Philosophy of Curriculum for Australian Students

Components of the HASS Learning Area in the Primary School Context

At the present stage, increasing the teaching process’s effectiveness attracts the government, citizens, and researchers concerning exploring the most rational ways and methods of managing the educational process. It requires structural-system analysis of educational material and the teaching process, reviewing and assessing technical and methodological teaching aids’ effectiveness. These days it is not enough to master the necessary skills of reading, writing, and counting. The most important is the usage of inquiry-based learning approaches in developing, constructing, and implementing the curriculum.

The formation of students’ certain skills is included in the solution to broader and more critical problems. According to the Department of Education, (2019), priority learning objectives in primary school are holistic, harmonious development of the student’s personality, general abilities, and erudition following the individual aptitudes and characteristics. Australian education promotes the formation of readiness for self-education, a certain level of cognitive culture, and students’ mental interests (Department of Education, 2019). It emphasizes the ability to accept an educational task, determine academic operations, exercise control and self-control, appraisal, and self-assessment.

The Humanities and Social Sciences examine human behavior and cooperation in social, cultural, environmental, economic, and political contexts. In the Australian Curriculum, the Humanities and Social Sciences learning area comprise four subjects: History, Geography, Economics and Business, Civics and Citizenship (Green & Price, 2019). According to Green and Price (2019), through HASS, learners acquire the skill to ask, think critically, resolve dilemmas, interact productively, make decisions, and adapt to change. The Humanities and Social Sciences have a past and present focus, relying on individual and global meanings, and acknowledging common challenges.

Teaching Inquiry in the HASS Classroom

From the education’s perspective, inquiry-based learning focuses on the question posed or the described problem. Research shows that students successfully prove their education’s effectiveness due to this approach far beyond the school (Wilson, 2009). Students should use their evidence-based reasoning and feel free to point out their knowledge gaps and ways to address them (Green & Price, 2019). From the teacher’s perspective, inquiry-based learning focuses on taking students beyond general curiosity into critical thinking and understanding (Green & Price, 2019). The lecturer should encourage students to ask questions and maintain their interest in the learning process by understanding when to start and structure their self-study activities. Preston et al. (2015) illustrate the example of the implementing inquiry approach to education. The experiment’s goal was to connect the inquiry to discipline content, drawing on a different HASS aspect (Preston et al., 2015). After this five-week test, the results showed that pre-service educators liked inquiry learning (Preston et al., 2015). According to Preston et al. (2015), 93% of the study respondents registered an observed enhancement in inquiry perception. Pre-service teachers also reported this as a deepening of their comprehension of inquiry-based learning.

Asking questions is a process of proactive collaboration in seeking and gathering information. Besides, the ability to ask questions contributes to developing logical and critical thinking, speech culture, and mental experiment ability (Minigan et al., 2017). However, in the educational process, natural difficulties arise, caused by the peculiarities of the educational program and teaching methods in primary school, and by subjective reasons associated with the student’s features (Minigan et al., 2017). There are several ideas; firstly, all students need to learn how to formulate questions themselves, and all teachers can easily explain them in regular lessons.

History

The content of history education offers knowledge, skills and abilities, creative activity experience, and an emotional and sensory relationship to historical and social phenomena. According to Green and Price (2019), in this regard, a unique role in school history education is played by the initial stage of studying the discipline, that is, the preliminary course of history. When teaching history in primary school, teachers need to know how children’s thinking develops from the earliest stages to maturity, and in what forms it manifests itself. Green and Price (2019) claim that the content, methods, and organization methods should be directly focused on mental development laws. As for the sources of information, it is naturally more pleasant for children to watch the rendered text on the Internet than in textbooks, which may seem boring.

The use of information innovations is designed to increase students’ interest in learning, thereby enhancing education’s effectiveness. Computer technologies in the classroom provide students with interactive learning (Berson et al., 2017). For example, using the KidCitizen website, pupils can interactively explore congress and civic engagement through primary historical evidence, and connect what they find with their routine (KidCitizen. n.d.). The purpose of advanced teaching tools is to develop students’ interest in the subject due to the use of many types and forms of organizing students’ activities, greater clarity.

Moreover, it provides the student with self-education opportunities, self-development, and self-control. For instance, Berson et al. (2017) also argue that it is possible to notice a reduction in the time spent on the process of mastering the scholarly material. As a result, the application of interactive teaching aids contributes to an increase in the educational process’s efficiency and students’ competencies to improve teaching work technologies.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education

Until the 1960s, the school was primarily tasked with assimilating and indigenous adaptation to living in the community. In the 1970s and 1990s, aboriginal education began to be organized in a new way, making adjustments in the spirit of intercultural dialogue and protecting the autochthonous identity (Department of Education and Training, 2017). The National Aboriginal Education Committee (NAEC) determined the need to consider the indigenous population’s cultural traditions and develop its natural potential. It is proposed to increase the locals’ effectiveness through harmony with their cultural values, their awareness of ethnicity, and ensuring a free choice of living in a city, rural area, or community.

Education ministers approved the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy on 18 September 2015. The set of policies was created, including activities that education ministers will take collectively to complement individual provinces’ efforts (Department of Education and Training, 2017). Attention to the educational needs of Australian Aborigines is growing within the framework of the multiculturalism strategy. Classes and schools for Aboriginal people are being created, where attempts are made to combine the traditional European education system with teaching methods typical of the indigenous tribes’ mentality. Curricula are being developed, taking into account the customs and culture of autochthonous people. Authorities are encouraging Aboriginal children to attend international high schools. Despite some positive developments, the Australian Aborigines continue to be in a worse position in acquiring education than the rest of the population. Although natives formally have equal education rights, their children show the lowest educational attainment, especially in literacy and arithmetic.

Moreover, language, being a medium of communication, is a means of expressing discrimination and prejudice and cannot be seen as a neutral, problem-free instrument. Therefore, all students and teachers are encouraged to use the words “Indigenous Australian people/s” or “Aboriginal peoples” instead of “Aborigines” (Indigenous Terminology). The latter might leave the impression that all Aboriginal people living in Australia were indistinguishable from each other.

Geography and Sustainable Development

Teaching geography, the content of which reflects the foundations of geographical science, differs from other subjects in an integrated approach to studying nature, society, and the subject of their interaction. Pritchard and Hutchinson (2006) claim that geography “is a capacity to understand the workings of the world’s physical and societal systems and the interactions between them” (p. 8). Geography combines all three components of sustainable development – economic, social, and ecological. Global problems and their solution and sustainable development achievement are impossible without the foundation of nature management’s culture (Green & Price, 2019). Geography and its achievements make it possible to develop a view of the world’s picture and the need for sustainable development of the world community through mastering knowledge.

Geography is an interdisciplinary and integrated subject that studies the environment and society, demography, ethnography, religions, culture, and many other areas. According to Green and Price (2019), sustainable development of territories, countries, and the world, global problems of humanity are considered geography. Pritchard and Hutchinson (2006) suggest improving the curriculum in terms of geography through a set of themes that may be interesting for Australian students. They are “Australia’s role in global politics, environmental degradation, genetic modification, resource management. Furthermore; it should include such topics as “legal and illegal migration, conflicts at local and national scales, global warming and climate change, extreme natural events, the processes and impacts of tourism, access to technology and gender inequalities” (Pritchard & Hutchinson, 2006, p. 8). A significant role should be devoted to teaching it as a subject that forms a holistic view of the world and the processes taking place in students.

With regard to the Australian Curriculum: Geography Years F–4, central themes are implemented in the educational process. For instance, the foundation year is devoted to the principle “People live in places” (Australian Geography Teachers Association, n.d.b). It is crucial to teach a child a holistic view of the world from the first school steps. The answer to questions arising from the student can be found since children are taught to look for each phenomenon of nature and their place on the earth (Australian Geography Teachers Association, n.d.b). For instance, the theme for Year 2 is “People are connected to many places” (Australian Geography Teachers Association, n.d.a). Using maps and a globe, students become familiar with it as a model of the earth. Besides, the student begins to understand the world surrounding and appreciate the meaning of people’s actions. They also know the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Australian Geography Teachers Association, n.d.b). Concerning inquiry-based learning, by regularly explaining the experience, a person discovers the environment. In this case, the child can learn to do any new business, independently mastering it.

Moreover, years 5-6 provide ample opportunities to form the foundation of environmental and cultural literacy in schoolchildren and the corresponding competencies. For instance, a teaching approach called “Exploring the Geosix story” improves students’ ability to conduct observations in nature, set up experiments, observe the rules of behaviour in the world of nature and people, and practice a healthy lifestyle (Australian Geography Teachers Association, n.d.c). This will allow students to master the basics of proper activities in the surrounding natural and social environment.

Civics and Citizenship

The essence of educating the individual’s civic position in students’ society requires new provisions, approaches, and the development of pedagogical techniques for its implementation. For example, one of the students’ most critical tasks is to provide children with the independence to show their creative abilities (Green & Price, 2019). Civics and Citizenship education is carried out in conversations, historical lectures and readings, evenings of meetings, watching and discussing films, television programs, and excursions to places of glory (Green & Price, 2019). Therefore, the project method focuses on schoolchildren’s educational and cognitive activity on the work. It can be achieved by solving one or another practically or theoretically issues for the student.

Another innovative method that makes it possible to achieve positive results in the formation of primary schoolchildren’s mental activity is the technology for critical thinking development. According to Noddings and Brooks (2016), appropriate assimilation of new material in the lesson depends on which a reliable system of students’ knowledge and the ability to use it in practice will be created. This technology involves implementing three stages in the lesson: the challenge, the semantic step, and the reflection (Noddings & Brooks, 2016). On the first one, children ask themselves what they know about this issue (Noddings & Brooks, 2016). During the second stage, the student answers the problems under the guidance of the teacher and peers (Noddings & Brooks, 2016). Reflection is a generalization of what the pupil has learned in the lesson on this issue (Noddings & Brooks, 2016). Thus, critical thinking is the demonstration of children’s curiosity, the development of one’s point of view on a particular issue, the ability to defend it with logical arguments, and the use of research methods.

“It’s Not a School’s Place to Teach Values”

The processes of education and upbringing are inextricably linked; the teacher should form specific knowledge, abilities, and skills in the child and help to develop the student’s personality. According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (n.d), there are nine values for Australian schooling, including “care and compassion, integrity, doing your best, fair go, freedom, honesty and trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, understanding, tolerance and inclusion.” The educational process should have a complex effect on the personality; therefore, reducing the educational process tasks to only the formation of knowledge, skills, and abilities is wrong, even though the educational function is mainly specific (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008). For example, individualism is expressed in the highest value of human freedom. It implies another aspect – individuality as a unique personality trait.

Each has a set of unique qualities that must be developed to obtain knowledge at all stages. Along with self-determination, the ability to choose acts as one of the basic principles of inquiry-oriented education (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008). The focus is on the internal reserves and mental potential of the growing person. The school should teach humanistic values ​​focused on a person such as philanthropy, generosity, care, and kindness. All of them should be embodied in the content and process of education and students’ extracurricular projects since most of a young person’s time is devoted to leisure, communication, sports, and entertainment.

References

Australian Geography Teachers Association. (n.d.a) Year 2 exemplars: Overview. Web.

Australian Geography Teachers Association. (n.d.b) Years F–4: Introduction. Web.

Australian Geography Teachers Association. (n.d.c) Core units: Years 5-6 — Key understandings. Web.

Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Snow, B. (2017). KidCitizen: Designing an app for inquiry with primary sources. Social Education, 81(2), 105-108.

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2008). At the heart of what we do. Values education at the centre of schooling. Web.

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (n.d.) Values for Australian schooling. Web.

Department of Education. (2019). The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) education declaration. Web.

Department of Education and Training. (2017). National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education strategy 2015. Web.

Green, D., & Price, D. (Eds.). (2019). Making humanities and social sciences come alive. Cambridge University Press.

Indigenous Terminology. (2019). Web.

KidCitizen. (n.d.). Web.

Minigan, A. P., Westbrook, S., Rothstein, D., & Santana, L. (2017). Stimulating and sustaining inquiry with students’ questions. Social Education, 81(5), 268-272.

Noddings, N., & Brooks, L. (2016). Teaching controversial issues: The case for critical thinking and moral commitment in the classroom. Teachers College Press.

Preston, L., Harvie, K., & Wallace, H. (2015). Inquiry-based learning in teacher education: A primary humanities example. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 40(12), 73-85. Web.

Pritchard, B., & Hutchinson, N. (2006). ‘True Blue Geography’, an op-ed article. Geographical Education, 19, 8.

Wilson, J. (2009). Focus on inquiry: A practical approach to curriculum planning. Curriculum Press.