learning in the school, curriculum. The aims of the curriculum illustrate the expected learning outcomes that learners should demonstrate. The curriculum’s organizational element is the depiction of the manner in which the curriculum is configured from the foundation stage to 12 years. In addition to this, the Australian curriculum has content descriptions which outline the content that educators are expected to present their learners with; there are elaborations included to make sure that teachers understand the content description clearly. A very important element of the Australian educational curriculum is the defined achievement standards that portray the anticipated eminence of learning by learners as well as examples of the levels of excellence already attained though a display of annotated work by learners.
While the general capabilities element refers to the skills and mannerisms in educational demonstration expected across the subjects, cross-curriculum priorities are those that ascertain the relevance of the Australian curriculum to its consumers. There are seven main general capabilities outlined in the Australian curriculum; these are literacy, numeracy, critical and creative thinking, capability in informational technology and informational technology, personal and social proficiency as well as intercultural understanding and ethical conduct. The cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian curriculum are sustainability, relationship between Australia and Asia and the cultural orientation of Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginals.
5.0 Australian Curriculum in relation to the needs of diverse 21st Century learners According to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website (2012) the Australian curriculum is designed in a manner that makes it suitable to addressing the requirements and challenges placed on the modern day by the transformations and inconsistencies witnessed in the 21st century life realities. This is witnessed in the manner that the curriculum enables the Australian learners’ access to a base of life long scholarship and involvement in activities that affect them in the Australian society. Todd (2010) states that the Australian curriculum ensures that the different needs of the learners are adequately catered for by ensuring that the curriculum structure as well as the pedagogical techniques applied by teachers is fashioned to suit each learner’s educational needs. In addition to this, the Australian curriculum is sensitive to, and addresses the transformational nature in which learners gain knowledge.
6.0 Comparison of AC to local (state) and international Curriculum
As indicated by Webster (2007), there are more similarities than differences between the Australian and American English curriculum. These two curriculums are based on the strands of literacy, language and literature. These strands are aimed at enhancing the learner’s skills in creating, speaking, reading, writing and listening. The learning of English in America is based on certain parts of language: pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, sub-systems of language, development of conversational skills and literature. As illustrated by Yager (2010), in Australia, as in America, the teaching of the English subject is inclined equipping learners with skills they need in the utilization of language for creating literature, expressing notions, interacting with others in different contexts and responding to literature. Important aspects of both curriculums are the emphasis placed on sound and letter knowledge as well as pronunciations and spellings.
In conclusion, a curriculum is a composition of linked up life occurrences and plans which a learner undertakes in the supervision of educational experts. The curriculum is a very important aspect of any nation’s educational process. As already indicated in this paper, the process of curriculum development is a very significant one in the educational process. There are four level of curriculum development; the experiential, instructional, institutional and societal level; the two main models for curriculum development in the Australian nation is the technical and descriptive models. The structure of the Australian curriculum is comprised of certain elements. As indicated by Webster (2007), there are more similarities than differences between the Australian and American English curriculum.
These two curriculums are based on the strands of literacy, language and literature. The Australian curriculum was formulated based on the Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals for Young Australians in December the year 2008. The goals of the Australian curriculum include: The promotion of excellence and equity in education, ensure all young Australian are knowledgeable, successful, self-assured and ingenuous. This curriculum is influenced by the 21st century needs of the learners, the Bill of Human Rights, multicultural education and Australian nationalistic principles.