New NSW Syllabus - Geography
Lindsay Swan from the Board of Studies was a speaker at the recent NSW GTA Conference. He was there to speak about the implementation plans for the "new NSW Geography syllabus incorporating the Australian Curriculum". What a mouthful!
The following details were confirmed:
- Mandatory hours for Geography will remain the same as they are now - 100hrs in Stage 4 and 100hrs Stage 5.
- Elective Geography will exist but will be changed (not sure of any other details here).
- Planning is underway to begin the process of writing the new NSW syllabus.
- It is likely that a team of syllabus writers will be established to write the documents for all upcoming HSIE subjects.
- Writing and consultation is likely to take place in 2014.
- Modification and approvals are likely to happen in 2014-5.
- The new syllabus will contain outcomes and objectives.
- The content elaborations as developed by ACARA will not be included.
- Stage statements will be developed which will be linked to the Achievement Standards developed by ACARA.
- The syllabus will continue to be based on stages not on years.
- “Learning across the Curriculum” will be integrated throughout the syllabus so that teachers will not have to teach these as separate skills.
- The Australian Curriculum content descriptions will be found in the new syllabus documents.
- The Research Action Plan will be retained.
- There will be no “learn tos” or “learn abouts”.
- There will be internal choice/options.
- The syllabus will not be published in a hard copy. You will only be able to access the syllabus online as an e-syllabus.
- Schools must continue teaching the current NSW syllabus or risk issues with registration
- Teachers will have approximately 12 months of familiarization once the documents have been released.
- A possible implementation timeline is:
o 7 and 9 in 2016 or 2017
o 8 and 10 2017 and 2018
- The BOS program builder is available to assist in program writing (but won’t be needed by Geography teachers for quite a while yet).
The following were not confirmed:
- Will there be an allocated budget to fund the writing of the new NSW syllabus for the Senior Geography course?
- Will any of the writers for the Geography syllabus have Geography training or expertise?
From here on in I'm giving my own opinions and interpretation of the state of play. There are a number of issues that I think are important to be explored: NSW's delayed implementation compared to the rest of the country and compared to History, and the rewriting (or not?) of Senior Geography.
The insistence of the Board of Studies to rewrite the Australian Curriculum for all of the subjects puts NSW behind the other states and territories. The benefit of this is that for the Phase 1 subjects (English, Science, History and Maths) NSW staff are in familiarisation mode while the other states are scrambling to write new content. When our Phase 1 teachers begin implementation next year for Years 7 and 9 there will already be a heap of resources available that have been developed by teachers from other states. The issue with this is that many of the online repositories of resources that have been developed (like ABC Splash, Scootle, etc) are linked specifically to the Australian Curriculum. NSW staff will need to find the resources and examine them through the lens of the new NSW syllabuses to see if they're relevant. Some may say this is not a big issue, but to me it is just another layer of conceptual matter to deal with on a day-to-day basis that the other states aren't worrying about. It is highly likely that NSW teachers will find great resources that are just not quite right because of the NSW re-write. This will continue to happen in NSW when we finally get round to implementing Geography.
I'm still not really clear on why NSW is rewriting the Australian Curriculum. Wouldn't it be great to be part of a national initiative where we are all sharing resources and discussing pedagogy together? Instead, in NSW we are saying, "Well, I like this bit, but we can do so much better here...", or, "I don't like this bit, let's do it this way...". Isn't the whole point of having a national curriculum that we work together and do the same thing? I really think I'm missing something and to me it all feels a little elitist. I understand that teachers in NSW are used to doing things in a certain way (particularly the emphasis on outcomes), but I'd like to think that we're all smart enough and adaptable enough to teach and interpret whatever we're given. I also feel like we're really letting down the team. We should be pumping out resources for the other states to use. Given that there are other states who have not taught Geography as a separate subject before, NSW should be leading the charge and offering up everything we have.
A constant discussion on online Geography groups, at events and in staff rooms is how we can boost Senior Geography numbers. People are constantly coming up with amazing ideas to engage students and try to encourage a greater take up in senior school. For me I think one of the biggest issues is the constant comparison to History (sorry historians, no offence). The implementation of Geography looks like it will be at least 2 years behind History. Clearly this goes back to the original federal decision to have History in Phase 1 and Geography in Phase 2, but the ACARA draft for Geography has been out for ages. Is it really not possible to speed the whole re-writing process up a bit? Geography clearly has an image problem. She is like the ugly step-sister to History. A delay in the implementation of the Australian Curriculum does nothing to improve matters. Neither does a lack of commitment to re-write the Senior Geography syllabus.
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Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the Geoactive text book series.