Academic journal article Babel

From Concepts to Design in Developing Languages in the Australian Curriculum

Academic journal article Babel

From Concepts to Design in Developing Languages in the Australian Curriculum

Article excerpt


Developing curricula for languages in the context of the Australian Curriculum is a complex undertaking that needs to address a number of demands. These include: the nature of language and-culture learning for contemporary times within an increasingly diverse linguistic and cultural world; the goals of mainstream education and the 'given' curriculum constructs that pertain to the curriculum as a whole and languages curricula as a part of that whole; the process of transposing concepts from current research into a design for language learning for diverse learners and diverse languages; and the need to achieve jurisdictional and professional consensus about the nature and extent of change that is sustainable and productive for the present and into the future. Drawing on these demands and my experience as an actor in the process of development, I discuss the rationale for and the major features of the design for languages. I conclude with a reflection on the evolving process of curriculum development and particularly on implications for teachers.


Australian Curriculum, intercultural language learning, curriculum design, linguistic and cultural diversity


The development of languages in the Australian Curriculum, like all developments of this kind internationally, is set in a distinctive context of time and space. In Australian education, languages are recognised as a learning area in the Melbourne Declaration of the National Goals of School Education (Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2008) and included in the development of the Australian Curriculum. This development is taking place in a context where the legislative responsibility for school education resides with the six states and two territories of Australia in a complex relationship with the Commonwealth Government. A distinctive, national educational infrastructure has been created, which includes the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), responsible for the national curriculum and national assessment; the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AISTL), responsible for teacher and leadership standards; and Education Services Australia (ESA), responsible for developing, and making available digitally, sets of teaching and learning resources to support the implementation of the Australian Curriculum.

The development of languages in the Australian Curriculum, as for all other learning areas, needs to be undertaken within the policy settings, standards and curriculum and assessment constructs that define the national endeavour which may or may not fit equally well with the requirements of all learning areas. It represents the most recent chapter in the history of language curriculum policy formulation in Australian education another chapter in a story of languages developments that have sought to increase participation and retention, and reshape languages education. This languages curriculum policy work is, however, being undertaken at a time when the language policy settings are particularly fragile (Clyne, 2005; Liddicoat, Scarino, Curnow, Kohler, Scrimgeour & Morgan, 2007; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2010; Lo Bianco & Slaughter, 2009) and this places particular constraints on the process. This is because in the absence of an explicit policy statement on languages, curriculum policy becomes a default languages policy.

The ACARA curriculum development process for each learning area has begun with the preparation of a Shape paper that is intended to provide a conceptualisation of the learning area. I write this article as a participant in the process of developing the Australian Curriculum and as the lead writer in the preparation of the Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Languages (henceforth the Shape paper) (See ACARA, 2011). In the languages area, the Shape paper needed not only to provide a conceptual blueprint, but also to address complex issues of provision that result from the distinctiveness of languages education. …

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