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Video clip synopsis – Talkback Classroom participants argue that students have a say in developing curriculum.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 2min 54sec
Tags - Australian History, civics and citizenship, Learning Journey History, national identity, parliament, politics, youth, see all tags


The New Curriculum

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About the Video Clip


Talkback Classroom is a forum program run by the Education section of the National Museum of Australia. Each year panels of three secondary students, selected from schools Australia-wide, interview leading decision-makers on important current issues. The panels participate in a ‘learning journey’ (researching the issues and developing interview skills) to explore the issues and prepare for the forum.

This clip comes from a 2007 forum on the topic of “Australian history in the classroom”. The guest interviewed was The Hon. Julie Bishop MP, former Minister for Education, Science and Training. The interview panelists were NSW Year 12 students Sam Goldsmith from Masada College, Elliot Cameron from Fort Street High and Year 11 student Rosa Nolan from Sydney Girls’ High School. In preparation for the forum, students participated in a learning journey that involved interviewing Paul Kelly, editor-at-large of the Australian newspaper, Kimberley Webber, curator at the Powerhouse Museum, Nadia Wheatley, author and historian and Alistair Grierson, director of the film Kokoda.

Curriculum Focus


Go to The National Curriculum Statements for Civics and Citizenship
Teachers and students should consult their state’s curriculum and learning programs.

Background Information


In the early days of the British colony in Australia, education was managed by church groups and private individuals. Between 1872 and 1895 Education Acts were passed which made “free, compulsory and secular” primary education a state responsibility. Currently all school education is administered by state and territory governments. All government and independent schools follow the learning outcomes set by the states or territories.

Whether schools should conform to a national framework or curriculum is presently the subject of national debate. National consistency in curriculum, testing and reporting, alongside performance pay for teachers and transparency of reporting procedures have been key features of this discussion. In specific reference to Australian history, the emphasis placed on this subject in the school curriculum has been much debated. The importance of teaching a national story, a defined body of historical knowledge and a clear set of historical skills has been identified by commentators, historians, academics and teachers as a priority in the construction of a national history curriculum.

Classroom Activities


Before you watch

  1. The previous federal government planned to introduce a national curriculum renewal consultation process in which the views of students would be sought. Try this activity as a method of discussing as a class the topic of student involvement:
    1. Investigate the organisation of the House of Representatives in federal parliament and how bills are debated during ‘Question Time’ in the House. Go to the Parlimentary Education Office for specific information.
    2. Divide the class into two groups representing the Government and Opposition sides. Select a class member to be the Speaker of the House. Have the following bill introduced by a Government member of the House: ‘All Australian History students are to participate in compulsory feedback sessions in relation to the development of a national History curriculum in Australian schools’.
    3. Debate the bill using the Question Time style i.e. ‘vigorous’ discussion and attempts from each side to either support or undermine the bill. (Video footage of Question Time sessions may be found on the YouTube website by putting ‘Australian’, ‘Parliament’ and ‘Question Time’ into the YouTube search engine.)
    4. Videotape your class ‘Question Time’ session if possible and watch later on to see how well the Government and Opposition positions were put by the ‘parliamentarians’.

While you watch

  1. The former federal Education minister Julie Bishop is asked questions regarding the involvement of students in curriculum development. Listen carefully to her responses so that later your class might conduct this roleplay activity:
    1. Have a student take on the role of federal Education minister. Have three students take on the roles of Talkback Classroom panelists. The panelists are to come up with a range of questions for the ‘minister’ on the topic of new curriculum and student involvement in the development of that curriculum. Conduct a Talkback Classroom-style interview with the rest of the class as the ‘studio audience’. After the interview, ask the ‘minister’ how it felt to be interviewed and discuss the responses to the questions.

After you watch

  1. Carry out an internet search on the topic of ‘the history of school curriculum development in Australia’. See what information you can gather that tells the story of changes to curriculum at state, territory and federal level. Your research should perhaps start with Federation in 1901. Look for the following in your investigations:
  • Particular themes that are repeated across the years.
  • Radical changes in curriculum and their effects.
  • Major individuals involved in the process. These may be state/territory/federal education ministers and parliamentarians, university academics, teachers, students and representatives of organisations such as teacher unions and ‘Parents and Citizens’ (P&C) groups.

Compile a file of your research and present it as perhaps a PowerPoint show or in a hard copy format e.g. folder or poster. Compare your findings with others in your class; look for and discuss the similarities and differences between your results and the results of others.

Further Resources


National Museum of Australia’s Talkback Classroom website

Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations ‘Teaching Australian history’