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Creating linkages: you don’t have to reinvent the curriculum!

posted on 2023-05-22, 22:19 authored by Sharon FraserSharon Fraser

At the heart of the Australian national curriculum is the Melbourne Declaration, which was signed by all the state and territory Ministers for Education and the Prime Minister of Australia in 2008. This document has been crucial in shaping education throughout the country. From the perspective of the focus of this chapter, the Declaration makes two key points: first, it highlights the impact of global integration and international mobility on Australian society, underlining the importance of appreciating and respecting social, cultural and religious diversity. Second, it identifies that, for all Australians, being able to engage with scientific concepts and principles, and approach problem solving (solution finding) in new and creative ways, are essential capabilities. The signatories to the document also agreed to aspire to and achieve the highest possible levels of collaboration between all school sectors, government, Catholic and independent, and at all levels of government (federal, state and territory). Essentially, the Declaration is an aspirational document that identifies two overarching goals for education in Australia: Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence. Goal 2: All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.

A national curriculum was viewed as one of the key vehicles for achieving these two goals and, eight years later, the Australian Curriculum is approaching finalisation. As education is a state issue, with each state and territory having its own laws governing the provision of both government and non-government education, the states (and different school sectors) continue to interpret it and incorporate it within their own state-based curricula.

The curriculum learning areas include, fairly unsurprisingly, the single subject areas of English, mathematics, science and health and physical education, and multiple subject areas of humanities and the social sciences, the arts, technologies and languages, and they are presented as a progression of learning from Foundation (kindergarten) to Year 12. Importantly, however, the curriculum aims to develop “general capabilities that underpin flexible and analytical thinking, a capacity to work with others and an ability to move across subject disciplines to develop new expertise” (MCEETYA, 2008, p.13). To this end, alongside disciplinary knowledge, the curriculum outlines seven general capabilities that comprise “an integrated and interconnected set of knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that students develop and use in their learning across the curriculum” (ACARA, 2013, p.5) and three cross-curriculum priorities, which are intended to be of benefit to individuals and Australia as a whole.

Of interest to the discussion here are two of the seven general capabilities, specific - ally “critical and creative thinking” and “ethical understanding”. Students who develop capabilities of critical and creating thinking, are able to “generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems” (ACARA, 2013, p.78) and display dispositions such as “inquisitiveness, reasonableness, intellectual flexibility, open- and fair-mindedness, a readiness to try new ways of doing things and consider alternatives, and persistence” (p.79). While to develop an ethical understanding involves students recognising the complexity of many ethical issues and “building a strong personal and socially oriented ethical outlook that helps them to manage context, conflict and uncertainty” (p.122); they are expected to develop such understandings through the “investigation of a range of questions drawn from varied contexts in the curriculum” (p.123). While the extent to which Australian teachers explicitly focus on the development of these capabilities as they teach science is not currently known, the potential of using these focus areas to develop resilient and capable school graduates is immense.


Templeton World Charity Foundation


Publication title

A teacher's guide to science and religion in the classroom


B Billingsley, M Abedin, K Chappell






Faculty of Education



Place of publication

United Kingdom



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Other education and training not elsewhere classified

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