What will my child learn in the new curriculum?
- NSW public schools will commence teaching a new curriculum from 2014.
- The national curriculum is taught across "learning stages".
- Teachers use the curriculum as a framework, but adapt lessons to suit their students.
- The best way to find out what your child should be learning is to speak with their teacher.
- Don't compare your child's classwork with students from other schools.
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"What will my child learn this year?" seems like a simple enough question. After all, isn't there a big book of lessons somewhere that all teachers refer to?
As parents we tend to expect that all Australian kids in Year 3, for example, would be learning pretty much the same things each week - wouldn't they?
The short answer is, "Not really".
Although all Australian states and territories have joined with the Australian government to create a new national curriculum with agreed content, teachers can still individually create lesson programs to suit the needs of their students.
Stages of learning
It's helpful to understand how schools decide what and how they'll teach students. In NSW public schools the curriculum is broken down into learning stages, each spread across approximately two years of school:
Your child may be in a composite class, for example, a combined Year 5 and Year 6 class. The teacher will be working with them at a Stage 3 level, but as in any classroom (combined or not) students will be on a wide spectrum of ability, with different depths of understanding.
Even if your child is in a single Year class (say, Year 5), the teacher will carefully create programs of work for a broad range of abilities. Kids in combined classes aren't at a disadvantage - in fact some parents find it gives their child more opportunities to extend themselves.
How the syllabus works
The NSW Board of Studies develops a syllabus for each of the learning areas. The syllabus is like a framework that defines the knowledge and understandings, skills, values and attitudes students should have achieved by the end of each learning stage. It doesn't dictate the content of lessons.
It's up to teachers to decide how to best achieve the objectives and outcomes set out in the syllabus.
For example, here's a Science and technology outcome from the new NSW Australian curriculum, for Stage 2 students:
While helping the class achieve that outcome, the teacher has the flexibility to:
- decide the order in which students learn things
- create lessons around topics their students are interested in
- adjust lessons based on the needs and abilities of their students.
So if, for example, a Stage 2 class in NSW snow country is really excited about winter sports, the teacher may use that as a starting point for creating a lesson plan that looks at the effects of global warming on the ski season. The unit of work would be framed around all of the above outcomes, but specifically developed to be of interest to those particular students.
That's why the best person to ask "what will my child learn this year?" is their teacher. It's also why you shouldn't be concerned if your Year 2 child doesn't seem to be studying exactly the same things as students in other Year 2 classes.
It's very likely that your child's teacher has found a better way to teach that concept to your child's class, based on all their individual personalities and interests.
Most school have parent information evenings (usually at the start of Term 1), when your child's teacher will explain what they're aiming to cover with their students in the coming year. Make sure you attend, and don't be afraid to ask questions - if you're unclear about something, you can bet other parents in the audience are wondering exactly the same things.
Science syllabus Kindergarten to Year 10 (incorporating Science and Technology syllabus Kindergarten to Year 6)