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Intercultural Understanding in the Australian Curriculum


Intercultural Understanding and Personal and Social Capability are two General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. However, the level of engagement anticipated by students in addressing these general capabilities across the learning continua provided in the curriculum differs significantly both in terms of the cognitive level expected of this engagement (as measured by Bloom’s Taxonomy), and of the level of interaction expected between students in meeting the capabilities’ learning objectives. Using the work of Bernstein and Fairclough, this paper argues that the Intercultural Understanding general capability requires less intellectual and inter-social engagement than the Personal and Social capability due to underlying assumptions that operate so as to distance the cultural Other, placing them on the periphery of Australian society, despite cultural diversity being, in fact, the lived experience of virtually all Australians. The learning continua, once scrutinised through a linguistic analysis and the lens of Bernstein, point to the absences of deep engagement in Intercultural Understanding capability, particularly when compared with that expected for the Personal and Social capability and begs the question of how Intercultural Understanding can become imagined, sustained or respectful within pedagogical encounters across the Australian Curriculum.

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Correspondence to Trevor McCandless.

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See Table 7.

Table 7 Elements and sub-elements for Intercultural Understanding and Personal and Social Capability

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McCandless, T., Fox, B., Moss, J. et al. Intercultural Understanding in the Australian Curriculum. Aust. Educ. Res. 47, 571–590 (2020).

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