Friday, 17 October 2008

Quotes from the NCB History advice paper

These quotes have been selected from the National Curriculum Board's Initial Advice Paper on History (PDF, 71kB). I highly recommend reading the paper in full, it is surprisingly and pleasantly understandable!

"By teaching history systematically and sequentially across the years of schooling we will enrich educational outcomes."

"The starting-point of this paper is that the restriction of the national curriculum to Australian history is inappropriate. If only to equip students to operate in the world in which they will live,
they need to understand world history. That history should have a broad and comprehensive foundation from which its implications for Australia can be grasped. ... Australian history will retain an important place in a national curriculum."

"We fail them also if we do not foster the skills of historical thinking that equip them, by the end of their studies, to take
an active part in the debates over the legacy of the past, to understand and make use of new sources of information, to sift the wheat from the chaff, to find truth and meaning in history and contribute to democratic discussion of national issues."

"One reason for teaching history is to ... develop a critical perspective on received versions of the past, and learn how to compare conflicting accounts so that the conflicts and ambiguities are appreciated."

"Introducing students to historical thinking involves teaching methods of historical inquiry. Students need both to know history and practise it. Factual knowledge is essential to historical thinking."

"In broad terms, students should be introduced to world history from the time of the earliest human communities... Students should have an appreciation of the major civilizations of Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia. They should understand Australian history within a comparative framework..."

"No-one possesses an exhaustive historical knowledge, but
an historical education should furnish both the capacity to acquire new knowledge and a continuing desire to do so."

The explanation of the "Benchmarks of Historical Thinking" on page 8 is clear and helpful.

"... substantive knowledge incorporates knowledge of events, historical actors and other information; procedural knowledge refers to the concepts and vocabulary that are used to make sense of the substance of the past. ... both forms of knowledge are mutually dependent."

[A successful model] combine[s] a historical survey with studies in depth. ... [This] calls for careful curriculum design. The curriculum needs to incorporate overview, bridging and depth components. Overview components will use an expansive chronology and assist students to understand broad patterns of historical change. Bridging components will provide a context for closer studies in depth. Depth studies will provide students with the opportunity to bring the skills of historical thinking to bear on well-defined events of particular significance."

"The curriculum should provide for a sequence of learning, building on and consolidating earlier studies, but avoid excessive repetition..."

The primary school curriculum should introduce students to the traditions, stories, myths and legends that connect them with the values, beliefs and the socio-cultural elements of past societies. It should also lead to an appreciation of the legacy of that past on present society."

"In the lower primary school years the curriculum should enable students to make connections between their direct experiences and those that result from their exposure to artefacts, images, simple primary sources and oral histories that relate to their own past and those of significant others. ... The middle and upper primary school curriculum for Australian history should introduce students to key topics for inquiry in history that will be pursued in greater depth and breadth in the junior secondary years."

"It would make use of local and community history, with strong links to national, regional and global perspectives. Students would use local and community history, as well as stories about well-known and ‘ordinary’ people, as they acquire an initial understanding of some key events..."

"It is proposed tentatively that the history curriculum should follow a sequence:
(1) History from the time of the earliest human communities to the end of the Ancient period (c. 60,000BC — c. 500AD)
(2) History from the end of Ancient period to the beginning of the Modern period (c.500 — 1750)
(3) Modern history (c. 1750 — present)
(4) Australian history (c.1901 — present)"

"The first unit will explore the ways of life and global migrations of the earliest communities..."

"The second unit ... will highlight the consolidation of complex urban states and associated social, political, economic and religious activities in Europe, for the settler society of Australia derived many of its core institutions and values from Western Europe and its expansion into the rest of the world from the sixteenth century had decisive consequences."

"The third unit ... deals with the industrial revolution and industrialisation, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, the French and American Revolutions, the principles of human rights and democracy, the rise of the nation-state and associated ideas of national identity, the era of mass warfare and the ideological conflicts it engendered, and the emergence of supra-national organisations."

"The fourth unit on Australian history ... will include Federation, World War I, the Depression, World War II, immigration, women’s rights, the Vietnam War, Indigenous rights and contemporary political history."

The curriculum will make particular use of narrative, applying the skills of historical thinking to the depth studies, and working to a comparative overview by the completion of each unit."

"It is proposed that there should be units in Years 11 and 12 in Ancient and Modern History, and Australian History... [with optional] extension studies in history at Year 12 which allow students to explore traditions of historical research and writing, including debates among historians, and engage in the production of an extended research project."

"From Edward Gibbon to Geoffrey Blainey, writers of history provide models of literary distinction that engage students and enhance their appreciation of prose. Students should be exposed to secondary sources that exemplify these qualities..."

"Historical understanding ... can be enhanced by drawing on a wide range of artistic works..."

The approach set out in this paper is premised on schools making a substantial commitment to teaching history. This will require making space in the timetable for a sustained and sequential program. At present there is little guidance for the allocation of time to history. It should occupy at least ten percent of teaching time in the primary school years, and in years 7 to 10 it should occupy an average of 100 classes a year, and a total of 400 classes."


Mrs. Edwards said...

I can't imagine much of anything helpful coming to me from the American Department of Education. To the contrary, I'm highly skeptical of anything they might recommend.

How refreshing to actually have something of value produced by a government board. (Do I understand correctly that the NCB is governmental?)

After our mortgage debacle, financial crisis, US newspaper articles telling of Australia's strict mortgage laws, and now our pending election which seems to be reduced to the utterly ridiculous, it actually crosses my mind that emigrating might be advisable. :)

Kidding aside, I do sometimes feel like packing up and boarding the Mayflower in search of a New World. Alas, even our heroic Puritans learned that the ugly sin nature is not so easily escaped!

Hmm, perhaps knowing the lessons of history truly does enlighten the present time!

Forgive my mood--American politics is getting to me.
Take care-

Sharon said...

As far as I understand it, Amy, the NCB is reporting to the government but is made up of a mix of beaurecrats in the various state educational departments and educational leaders (eg from the independent schools' association). The people drawing up these advice papers, however, include teachers specialising in these fields as well as people working in the fields (eg, historians, in this case). So it's kind of a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly.

And you are right, the grass may often seem greener, but that is not always the case. people might not be able to just "hand back the keys" if they cannot repay their mortgage here in Australia, but there have been lenders offering massive house loans to people with only a 5% deposit in recent years, so it's not as if we hold the status as most sensible and conservative borrowing country in the world. Yep, sin and stupidity are both sure rampant over here as well!

But that aside, if you ever wanted to visit our fair county, you'd be made very welcome in our household.

~ Sharon