Civics and citizenship education for a globalised world: curriculum and critical thinking in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme and NESA syllabuses

Year: 2018

Author: Popovski, Monika

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Education systems operate on the premise that what is taught will determine what students come to learn. Contemporary curriculum reforms in Australia reflect the demands an increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing world places on education. This notion is also reflected in the steady rate of Australian schools are adopting IB programmes. Globalisation remains a major agent of curriculum presage and is further reflected in policies such as the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MYCEETA, 2008) which calls for the development of active and informed citizens who are able to engage in flexible, logical and evaluative thinking. Civics and citizenship education inherently involves notions associated with critical thinking as students develop the facilities to become discerning citizens capable of utilising a symphony of higher order cognitive processes to promote justice, equality and respect. As curriculum reforms shift from knowing to doing, the emphasis on cognitive skills such as analysing, interpreting, synthesising, creating, communicating, collaborative problem-solving and decision-making becomes much more significant. Whilst curriculums appear to be largely responsible for communicating what is worthy of possessing as valid knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, the key process responsible for bridging the span between what is intended to be taught and what is learnt can be found within the realm of pedagogical practice as per the curriculum interpretation-implementation phenomenon. Intentions behind the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme and the NSW Education Standards Authority’s History and Geography syllabuses share similarities, their design and structure are almost incomparable. The IB PYP is known as an open or shelf curriculum whereby students develop knowledge and understanding through prescribed skills, attitudes, concepts and action across six transdisciplinary themes. This is in direct contrast to NESA syllabuses, which are categorised as closed curriculums where content is rigidly circumscribed and students must acquire outcomes in order to be deemed competent. When civic and citizenship-centric content was framed through the conceptual lenses of the IB PYP Key Concepts, critical thinking became an inherent component of an array of pedagogical practices used by teachers. The basic idea is that Bernstein’s (1971) theory of classification and framing can give curriculum developers an insight into the likelihood of their intentions being carried through to the interpretation-implementation process. It answers the questions of ‘how can we efficiently and effectively prepare informed and active citizens in the 21st century?”