Australia has established a new curriculum where it incorporated new areas. Under the
previous Curriculum, it had generalised the Curriculum as "Studies of Society and Environment
(SOSE)" or "Human Society and its Environment (HSIE)" (Green & Price, 2019). The new
Curriculum is the "Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS)." It includes disciplines such as
sociology, history, economics, geography, and cross-disciplinary such as Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander studies, peace studies, environmental studies, and religious studies (Green &
Price, 2019). It helps the students to develop an intercultural understanding (Bates, Teudt, &
Collier, 2019). Students also get a grip on ethical behaviours as well as social and cultural
competence (Parkinson et al., 2017).
Green & Price (2019) argues that the study of the perceptive of Torres Strait Islanders
and aboriginal cultures fosters engagement with the Asians and sustainable patterns of living. It
helps students to develop understanding, knowledge, inquiry, and skills (Green & Price, 2019).
Skills are linked with inquiry so that both follow an inquiry sequence of events (Tudball, 2018).
The inquiry process often involves questions, evaluation, researching, and communication
(Reynolds, MacQueen, & Ferguson-Patrick, 2019). Melbourn's educational goals (Melbourne
Declaration) assert that the Australian Curriculum encourages students to commit to equity,
justice, democratic values, and participation in Australian civic life and become responsible
citizens both globally and locally (MCEETYA 2008). The knowledge and understanding of
HASS focus on learning about systems, places, cultures, and people (Maxwell, 2020). This paper
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 3
provides an in-depth discussion of the intentions, potentials, and the perspectives of the ATSI
providing relevant examples.
Intentions of HASS curriculum
HASS involves the study of one's society and the vision of future societies (Dolan 2019).
It encourages teachers to continually reconsider and adapt the understanding and knowledge that
students need in the area of learning (Green & Price, 2019). Furthermore, an individual's culture
of their community influences their judgment and activities. The values of the community give
people their understanding of the meaning of life (Parkinson et al., 2017). Green & Price (2019)
asserts that it dictates people's values and their interaction with other people. Values are
principles that guide the behaviours and standards by which people judge others' actions as
desirable (Green & Price, 2019). HASS helps in the development of a student's curiosity and
respect for systems, places, people, and cultures globally (Green & Price, 2019). They achieve
this by learning the economic, geographic, historical, and civic knowledge of people, present,
past, places, and values (Green & Price, 2019). They are thus able to understand how such
factors influence sustainability, shape societies, and give one a sense of belonging (Alias,
Zainudin, & Nasri, 2018).
The inquiry process applied in HASS encourages critical and creative problem solving
(Green & Price, 2019). The students also grow into responsible and active citizens who apply
behavioural and ethical reflection (Green & Price, 2019). The learners are guided by future
thinking as HASS encourages better understanding and influence of the present and past. Springs
(2019) argue that it influences the learners to be creative, self-directed, and flexible. The inquiry
process fosters reflexive learning and complex thinking skills (Springs, 2019). Learners
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 4
understand their role in the world where they can apply their skills and be meaningful in society
(Springs, 2019). For example, students develop an interest in tackling issues such as violence,
environmental destruction, and crime.
Potential of HASS curriculum
Alias, Zainudin, & Nasri (2018) asserts that HASS involves the study of societies and the
vision for future societies. The new learning is added to the existing Curriculum (Springs, 2019).
Therefore, curriculum developers often engage in endless debates over the knowledge that will
be worthy of students (Springs, 2019). It is the reason why there has been an ongoing debate on
whether the Curriculum should include particular Asian countries or particular western schools
of thought (Springs, 2019). Alternatively, the HASS curriculum should be based on concepts and
understandings. Springs (2019) argues that teachers are given the discretion to employ varying
pieces of knowledge and facts to explain the concepts. For instance, syllabus developers found
that social justice is a global issue, which needs to be investigated. Then one possible issue that
can be explored under this is the refugee issue in Australia (Springs, 2019). It assumes that
numerous facts are of equal value in exploring issues. Therefore, there is no need to mandate
only one of them (Springs, 2019). The approach poses the issue that students may cover similar
content later in their study, even if it will address a different concept (Mason, 2017). That there
are two ends to the continuum when pointing out essential knowledge and understanding the
Curriculum ("A new declaration for the next decade of education," 2019). At the end of the
continuum, there should be facts or groups of facts for learners to master (Beck, 2019).
Conversely, there should be a broader conception to be explored, and no fact should be important
than others ("A new declaration for the next decade of education," 2019).
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 5
ATSI Perspectives & Contested Histories in HASS
HASS is committed to embedding Torres Strait and aboriginal islander perspectives into
all areas (Savelides et al., 2020). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' culture, language, and
history are integral to Australia's national identity ("A new declaration for the next decade of
education," 2019). The perspective reflects each community's values, experiences, and cultural
beliefs (Kidman, & Casinader, 2017). Mason (2017) argues that the Curriculum acknowledges
and connects aboriginal people and Torres Strait islanders' way of relating, understanding, and
viewing the world. Contested histories refer to the fact that non-indigenous and indigenous
people share the same country, Australia (Parkay, Anctil, & Hass, 2014). According to Samanci
(2010), contesting history involves modification of history. "It involves non-indigenous
Australians identifying themselves with aspects of the Indigenous Australians history and
culture" (Mason, 2017). Developing a curriculum that emphasises that shared history is a
challenge as it exposes numerous overlapping memories (Mason, 2017). It must capture both the
negative and positive aspects of European contact and indigenous cultures (Savelides et al.,
Indigenous rights and history include social, political, and cultural background (Kidman,
& Casinader, 2017). HASS evaluates the legal and political progress of indigenous Australians
(Samanci, 2010). It equips both the teachers and students with an in-depth understanding and
skills to teach both non-indigenous and indigenous students without prejudice but with
confidence (Samanci, 2010). Knowles (2012) argues that it helps build a bridge between
indigenous and western cultures to yield meaningful outcomes. Supra-Department of
Employment, Education, and Training (DEET) emphasises the importance of enhancing
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 6
education so that it generates greater national and international economic competitiveness
Examples of Classroom Practice – how to teach/integrate contested histories
In 1500, Australian teachers emphasised that for students to be Asian literate, they had to
learn about Asia (Knowles, 2012). They believed that it would help them to be Asia inter-
culturally competent and capable (Halpern, 2018). An Asian literate teacher was one who
effectively built intercultural understanding through both their teaching practices; behaviour,
character, and disposition (Knowles, 2012). They set to impart adaptability, acceptance,
compassion, and open-mindedness (Berson, Berson, & Snow, 2017).
Today, teachers can use pamphlets to teach histories and cultures in English and history
classes. Berson, Berson, & Snow (2017) suggest that numerous strategies can be employed to
enhance Asia literacy, such as the study of cultures, improved knowledge of history, and
improved Asian language (Lockyer, 2017). Furthermore, it is crucial to move beyond a simple
additive and contributive approach to incorporate a social action and a more transformative
approach (Lockyer, 2017). Teachers could also read Asian historical fiction and planning a trip
with the students so that they can meet individuals from varying Asian ancestry and get to know
about their lives as Asian-Australian (Browning, 2017). Also, teachers could engage students
using Asian art and music experience (Wrigley & Pratt, np). The teachers need to consider issues
relating to race relations. Browning (2017) asserts that all these will ensure they achieve a
sophisticated cultural perspective.
Lockyer (2017) asserts that good pedagogy acknowledges that there are differences
between indigenous cultures and western cultural beliefs and values, which is the cultural context
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 7
of the classroom. They vary so much that they may cause significant communication breakdown
to occur in the classroom due to misinterpretation and misunderstanding intentions (Browning,
2017). Teachers who have gained their training in Australian universities will often measure the
discourse and language against SAE from the Anglo-Australian values and belief system
("Indigenous Terminology | UNSW Teaching Staff Gateway," 1996). In the past, teachers
believed they could describe a student as uncooperative, indifferent, rude even if it is contributed
by their polemic differences and what constitutes good manners or behaviours ("Indigenous
Terminology | UNSW Teaching Staff Gateway," 1996). Every person explains the occurrences
within their surroundings, depending on their cultural worldview (Daley, 2016). As a result,
teachers could be guilty of forming opinions about the character of an indigenous student
according to the teacher's cultural protocol, values, and beliefs (Daley, 2016). Therefore the
teacher relates with the child as if they had behaviour issues when it is because of the cultural
differences ("Indigenous Terminology | UNSW Teaching Staff Gateway," 1996).
Teachers have to acknowledge the cultural and linguistic differences for them to be in a
position to discern the difference between linguistic differences and learning difficulties
(Bennett, 1994). They will also be in the apposition to tell the difference between cultural
differences and behavioural issues (Wachidi et al., 2020). Bennett (1994) argues that teachers
can reach out to local aboriginal and Torres Strait islander educational coaches to help both the
students and the teacher to appreciate such differences.
ATSI – embed Indigenous Perspectives respectfully and how to apply a decolonial
perspective or pedagogy
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 8
In 1990, the royal commission led to a mainstream reconciliation movement that was
launched in Australia after the death of aboriginal deaths in custody ("Ethical Understanding
Learning Continuum," 2020). The 339 th recommendation stated that political leaders and political
parties should acknowledge the reconciliation between the non-aboriginal and aboriginal
communities ("Ethical Understanding Learning Continuum," 2020). Guyver, R. (2017) asserts
that it will help inhibit injustice, division, and discord towards the aboriginal people. The
commission further recommends that political parties and their leaders must recognise that
reconciliation and its necessity and agency of the process have to be acknowledged (Crerar &
Mullins 2019). The council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was launched to report and promote
any strategy that was set to facilitate reconciliation between the non-indigenous and indigenous
people (Wachidi et al., 2020). Crerar & Mullins (2019) assert that the council intended that
communities, people, and organisations would work together to align their professional and
personal practices. Queensland University of Technology (QUT) offered grants to institutions as
a commitment to the spirit of reconciliation (Schreiber, 2017). The grant helped to embed
indigenous perspective into existing units of investigation and teaching like creating new units,
curricula reform, broadening policies, and developing indigenous studies (Shelepov et al., 2009).
Between 2001 and 2004, institutions applied for teaching grants to facilitate their school's
learning and teaching activities ("HASS," 2020). Over half a million dollars were committed to
embedding perspectives was offered by the Oodgeroo unit, which is a centre for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islanders to support research, teaching, and community engagement ("HASS,"
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 9
Today are turbulent times, which call for professionalism by teachers. Grants offered by
QUT promote indigenous perspective and places the issue of decolonising the Curriculum in
space for contested debate. Students and teachers must embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander perspectives in schools. It helps maximise the learning outcome of all children. Since
there is a growing gap between non-indigenous and indigenous student outcomes in terms of
literacy, attendance, numeracy, completion, participation, and enrollment (MCEETYA 2008),
the gap can depict that teachers must review their teaching practice. Human and Social Sciences
(HASS) will help empower indigenous students. Since language and culture cannot be separated,
teachers have to learn linguistic, social, and cultural factors.
“HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES CLASSROOM” 10
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