National Report on Schooling in Australia 2010

National initiatives and achievements

2.6 Promoting world-class curriculum and assessment

Australian governments are committed to working together with all school sectors to ensure world-class curriculum and assessment for Australia at national and local levels (Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, 2008).

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

The key national strategy to support this commitment identified in the MCEETYA¹ four-year plan 2009–2012 is the establishment of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). At its October 2008 meeting, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to the establishment of a statutory authority (now ACARA) that would bring together the functions of national curriculum, assessment and data management, analysis and reporting at a national level.

ACARA is responsible for the delivery of key national reforms in curriculum and assessment including:

  • development of a rigorous, world-class national curriculum, which builds on early childhood learning, from the first year of schooling to Year 12, starting with national curriculums in the key learning areas of English, mathematics, the sciences and history

  • alignment between the Early Years Learning Framework and school-based curriculum frameworks that relate to the early years of schooling

  • development of plans to improve the capacity of schools to assess student performance, and to link assessment to the national curriculum where appropriate

  • management of the National Assessment Program, comprising national tests in literacy and numeracy; sample assessments in science literacy, civics and citizenship, and information and communication technology (ICT) literacy; and participation in relevant international testing programs.

ACARA is an independent statutory authority, established in December 2008 under the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act (2008) (the ACARA Act) and is subject to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act (1997). ACARA became operational at the end of May 2009.

ACARA is a cooperative enterprise between state and federal jurisdictions and its activities are jointly funded by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. The ACARA Board comprises members nominated by Commonwealth, State and Territory Education Ministers, as well as the National Catholic Education Commission and Independent Schools Council of Australia.

ACARA’s work is carried out in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, including teachers, principals, governments, State and Territory education authorities, non-government education authorities, professional education associations, community groups and the general public.

Its role in the reporting of educational information is outlined in the National initiatives and achievements – strengthening accountability and transparency section of this report.

In terms of curriculum and assessment, the functions of ACARA, as provided in Section 6 of the ACARA Act, are to:

  • develop and administer a national school curriculum, including content of the curriculum and achievement standards, for school subjects specified in the Charter²

  • develop and administer national assessments

  • provide school curriculum resource services

  • provide information, resources, support and guidance to the teaching profession.

The Australian Curriculum

In May 2009, ACARA assumed the role of the Interim National Curriculum Board (INCB) in the development of an Australian Curriculum from Foundation³to Year 12.

The Australian Curriculum is being developed in phases. Each phase involves substantial consultation with government and non-government education authorities, professional associations, teachers, academics, business, industry and parent and community groups across all States and Territories and comprehensive review and revision processes. Development of the Australian Curriculum follows ACARA’s Curriculum Development Process and Curriculum Design papers.

Phase 1, which commenced in 2009, involved the development of curriculum content and achievement standards for English, mathematics, science and history, with Foundation to Year 10 (F–10) and senior secondary development operating on different timelines. The development of the Australian Curriculum for Phase 1 was guided by the overall The Shape of the Australian Curriculum paper as well as individual Shape papers for English, mathematics, science and history, published in May 2009.

In the second half of 2009, teams of writers, supported by ACARA curriculum staff and expert advisory panels appointed from across Australia, drafted curriculum materials for these four learning areas in advance of widespread consultation in 2010.

In December 2010, Ministers approved the content of the F–10 Australian Curriculum in English, Mathematics, Science and History. Ministers asked, amongst other matters, that the achievement standards be subject to validation during 2011.

Phase 2 of the Australian Curriculum development involves the learning areas of geography, languages and the arts. Draft Shape papers for geography, languages and the arts were the subject of national consultation during 2010, with decisions to be taken about the scope of development (F–10 or F–12) at completion of the shaping phase, and with curriculum writing to commence in 2011.

Phase 3 will include the development of curriculum for the learning areas of health and physical education, technologies (including information and communication technology and design and technology), civics and citizenship, business and economics.

Implementation of the English, mathematics, science and history Australian Curriculum from Foundation to Year 10 is scheduled to commence from 2011 with substantial implementation to occur by the end of 2013 in most States and Territories.

Curriculum documents will be progressively released on the ACARA Australian Curriculum website.

School curriculum resource services and information and support to the teaching profession

While implementation of the Australian Curriculum is a matter for each State and Territory, ACARA is continuing to work with States and Territories to facilitate implementation by providing leadership, advice and information materials on the Australian Curriculum and by providing opportunities to coordinate implementation planning.

As the Australian Curriculum is developed, approved and released, ACARA will work with jurisdictions, sectors, agencies and professional associations to provide tools and resources to support schools, teachers and the public in implementing and interacting with the Australian Curriculum.

The National Assessment Program (NAP)

The National Assessment Program (NAP) is an ongoing program of assessments to monitor progress towards the Educational Goals for Young Australians. The NAP encompasses all tests endorsed by MCEECDYA, including the annual national literacy and numeracy tests (NAPLAN), three-yearly sample assessments in science literacy, civics and citizenship, and information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, and Australia’s participation in international assessments.

National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

NAPLAN is an annual assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in Australia in the areas of Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (spelling, punctuation and grammar) and Numeracy (number; function and pattern; measurement, chance and data; and space).

NAPLAN tests were first conducted in 2008, replacing former State and Territory based literacy and numeracy tests.
ACARA is responsible for the development of the NAPLAN tests from 2010.

Information on results of the 2010 NAPLAN tests, including the key performance measures related to them, is included in the Student achievement section of this report.

The NAPLAN National Report for 2010 is published on ACARA’s National Assessment Program website. This report provides analyses of results including breakdowns by State and Territory, and student background characteristics, including sex, language background, Indigenous status, geolocation and parental education and occupation. Further information about NAPLAN for parents, schools and students is also available on this website. This information includes samples of the individual student reports that are provided to all students who participate in the NAPLAN tests, and background information about the NAPLAN tests. Average NAPLAN results for schools are also reported on the My School website.

The National Assessment Program – sample assessments

The national sample assessments test students’ skills and understanding in Science Literacy, Civics and Citizenship, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy. Selected groups of students in Years 6 and 10 participate in these sample assessments, which are held on a rolling three-yearly basis.

Sample assessments began in 2003 with Science Literacy, followed by Civics and Citizenship in 2004 and ICT Literacy in 2005. The third Civics and Citizenship assessment was undertaken by a sample of Year 6 and Year 10 students in October 2010.

Information on results of the 2010 Civics and Citizenship assessment, including the key performance measures related to it, is included in the Student achievement section of this report.

The full report on this sample assessment is available on ACARA’s National Assessment Program website.

National Assessment Program — international assessments

There are two NAP sample assessments conducted by international organisations and used by MCEECDYA for reporting key performance measures.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is conducted every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and involves the assessment of a sample of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. The most recent PISA assessment took place in 2009 and the National Report for this assessment was released in December 2010. This and other PISA reports are available on the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) website

A sample of Australian students in Years 4 and 8 participated in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in late 2010. This study is conducted every four years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The international report will be released in December 2012.

During 2010, Australian students also participated, for the first time, in a third international assessment program, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). This test measures progress in the reading achievement of students in their fourth year of schooling. The international report will be released in December 2012.


¹ The Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) replaced the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) in July 2009.
² MCEECDYA determines the ACARA Charter and specifies the subjects for development within the Charter.

³ The Foundation year is known as Preparatory in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, Kindergarten in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, Reception in South Australia, Pre-primary in Western Australia and Transition in the Northern Territory.