National Report on Schooling Australia 2012

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 Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (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
• 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
• managing the development and overseeing the delivery of assessments and reporting for the National Assessment Program (NAP), including national tests in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and sample assessments in Science Literacy, Civics and Citizenship, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy.

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 is a cooperative enterprise between state and federal jurisdictions. It is responsible to the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC) 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 the Independent Schools Council of Australia.

The authority'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.

ACARA's role in the reporting of educational information is outlined in Part 2.8: National initiatives and achievements – strengthening accountability and transparency.

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 Charter¹
• develop and administer national assessments
• provide school curriculum resource services
• provide information, resources, support and guidance to the teaching profession.

The Australian Curriculum

Development of the Australian Curriculum from Foundation² to Year 12 (F–12) follows ACARA’s Curriculum Development Process and Curriculum Design papers. Each phase of development 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. The overall development of the Australian Curriculum is guided by the Shape of the Australian Curriculum, first published in 2009. The fourth version, Shape of the Australian Curriculum v4.0, was published in 2012. Further information on the curriculum development process is available on the ACARA website.

In 2010, Ministers approved the content of the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum in English, mathematics, science and history, subject to the validation of achievement standards. Revised achievement standards and refined curriculum content for F–10 English, mathematics, science and history were approved by Ministers and published on the ACARA website in 2011. Portfolios of student work for each of these subjects were also developed and published.

Responsibility for implementing the Australian Curriculum lies with each state and territory. Implementation of English, mathematics, science and history Australian Curriculum from Foundation to Year 10 commenced in some jurisdictions in 2011 with substantial implementation planned to occur by the end of 2013 in most states and territories.

In December 2012, Ministers endorsed the curricula for 14 senior secondary subjects for English, mathematics, science and history as the agreed and common base for development of state and territory senior secondary courses.

The second phase of the Australian Curriculum development involves the learning areas of geography, languages and the arts. National consultation on the draft F–10 curriculum for geography concluded in July 2012; for the arts, in September 2012; and for Chinese and Italian languages, in December 2012.

Development of Australian Curriculum for other languages, technologies, health and physical education, civics and citizenship, and economics and business was underway in 2012.

In addition to its focus on learning areas, the Australian Curriculum pays particular attention to general capabilities. These encompass skills, behaviours and dispositions that students develop and apply to content. The Australian Curriculum includes seven general capabilities: literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology capability, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding. These are addressed in each learning area as appropriate.

The curriculum also gives special attention to three cross-curriculum priorities:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
• Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia
• sustainability.

The Australian Curriculum Consultation portal allows stakeholders and the general public to read and review draft curriculum materials as they become available.

Curriculum documents are 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. This includes working with jurisdictions, non-government school sectors, other agencies and professional associations to provide tools and resources to support schools, teachers and the public in implementing and interacting with the Australian Curriculum.

Education Services Australia (ESA) is a ministerial company established by SCSEEC to support delivery of national priorities in the school, training and higher education sectors. A major function of ESA is to create, publish, disseminate and market curriculum and assessment materials. ACARA collaborates with ESA regarding online resource discovery and access, and with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) regarding professional learning requirements in relation to the Australian Curriculum.

To ensure the Australian Curriculum is accessible to all students, ACARA has published advice under a new tab titled ‘Student Diversity’ on the Australian Curriculum website.

The National Assessment Program (NAP)

The National Assessment Program is an ongoing program of assessments to monitor progress towards the Educational Goals for Young Australians. The NAP encompasses 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. In 2012 ACARA undertook a review of the domestic sample assessments, and recommended to Ministers that the current cycle of assessments continue until 2015, with further advice on the long- term direction of the program to follow.

• 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 has been responsible for the development of and overseeing the delivery of the NAPLAN tests from 2010.

Information on results of the 2012 NAPLAN tests, including the key performance measures related to them, is included in Part 5.1: NAP – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

The NAPLAN National Report for 2012 is published on the ACARA 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. From 2011, these aggregated NAPLAN results have also been available directly from the results pages of the National Assessment Program website.

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 (Year 6), Civics and Citizenship (Years 6 and 10) and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy (Years 6 and 10). 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 fourth Science Literacy assessment was undertaken by a sample of Year 6 students in October 2012.

Information on results of the 2012 Science Literacy assessment, including the key performance measures related to it, is included in Part 5.2: NAP: Science Literacy.

The public report on this sample assessment, NAP Science Literacy Year 6 Report 2012, is available on the ACARA National Assessment Program website.

• National Assessment Program – international assessments

There are two NAP sample assessments conducted by international organisations that are used as a basis for key performance measures in the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia: the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

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 was conducted in 2012.

Information on results of the 2012 PISA assessment, including the key performance measures related to it, is included in Part 5.3: Programme for International Student Assessment. Reports and key findings from PISA 2012 are available on the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) website.

TIMSS is a four-yearly international sample assessment of student achievement in mathematics and science at Years 4 and 8 administered by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The most recent TIMSS assessment was TIMSS 2011. Information on the performance of Australian students in TIMSS 2011 is available on the ACER website.


¹SCSEEC determines the ACARA Charter and specifies the subjects for development within the Charter and Letter of Expectations.

² 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.