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NSW Response Draft Australian Curriculum: Languages for Chinese and Italian Foundation to Year 10


NSW has joined with the Australian Government and all other states and territories in a joint endeavour to develop an Australian curriculum. The Board of Studies NSW is responsible for advising the NSW Minister for Education on the appropriateness of the curriculum for NSW schools and the structure and process of its implementation, including with regard to the Australian curriculum.

The development of the Australian curriculum is being coordinated by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). ACARA has included Languages in phase 2 of the development.

The first languages to be developed were Chinese and Italian. The draft Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum: Languages for Chinese and Italian was released on 19 December 2012.

The Board of Studies NSW is working with education sectors and community groups in NSW to support ACARA in this initiative and to provide input and feedback on the development of the curriculum.

Key Matters

  • The structure and the language of the documentation are unnecessarily complex.
  • The development of neither the individual Chinese nor the Italian curriculum is framework-based. The use of frameworks has been recognised across Australia as the most efficient model for languages curriculum development and implementation.
  • There is an overemphasis on ‘understanding’ language to the detriment of using language, and a corresponding overemphasis on the use of English.
  • The developmental sequence from F to 10 is not sufficiently clear and logical.
  • There is a misalignment between the content descriptions, content elaborations and achievement standards.
  • The curriculum does not provide sufficient guidance for teachers in clearly identifying the knowledge and skills that students will learn.
  • There is a lack of clarity in the expectations described in the content and consequently concern as to whether it can be achieved within the indicative hours.

Recommendations to ACARA

  • Review the curriculum documentation to ensure that it is expressed in plain English.
  • Review and rationalise the content descriptions and their language to develop a common, base-level framework for language development in all languages.
  • Review the scope and sequences to ensure that they represent a clear and logical progression of learning.
  • Move the sub-strand Reflecting on intercultural use to the Understanding strand and rationalise the number of sub-strands in both Communicating and Understanding.
  • Review the content elaborations so that they are consistent with the linguistic elements identified in the achievement standards.
  • Review the content descriptions and content elaborations to ensure that they are commensurate with the cognitive development of the age group.

Background Information

The Australian curriculum for all languages and pathways has two organisational strands: Communicating (‘learning to use the target language’) and Understanding (‘analysing language use’), and a number of sub-strands.

The development of Languages curriculum across Australia to date has been based on frameworks. ACARA’s Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Languages has advocated a return to ‘language-specific’ curriculum at the content description level.

Three learner groups or pathways have been identified: Second Language Learners (SLL: students learning the language as additional and new); Background Language Learners (BLL: students who may use the target language at home and have knowledge of the language to varying degrees); and First Language Learners (FLL: students who have had at least primary schooling in the target language). All three pathways have been developed for Chinese. In Italian, only the SLL pathway has been developed.

For the Second Language Learner and the Background Language Learner pathways, an F to 10 as well as a Years 7 to 10 curriculum have been developed. The content has been developed on an assumption of 350 indicative hours of learning in Primary and 80 hours in each of Years 7 to 10.


The Office of the Board of Studies gathered information on the Draft Australian Curriculum: Languages for Chinese and Italian from the following sources:

  • focus group meetings of K–12 Chinese and Italian teachers, as well as teachers of Arabic, French, German, Japanese and Spanish, head teachers and curriculum coordinators at:
    • Chatswood on 18 March 2013 (FG 1 – Chinese)
    • Strathfield on 20 March 2013 (FG 2 – Italian)
    • Ashfield on 25 March 2013 (FG 3 – Chinese)
  • Office of the Board of Studies:
    • Sydney 26 March 2013 (FG 4 – Italian)
    • Sydney 8 April 2013 (OF – online forum for regional teachers)
  • Languages Reference Group (LRG), 18 February 2013
    A meeting of academics, system and sector representatives, professional association representatives, Saturday School of Community Languages, The Open High School, the NSW Community Languages Schools Board and specialist Languages teachers.
  • Languages Network Group (LNG)
    The Languages Network Group has provided ongoing feedback to ACARA's Languages Advisory Group on the various iterations of the Chinese and Italian curriculum. The group is chaired by the Languages Inspector and includes three other Board officers and representatives of the Catholic Education Commission (CEC), the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AIS) and the Department of Education and Communities (DEC).
  • written submissions from:
    • Department of Education and Communities
    • Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney (CAS)
    • Modern Languages Teachers Association of NSW (MLTA NSW)
    • Chinese Languages Teachers Association (CLTA)
    • individual teachers (Submissions 1 and 2).

Analysis of Responses

Clarity and quality of the learning expectations at each stage of schooling

A general comment about the curriculum documentation was that it was difficult to navigate. Many teachers also commented on the difficulty of understanding how students would progress across the levels and how the documents would support teachers in classrooms of students of mixed backgrounds and language experiences. It’s integrating all of the smaller pieces into the whole that I would find difficult. (Teacher at LRG Meeting)

The absence of information about the relative weighting of the two strands and the related use of English was a major concern to most teachers. Emphasis should be about talking ‘in’ language rather than talking ‘about’ language. (MLTA NSW) We either sacrifice practising and using Chinese or learning about language. (FG 1)

As an aid to clarity and consistency, there was considerable support for the development of frameworks to guide and inform the development of ‘language-specific’ curricula. Lack of a framework will result in inefficient communication and professional dialogue within language faculties and across school/systems. (FG 2)

Concern was also expressed regarding the relationship between content descriptions and elaborations and the achievement standards, and how the curriculum would articulate into Stage 6 language courses in NSW.

Summary of feedback


Curriculum structure is very complex, making navigation and cross-referencing difficult

DEC; CAS; LNG; LRG; MLTA NSW; all stakeholder focus groups

Curriculum design lacks sufficient detail


The lack of frameworks is neither justifiable educationally nor in the interest of teachers and systems

DEC; LNG; CLTA; LRG; Head Teacher at FG 1; Curriculum Co-ordinator at FG 1

Content descriptions are often too broad, and unclear in their own right, requiring a content elaboration to make them intelligible and/or an indication of the required depth of engagement

DEC; LNG; MLTA NSW; BLL Chinese (CLTA); SSL Chinese (FG 3)

More content elaborations necessary for clarification of the content descriptions

SLL and BLL Chinese (CLTA); teacher at LRG

Correlation between the content descriptions/elaborations and the achievement standards is not always evident

DEC; SLL Chinese (CLTA); SLL Level 1 Chinese (FG 3); Italian pathways FG 2

Some content elaborations are not commensurate with the linguistic capabilities of students at particular levels and pathways

Italian 7–10 (DEC); BLL F–2 Chinese
(FG 3); BLL Level 1 elaborations Chinese (FG 1)

Some content elaborations are very helpful

Submission 1

It is unclear how many of the Understanding content descriptions could be assessed


More cohesion and consistency in the language used to describe content descriptions is needed


Lack of clarity around role of English in some content elaborations


More information needs to be provided in relation to the grammar structures and text types to be taught


Achievement standards in all three pathways for Chinese are not achievable within the indicative hours


Lack of clarity about what students are actually expected to know by the end of a course


Scope and sequence needs to demonstrate a logical, sequenced progression of learning

Italian F–10 and 7–10 (DEC); FG 4

Italian Scope and sequence is appropriate

CAS; Submission 1

Understanding is given too much prominence

CAS; Chinese SLL F–10, Level 3 (FG 1); FG 4

Overemphasis on the role and use of English in Understanding but also in some Communicating sub-strands

DEC; MLTA NSW, FG 3; Submission 2

Communicating and Understanding strands need to be better integrated

LRG; FG 3; FG 4; OF; Submission 1

Communicating and Understanding strands are well organised

BLL Chinese (CLTA)

Flexibility to accommodate student, teacher and school diversity and provide standards that are challenging yet realistic

The case was made by many respondents that the curriculum did not recognise, let alone accommodate the realities of student, teacher and school diversity in the NSW context. It was felt that little consideration had been given to requirements placed on individual teachers, languages departments and systems in the delivery of the curriculum, and managing the language needs of very diverse learning groups. At the moment, many Chinese classes include students from each of the three pathways. (With the two different entry points) there will need to be 5 different programs in order to meet syllabus requirements. (CLTA) There is too much content to be covered in the allocated times. In particular, the F–10 pathways are content heavy. (MLTA NSW)

In terms of expectations and standards, it was felt there were many instances of significant misalignment between band descriptions, content descriptions and achievement standards. Some content is too simplistic and other content is too difficult for the specified Band. Content descriptions should be pitched appropriately to the pathway and band. (DEC)

Summary of feedback


Expectations are too high, especially in terms of Communicating

Chinese and Italian DEC; SLL Chinese
F–10 and 7–10 (CLTA); SLL Chinese
F–10 Level 3 (FG 1); SLL Chinese 7–10 Level 1 (FG1); Chinese BG (CLTA); BLL Chinese Understanding F–2 (FG 3)

Too many sub-strands/overlapping of sub-strands and related content

SLL and BLL Chinese (CLTA); FG 4 teacher at LRG; Submission 2

Too many content descriptions

Italian 7–10 (CAS); FG 2

There is a lack of flexibility in relation to teaching realities

CLTA; teachers at all the FGs

There should be separate achievement standards for F–2 and Years 3–4

DEC, CAS, MLTA NSW, Submission 1

Appropriateness of the curriculum as an expectation for all students and manageable within available time and resources

Many teachers (especially those in primary school contexts) questioned the appropriateness of some content in terms of cognitive development. A common concern was that the content as it was understood by teachers at the focus group meetings was not realistic.

Summary of feedback


Too much content to be covered in the allocated time

All levels (DEC); SLL F–10 Chinese (F–2) (DEC); SLL 7–10 Chinese (DEC); BLL Chinese F–10 and 7–10 (DEC); F–10 all pathways (MLTA NSW); Chinese F–4 (CLTA); SLL F–10 and 7–10 Chinese (FG 3); teachers at all the FGs

Macro skills need to be made more explicit


Some content descriptions in Communicating are not achievable in the target language


Some content elaborations are too ambitious cognitively

Italian 7–10 (CAS); Years 7–8 across all three Chinese pathways (FG 1); Italian F–4 (FG 4)

It is not clear if the elaborations represent examples of language that are to be rote learned or examples that illustrate language structures that are to be applied

FG 1; FG 2; FG 3

Most content elaborations provide clear and relevant illustrations


Appropriateness and accessibility of language used

The language of the draft curriculum was considered to be verbose and complex. The majority opinion was that the academic terminology, and its sometimes idiosyncratic use, made access to the documents difficult, especially for teachers whose first language may not be English. Many of the terms used in the sub-strands, content descriptions and content elaborations are difficult to understand and there is strong reliance on linguistic and academic jargon. Jargon such as ‘de-centre, intercultural language’, ‘linguistic identities’ should be avoided or explained in the glossary. (DEC)

Summary of feedback


Unnecessary use of linguistic and academic jargon


Naming/meaning of the sub-strands: moving between/translating, and expressing and performing identity is problematic

DEC; Submission 1

The sub-strand Reflecting on intercultural use is unclear and/or better placed under the Understanding strand


Research base and relationship to best practice and international benchmarks

Summary of feedback


No research base for the use of ‘blended’ sentences in Italian

Italian (DEC); Italian FG 1 and 2; LRG

No rationale provided for the decision to not include frameworks as part of the design for the Chinese and Italian draft curriculum


No reference to Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)


Inadequate research drawn from countries outside the English-speaking world

Submission 2

Other comments

Summary of feedback


There was broad agreement around the preamble, rationale and aims

All stakeholders

Diversity of Language Learners section needs revision to clarify the complexity of the diversity of learners from language backgrounds other than English


Insufficient consideration is given to the diversity of Chinese Background students who speak a dialect of Chinese at home who will find the course content very difficult to achieve

FG 2

General capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities have not been mapped


Glossary should be expanded to incorporate a number of terms not currently included or these terms should be avoided


Descriptions of learner pathways need greater clarification, especially in relation to the term ‘home use’


Curriculum will not engage students

FG 4

An achievement standard should be written for the end of Year 2

DEC; MLTA NSW; Submission 1

Key processes, key concepts, key text types have been included for Italian but not for Chinese


Some references do not have cultural currency, eg Mao Zedong

FG 1

Rewrite the context statement for Italian to ensure factual accuracy


Some Italian 7–10 elaborations (1.8, 1.13, 1.15, 2.3, 2.7, 2.14) were considered too difficult


Include reference to lifelong learning in Rationale


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