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, 2008).

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)

The key national strategy to support this commitment identified in the MCEETYA1 four-year plan 20092012 is the establishment of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). ACARA’s establishment was agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) at its October 2008 meeting. 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 to be implemented in all jurisdictions and sectors from 2011

  • 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 communications technology (ICT) literacy; and participation in relevant international testing programs.

ACARA was established under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act (1997) and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act (2008) and became operational at the end of May 2009.
 
ACARA is an independent statutory authority established by the Australian Parliament. It 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.
 
ACARA’s 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 Clause 6 of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act (2008), are to:
  • develop and administer a national school curriculum, including content of the curriculum and achievement standards, for school subjects specified by MCEECDYA

  • 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 national curriculum from Foundation2 to 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.
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. These will be linked to a reporting framework for reporting students’ achievements to parents. 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.
ACARA published the Curriculum Development Process in May 2009. The document describes the process used to develop the Australian Curriculum and the structure of writing teams and advisory groups involved. 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 to take place in 2010. ACARA’s Curriculum Design paper, published in May 2009, and advice from the ACARA Board guided this process.
Phase 2 of the Australian Curriculum development involves the learning areas of geography, languages and the Arts. Initial shape papers for geography, languages and the Arts will be available for public consultation in 2010 and 2011, with decisions to be taken about the scope of development (F–10 or F–12) at completion of the shaping phase.
Phase 3 will include the development of curriculum for the learning areas of health and physical education, technologies (including information and communication technologies, 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, resources, support and guidance to the teaching profession

While the process of implementation is a matter for each State and Territory, ACARA will 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 communications technology (ICT) literacy, and Australia’s participation in international assessments Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
 
  • National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

NAPLAN is an annual assessment where students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in Australia complete a series of tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (spelling, punctuation and grammar) and Numeracy (working effectively with numbers, space and measurement).
NAPLAN tests were first conducted in 2008, replacing former State and Territory based literacy and numeracy tests. The second round of NAPLAN tests were conducted in 2009.
Commencing in 2010, responsibility for NAPLAN rests with ACARA.
Information on results of the 2009 NAPLAN tests, including the Key Performance Measures related to them, is included in the Student Achievement section of this report.
The NAPLAN Summary Report and NAPLAN National Report for 2009 are published on the ACARA National Assessment Program website. These reports provide analyses of results including breakdowns by state and territory, gender and language background. Further information about NAPLAN for parents, schools and students is also available on this website. Included is information on NAPLAN tests and on the individual student reports provided to all students who participate in the NAPLAN tests. From 2010, NAPLAN results for schools will also be 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 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 Science Literacy assessment was undertaken by a sample of Year 6 students in October 2009.
 
Information on results of the 2009 Science Literacy assessment, including the Key Performance Measure related to it, is included in the Student Achievement section of this report.
The full report on this sample assessment is available on the ACARA National Assessment Program website. Responsibility for NAP Sample Assessments will rest with ACARA from 2010.
  • National Assessment Program — international assessments

     

NAP sample assessments conducted by international organisations and used by MCEECDYA for reporting Key Performance Measures are:
 
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), involves the assessment of a sample of 15-year-old students in Years 9, 10 or 11, in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. PISA assessment occurred in 2009 and a summary of Australian students’ performance on these assessments, including the Key Performance Measures related to them, is included in the Student Achievement section of this report.
Full and summary reports for Australian students in PISA 2009 are available on the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) website.
 

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), conducted every four years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), tests a sample of students in Years 4 and 8 from each participating country. The next TIMSS assessment will occur in 2010. A sample of Australian students in Years 4 and 8 will participate.



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 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.