University of Sydney expert to lead civics and citizenship education in Australia

7 March 2012

If people fully understood how the Prime Minister was elected they would not have been caught up in the media hype brought about by the Kevin Rudd/Julia Gillard leadership challenge of recent weeks, says Professor Murray Print from the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney.

Professor Print is a recognised leader in civics and citizenship education internationally and he hopes a new school curriculum he will be devising will enable future generations of Australians to become informed and active citizens.

"Kevin Rudd was trying to find a way of putting pressure on Labor members of parliament indirectly through popular pressure.

"We, the ordinary voter, do not directly elect the prime minister and that should have come home to people in the last few weeks," he says.

In a prestigious appointment, Professor Print was last week named as the lead writer of the Civics and Citizenship program in the Australian Curriculum for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Civics and citizenship education aims to promote students' participation in Australia's democracy by equipping them with the knowledge, skills and values of active and informed citizenship.

"Part of what will be covered in the new civics course when it goes into schools will be the structure of the Australian Government and how things like parliament works, and how voting systems work," Professor Print says.

"The whole idea is about preparing students, who can be active in the future, to understand their democracy, democratic values and their system of government so they participate more accurately and effectively."

This will be the first time Civics and Citizenship has been offered to Australian school students as a separate subject.

His Initial Advice Paper for the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship will be discussed at a National Forum to be held on 19 March 2012.

As the lead writer, Professor Print will help to inform young Australians' understandings of democracy, government and the paper will outline the proposed purpose, broad objectives and overall framework for the subject.

"We also want students to become active citizens - locally, nationally and globally. This could be involvement in a community project, helping in Clean Up Australia or engaging in global issues like sustainability or climate change."

The Australian Curriculum was signed off in 2008 to be developed over several phases. Phase three is expected to be ready for implementation in Australia's 9500 schools in 2014.

Civics and Citizenship is a key subject identified for curriculum development in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.

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