Sacred ties and fresh eyes: Navigating towards a futures-oriented Health (and Physical) Education curriculum

Year: 2012

Author: Macdonald, Doune

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


"The present generation of young people will take a different path through adolescence from previous generations and will face new challenges to their health and wellbeing" (The Lancet, 2012, pp. 1630). It behoves the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education (HPE) to provide an education for children and young people that accounts for these differences and new challenges but what such a curriculum should look like is a challenge in itself. As the Lead Writer, supported by an Advisory Group, under the auspices of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), this presentation will outline and reflect upon the where HPE, and thereby health education, may be heading in Australia. "Sacred ties and fresh eyes" remind us that some providing input, commentary and exerting influence have an enduring sense of what the curriculum should address while others are looking for new ways of seeing health education, and these positions apply to writers and others alike. An ensuing challenge is that new ways of seeing may not have the accumulated evidence of current practices nor the authority of programmatic, biophysical research but are informed by a constellation of factors that provide a persuasive solution to the weaknesses of current practices. Bernstein's concepts of field, classification and frame are useful for making sense of the patterns of power and influence in our curriculum-making exercise.
Sitting behind the Shaping paper (March, 2012) for the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education is a literature base that included a review of: international practices in HPE (or equivalent); significant national and international reports (primarily health and sport-related); contemporary reading across the sub-disciplinary bases informing the learning area; and importantly a synthesis of "futures" literature given that the first cohort of students graduating from the incoming HPE curriculum experience will be completing schooling no earlier than 2026. The resultant propositions suggest that health education should take a strong preventative focus, asking the question "what keeps you/people healthy?", and develop the knowledge, skills and understandings for lifelong health literacy (from personal care through to advocacy). In doing so, it will challenge some of the sacred ties to past content and pedagogies and hopefully engage generations of 21st century learners.