Australian Curriculum Senior History Videoconference 25 June, 2012

Glen Bennett and Merredith Southee represented the History Council at the Senior Secondary History Consultation Forum held at the School Curriculum and Standards Authority on Monday 25 June. A videoconference included the Western Australian representatives and people from interested sectors from NSW, Victoria and the ACT. The purpose of the consultation was to brief interested groups on the amendments to the Senior Secondary Ancient and Modern History curriculums and clarify issues about them. It was hoped that the representatives would then encourage their organisations to send a discussion paper on the curriculum back to ACARA by 20 July.

The ACARA representative, Darren Taylor, guided the group through the structure of the new Modern History curriculum. Darren also reminded the group that ACARA’s role is to develop content and the Achievement Standards for the curriculum, while the states are responsible for integrating the curriculum into the state context, as well as exams etc.

This was followed by a round table discussion on the two curriculums. The Ancient History curriculum was generally well received. There was considerable discussion on the Modern History curriculum.

Here are some key points raised on the Modern History curriculum.

Positive features

  • Improvements on the first draft, especially the addition of the elaborations to guide teachers on Knowledge and understandings.
  • The continuation of a clear focus on Historical skills and concepts from the F-10 Curriculum.
  • Detailed Achievement Standards are provided for Year 11 and Year 12 students.
  • A wide range of choices are provided for students.

The delegates from NSW and the ACT were satisfied with the current structure and content of the Modern History curriculum.

Issues of concern raised by the discussion

  • The curriculum has been written from a Western perspective, i.e. Unit 2 students are required to study Women’s Rights and Workers’ Rights in ‘Australia and another Western society’ The experience of people in Asia could have been integrated into the curriculum.
  • Units 1, 2 and 3 require students to study two different topics in one semester. The representatives from Victoria and WA were concerned that this would reduce the opportunity for senior students to study History in depth and thus reduce the appeal of the subject in schools. In Western Australia students have the opportunity to study the Russian or Chinese Revolution for a semester. In the new Senior Curriculum these would both be studied within one semester.
  • Year 11 students will find the study of the Enlightenment in half a semester ( around 7 weeks) very challenging.
  • Unit 4 includes several topics which are very extensive and difficult to cover adequately in one 15 week semester. For example, The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East.

The draft senior secondary Australian Curriculum for the two history subjects can be found at

ACARA is calling for teachers who are currently in the classroom to develop programmes on some of these units.