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Derivation of the CORE

There are two major dimensions to the School's curriculum, viz,

  • how a school operates as an entity in its own right and
  • what educational experiences it offers, eg, 
    • what programs are provided
    • how they are 'taught' (pedagogy)
    • the contributions of students, teachers & others in the delivery

There is a challenge in developing a suitable curriculum framework because 'programs' may be defined in terms of

  • main content such as knowledge, skills, competencies, capabilities,...relating to an area of human endeavour (eg, Mathematics),
  • intrinsic purpose such as, a core process (eg, Thinking)
  • extrinsic purpose such as providing support to other endeavours (Library)
  • student need  for special intervention or targeted assistance (Flying Start, tutorials)
  • special needs of individual students such speech therapy, counselling, medical treatment, ....
Thus curriculum  may be  understood in terms of five overlapping categories of programs,


Core, Main, Supporting and Targeted and Clinical Programs


Of these five categories the core is the most important and the least explicit. The historical reasons for this situation include that fact that as a nation we have continued to ask the wrong questions. 


The key questions about the core relate to the learner and the internal and external responses he/she may make to the world in which they live. To this point we have, at best focused on the world and what the leaner may need to live in it successfully.  Such an orientation is more appropriate at the adult level.  


Core: Thinking  Making sense of one's experience of the world in which one lives and choosing responses that are in one's best interests and the best interests of others
Learning  Making sense of past, present experiences and preparing oneself for the future 
Working  Undertaking tasks efficiently and effectively; managing one's efforts; coordinating ones action with those of others; acting systematically towards achieving a purpose; persisting in the face of difficulty ...
Relating  Contributing to, and benefiting from being with, others

Each subject or program has within it this same structure. This gives the curriculum a holographic sense: the parts have the same structure as the whole

  • Each program has a core of thinking, learning, working and relating that underpins the overall program. Each element of a program's core is shaped by the program itself. For example there are ways of thinking that are special to Mathematics.  Similarly Mathematics requires an  approach to thinking, learning, doing... that is different from that required by the Arts. And so on. 
  • The main part of a program contains the knowledge, skills, ... that are involved in the program as an area of human endeavour
  • Supporting programs are other programs enhance achievement in this program.  Mathematics supports Sciences; Main Music supports Instrumental programs,... Subject departments may have reference library or IT labs that deliver 'mini' programs in their own right.  Sometimes a subject will have a unit of work from another area, eg,  an aspect of literacy such as referencing in Science 
  • Targeted programs may be provided with a program, eg, tutoring or remedial assistance as required


The national curriculum(K-12)  is derived from a tertiary academic notion of curriculum. To large extent the eight learning areas may be readily mapped onto further study. 

Tertiary studies are based on the assumption that, in a general sense,   the core (as defined above) exists in each learner. This assumption is  reasonable at the tertiary level because the selection process eliminates at least those who cannot think, learn and work well enough to meet the entry requirements.  Relating is a little more problematic in some areas..


Tertiary educators can be confident that all participants are reasonably competent in at least three aspects of the core. We cannot assume that all K-12 participants are functional in each aspect of the core.  In fact we know quite clearly these core competencies are not universal in the population as a whole.  If we thought otherwise we would not use these elements as discriminators for tertiary entrance.

Many of our society's ills (crime and other antisocial behaviour, inability to achieve employment, solve personal and other problems, some categories of health problems, ...) are closely related to an  individual's limited ability to  think, learn, work and/or relate. 


A national (K-12) curriculum based assumptions that are true for only part of the adult population seems, to the writer at least,  to be quite bizarre. 


A quick scan of the following list will show the impoverished nature of currently held notions of curriculum. In fact many of the following items refer more directly to a core (as defined above) than to any subject, learning area, content, ... in the national curriculum. 


Consideration of actual good school & college practice will further confirm the impoverished nature of the notions that currently underpin our national curriculum K-12. To be successful schools & colleges have to go well beyond any current official curriculum policies.


Desirable characteristics of a curriculum and its delivery

Quality The curriculum clearly focuses on goals of great worth including
  • literacy and numeracy as basic competencies related to being able to 
  • think, 
  • learn, competencies in problem solving and creativity,
  • the capacity, confidence and life-long desire for learning and re-learning, 
  • the arts broadly defined, 
  • personal and physical development including 
  • an understanding that the purpose of learning is to add to one's 
  • capacity to care for self and to contribute to family, friends and the community. 

And in particular each individual achieves quality learning in that he/she achieves

  • high levels of mastery 
  • high levels of effectiveness
  • high levels of efficiency
  • the capacity  to apply/utilize his/her own learning to care for self and to contribute to family, friends and the community
Meaning The curriculum makes considerable sense to the learners by its 
  • connectedness, reflecting a holistic approach to curriculum design, implementation, acquisition and evaluation
  • coherence, in respect to a unifying set of core values widely held within the School community, and 
  • continuity, in that the curriculum is consistent with, and complements, the kind of  growth and development that members of the School community are undertaking in their own learning. 
Effectiveness The learners achieve the goals of great worth as a result of 
  • planning, 
  • organizational and staff development within the School and the 
  • partnership between students, teachers, parents, other  members of the staff and School community. 
Equity The goals of great worth are achieved by all regardless of circumstance. In this sense the School needs to be a purposeful and responsible community made up of a wide range of members who are both contributors and beneficiaries.
Efficiency is essential in achieving both quality and equity. Efficiency is also valued because some resources such as time, effort, materials, equipment, facilities,... are limited. They are used thoughtfully to achieve things of great worth.  This includes the capacity to 
  • set and re-set priorities, 
  • plan how to achieve these priorities
  • monitor what is accomplished and make appropriate changes. 
Empowerment Staff, students, parents, and the wider community are all vital contributors to the life and work of the School. Their contributions result in the School providing a high standard of education.  The empowerment includes developing the confidence and skills of those concerned so that all contribute to building 
  • a shared understanding of purposes,
  • a shared commitment to the achievement of goals, and, 
  • a shared realization of excellence in all aspects of the life and work of the School


(March 2000)

Ivan Webb,   Principal,  Riverside Primary School