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Structure & Development of the New South Wales (Nsw) Primary Curriculum

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Structure & Development of the New South Wales (NSW) Primary Curriculum

The New South Wales Primary Curriculum provides the framework for the outcomes based education currently in use in all Public schools in New South Wales. This essay will present a brief overview of the structure, definition, goals, influences, processes and show how it meets the needs of current and future learners. Drawing from various sources, an examination of the curriculums content and foundation, will provide a snapshot of where the educational direction is headed.

Curriculum Structure and Development
In 2004 the Board of Studies NSW developed the consultation paper, Defining Mandatory Outcomes in the K–6 Curriculum, which also involved surveys, submissions and state-wide consultation meetings with teachers across NSW. This process helped to bring about the current NSW Primary Curriculum Foundations Statements. Collaborating with teachers and educational professionals the statements developed by the board of studies NSW give clear direction of what must be taught through each of the stages of learning in the K-6 curriculum (The Board of Studies NSW, 2007). The NSW Primary Curriculum is structured into six key learning areas (KLA’s), English; Mathematics; Science and Technology; Human Society and its Environment; Creative Arts; and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE). The KLA’s, along with the syllabus, remain at the core of planning and programming, and are broken down into various broad strands. These strands help the educator to manage planning and prioritise learning at each stage (The Board of Studies NSW, 2007).
The broad strands are laid out as follows: * English * talking and listening * reading * writing * Mathematics * Working Mathematically * Number * Patterns and Algebra * Measurement and Data * Space and Geometry * Science and Technology * Investigating Scientifically * Designing and Making * The Natural Environment * The Made Environment * Human Society and it’s Environment * Change and Continuity * Cultures * Environments * Social Systems and Structures * Creative Arts * Visual Arts * Music * Dance * Drama * Personal Development, Health and Physical Education * Fundamental Movement and Physical Activity * Healthy Choices * Self and Relationships

According to the Education Act (1990), primary school students from Kindergarten to year 6 must include in each of the six key learning areas ‘courses of study’ for every child during each year (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2004).

Curriculum Definition
The NSW K-6 curriculum is based upon the Objectives model developed by Tyler (1949), and is the most common model used in the development of curriculum (Brady & Kennedy, 2007). The foundation statements released by the Board of Studies NSW in 2004, reflect the objectives model in it’s common curriculum requirements. Tyler’s (1949) four central questions focusing on objectives, content, method and evaluation can be seen in the Foundation Statements as follows: 1. Provide the student with clear direction to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding required for them to progress through their primary years, incorporating the syllabus outcomes, the nature and scope of learning in K-6. 2. Give clear understanding of what needs to be taught in all primary schools, ensuring that the common curriculum requirements are met in each KLA. 3. Provide guidance in meeting the needs of students with varying levels of learning ability through the selection of syllabus outcomes, content, and flexible teaching strategies. 4. Students progress is based upon assessment, reporting and discussion (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2001).

What is the Goal of the Curriculum?
The NSW Primary curriculum is a specific view in that it provides through the syllabus and modules clear guidelines on what must be taught in each of the 6 Key Learning Areas. The Syllabus defines the mandatory outcomes and indicators for each subject through a structured and progressive process providing a fixed sequence of teaching. Students are seen as the reason for being with their outcomes the point of reference for achievement. The New South Wales Department of Education and Training (2009,p.1,2) reinforces this when they state they exist, “to develop and deliver curriculum policy, programs, strategies, professional learning and support materials that address national and state curriculum standards; enable teachers to provide challenging and stimulating learning programs that meet students’ needs and prepare them for success in the 21st century; and promote collaboration, innovation and knowledge creation and sharing amongst students and amongst teachers”, and again, “We are committed to public education, as the provider of high quality, inclusive education for the people of New South Wales and as the foundation for a harmonious, prosperous and democratic society” (The New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 2009).
What influences the Curriculum
Outcomes based education underpins the NSW Primary Curriculum which is divided into four learning stages. Early stage one is Kindergarten; Stage One is years 1 and 2; Stage Two is years 3 and 4; and stage three is years 5 and 6. A cognitive developmental model is seen throughout the curriculum in that the teacher makes adjustments according to the students’ developmental level in order to plan and deliver the lessons (Brady & Kennedy, 2007). The theories of both Paiget and Vygotsky are both apparent in the structure and delivery of the curriculum. The structure of the Syllabus is geared around the Concrete and Formal Operations in the Four Stages of Learning according to Paiget’s theory (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010).
Paiget essentially saw cognitive development occurring in a complex environment as well as a part of biological development, with the individual striving to adapt to the surrounding world. Vygotsky believed that the social world was the basis for cognitive development, through language use by interactions with people. Vygotsky’s dialectical theory showed that the student must pass through the zone of proximal development, the difference between the student’s developmental level and the potential level determined through problem solving under the guidance of an adult, through reasoning and adult discussion in order to master the current level. This form of knowledge building is known as scaffolding and can be seen in the both the theories of Paiget and Vygostsky (Barry & King, 1993).
The NSW primary curriculum through its outcomes based structure reflects these theories as each outcome is progressive, and the student is unable to progress through to the next level of learning until the outcomes are achieved in the current level (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2001).

Curriculum Processes
Assessment is conducted by the teacher using various forms of assessment throughout the year. Reports are produced bi-annually comparing student outcomes against the Key Learning Areas in the syllabus. These reports are based on a five-point scale of achievement using A-E or the word descriptors; Outstanding, High, Sound, Limited and Basic, with the exception of kindergarten which is reported through comments by teachers (New South Wales Government, 2009).
Outcomes in the Primary Curriculum are achieved through the planning, programming, assessing and reporting processes which take into account the individual learning needs and learning environment of all students. Learning experiences should be designed to build upon the present knowledge students hold, allowing them to progress through the identified learning stages. Through participation in these learning stages, decisions are made regarding the level of the student’s knowledge and ability to understand and achieve outcomes (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2001).
The strategies that teachers most frequently utilize in the primary curriculum are generally assessment tasks and rated portfolios. Portfolios are samples of student’s work contained in a folder showing examples of the best work they have accomplished, often related to the outcomes contained in the curriculum. According to Brady (1998), these work examples are used more often than any other reporting methods, including parent/teacher interviews and report cards.
Essentially delivery of the NSW Primary School Curriculum is accomplished by the programming of the individual Key Learning Area, which can be accomplished through an integrated program or a mixture of both. The individual school will provide additional information and guidance on planning and programming the curriculum. Teachers may utilise the Foundation Statements in order to ensure clarity in their teaching, and to provide certainty that they are teaching what is in the curriculum (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2001).

Catering for the Future
The NSW Primary Curriculum provides scope for students to gain knowledge and understanding in current and future technology, with an approach to enable each child access to science and technology. This is accomplished through the Key Learning Areas on an ongoing basis through each year of the K-6 curriculum, with a recognition that Science and Technology teaching must play an essential role in the primary curriculum if students are to be effectively equipped for 21st century life (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2001, p.2)

The Science and Technology subjects equip students with the skills needed in an ever increasing technological society. The syllabus emphasizes first-hand experiences, investigating, problem-solving, designing and making, and evaluation of technological activity. It incorporates the use of first-hand experiences in computers, communication technology and mass media, acknowledging the need for students to gain understanding and competence in them (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2001, p.2).
The NSW Primary School Curriculum incorporates values teaching through the Key Learning Area of Human Society and it’s Environment (Board of Studies NSW, 2007). As part of meeting the needs of 21st Century learners, the NSW Government has recognised the importance of teaching core values to students that encompass the aspirations and beliefs of Australian society. The core values include integrity, excellence, respect, responsibility, cooperation, participation, care, fairness and democracy. As part of this schooling for the future, the community looks at the students of today to determine the world of tomorrow. The social outcomes of teaching core values in NSW schools, delivered through classrooms and school communities, benefits society in that it: * values all people * assists and empowers individuals from disadvantaged groups to actively pursue improved employment, personal and life opportunities * contributes to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians * is comfortable with cultural and linguistic diversity * is compassionate towards others in need * is aware of its heritage * develops social cohesion * empowers individuals to become active participants in the democratic processes of Australian society * values the contribution of public education to the future of all Australians * rejects violence, harassment and negative forms of discrimination * supports peaceful resolution of conflict.
(New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 2004, p.6)

Conclusion
The effectiveness of this curriculum is dependant upon varied factors and multiple conclusions based upon delivery and pedagogy style. The curriculum retains flexibility to cater for student’s individual needs and learning styles. Through the process of scaffolding knowledge is built upon the level of the student and acts as a launching pad to the next stage. The move from mandatory outcomes to prescriptive stages allows teachers to plan flexible and student focused lessons (Board of Studies, NSW Government, 2001, p.2). Outcomes based curriculum, such as the NSW Primary Curriculum, provides clear direction for both teachers and students allowing for the diversity in our society today.

REFERENCES
Brady, L. (1998). Assessment and Reporting in NSW Schools. A Paper Presented at The Australian Association for Research In Education Annual Conference Nov 29 - Dec 3, 1998, Adelaide. Retrieved October, 14, 2009 from http://www.aare.edu.au/98pap/bra98125.htm
Board of Studies, NSW Government (2001). NSW Primary Curriculum Foundation Statements p.12. Available from Board of Studies NSW Web site, http:// www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
Board of Studies, NSW Government, (2007). Human Society & Its Environment K-6 Syllabus.p.5. Available from Board of Studies NSW Web site, http:// www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
Board of Studies, NSW Government, (2001). NSW Primary Curriculum Foundation Statements Available from Board of Studies NSW Web site, http:// www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
Brady & Kennedy, 2007. P191. Curriculum Construction. Pearson Education Australia NSW.
Barry & King, 1993. Beginning Teaching, (2nd ed.) Social Science Press Wentworth Falls, NSW.
Board of Studies, NSW Government (2001). NSW Primary Curriculum. Available from Board of Studies NSW Web site, http:// www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
Board of Studies, NSW Government (2001). NSW Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus. p.1. Available from Board of Studies NSW Web site, http:// www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
Board of Studies, NSW Government (2001). General Principles for Planning, Programming, Assessing, Reporting and Evaluating. Available from http://arc.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/go/k-6/assess-principles/
Board of Studies, NSW Government (2004). Consultation Paper: Defining Mandatory Outcomes in the K–6 Curriculum.p.3. Sydney NSW Australia. Available from Board of Studies NSW Web site, http:// www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
Board of Studies, NSW Government (2001). NSW Primary Curriculum Foundation Statements Available from Board of Studies NSW Web site, http:// www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au
New South Wales Department of Education and Training, Office of Schools, Curriculum K–12 Development Plan 2009–20, p1-2.
New South Wales Government, Department of Education and Training, Public Schools. (2009) Available from http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/learning/k-6assessments/index.php
New South Wales Department of Education and Training, Values in NSW Public Schools, A Ministerial Statement by Hon Andrew Refshauge, MP, Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Training and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, March 2004. Available from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/student_serv/student_welfare/valu_scool/PD20050131.shtml

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