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  • Curriculum and practice

    Taxation and superannuation in the Australian Curriculum

    Curriculum and pedagogy for effective consumer and financial literacy teaching and learning have an important role to play in achieving the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. The Australian Curriculum provides a clear, three-dimensional framework for preparing students for the demands of life beyond school in the 21st century. The three dimensions are Learning Areas, General Capabilities, and Cross-Curriculum Priorities (see Table 1). Schools and teachers are encouraged to draw on the curriculum to create teaching and learning programs that weave these together in innovative, meaningful ways.

    Table 1: Overview of the Australian Curriculum

    Learning areas

    General capabilities

    Cross-curriculum priorities

    • English
    • mathematics
    • science
    • humanities and social sciences
    • the arts
    • technologies
    • health and physical education
    • languages
    • work studies (optional).
    • literacy
    • numeracy
    • information and communication (ICT) capability
    • critical and creative thinking
    • personal and social capability
    • ethical understanding
    • intercultural understanding.
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
    • Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia
    • sustainability.

    Consumer and financial literacy feature explicitly within the Mathematics and Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS) learning areas. Within Mathematics, the ‘Number and algebra’ content strand includes ‘Money and financial mathematics’ as a sub-strand from Years 1-10. Within HaSS: Economics and Business, ‘Consumer and financial literacy’ is one of four key organising ideas.

    Learning areas comprise Content Descriptions which 'describe what is to be taught and what students are expected to learn' (ACARA, 2018c). Each content description is accompanied by optional Content Elaborations (ACARA, 2018c) which are 'provided to give teachers ideas about how they might teach the content' (ACARA, 2018c). Table 2 outlines the limited explicit references to taxation and superannuation within the Australian Curriculum. Currently, to locate explicit advice to teach about taxation and superannuation, schools and teachers must click and read beyond Content Descriptions to Elaborations. More extensive and explicit advice has the potential to help schools and teachers identify and prioritise opportunities for teaching and learning about tax and super, particularly in Mathematics.

    Table 2: Taxation and superannuation in the Australian Curriculum

    Learning Area

    Content Description


    Year 7 Humanities and Social Sciences

    Why individuals work, types of work and how people derive an income (ACHASSK202).

    Discussing the ways people who have retired from employment earn an income (for example, age pension, superannuation and private savings).

    Year 7 Economics and Business

    Why individuals work, types of work and how people derive an income (ACHEK020).

    Discussing the ways people who have retired from employment earn an income (for example, age pension, superannuation and private savings).

    Year 9 Economics and Business

    Why and how people manage financial risks and rewards in the current Australian and global financial landscape (ACHEK040).

    Identifying ways consumers can protect themselves from risks (for example, through setting financial goals, insurances, savings, investments, diversification, scam avoidance and superannuation).

    Year 9 Economics and Business

    The changing roles and responsibilities of participants in the Australian or global workplace (ACHEK042).

    Identifying employer responsibilities to workers and the government (for example, superannuation, paid parental leave, income tax, company tax or the Goods and Services Tax [GST]).

    Year 10 Economics and Business

    The ways that governments manage economic performance to improve living standards (ACHEK052).

    Identifying examples of fiscal and monetary policy options designed to improve the standard of living, such as productivity policy, training and workforce development, taxation, work visas, migration, buying or selling government securities.

    Explaining the impact of minimum wage, government payments, taxation and government-funded services on living standards.

    Recommendations to support schools and teachers

    Schools have autonomy to implement the Australian Curriculum in ways that value teachers’ professional knowledge, reflect local contexts, and take into account individual students’ family, cultural, and community backgrounds (ACARA, 2018b). The Australian Curriculum frames significant implicit opportunities to develop students’ knowledge, skills, and capabilities for financial problem-solving and decision-making beyond these parameters. Currently, there is the risk that schools and teachers limit their consumer and financial literacy programs and practices to these learning area strands and the associated Content Descriptions. Much of what is taught and learned at school can be applied to a range of meaningful and useful real world financial contexts, including taxation and superannuation. For example, primary school students learn to use fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios, and rates. These conceptual understandings underpin an ability to contend with Australia’s individual income tax scale and compound interest calculations applied to superannuation. Primary school students also learn to identify number rules and relationships and apply logical reasoning to make decisions. These skills underpin an ability to evaluate financial risks and rewards.

    We argue that it would be helpful to schools and teachers if the possibilities for teaching and learning about taxation and superannuation were to be more extensively and explicitly signposted when the Australian Curriculum is next reviewed. There are greater opportunities than what currently meets the eye within Mathematics and HaSS: Economics and Business, but also HaSS: Civics and Citizenship, where students learn about government policies, political parties and political choices, many of which relate to taxation and superannuation.

    We also note the potential for the insight that financial problem-solving and decision-making depends as much on affective factors as information taught at school to transform the way consumer and financial literacy education is conceptualised. We argue that there is significant potential for schools and teachers to develop the seven general capabilities through teaching and learning involving meaningful and useful financial contexts, including taxation and superannuation. This recommendation is consistent with the Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (Commonwealth of Australia, 2018), which states that the general capabilities need to be at the core of our curriculum and teaching practice. For example, literacy and numeracy are required to make sense of annual taxation and superannuation statements. Information and communication technologies are important as financial administration is increasingly taking place online via the myGov website. The Financial Services Royal Commission has highlighted the importance of critical and creative thinking for posing questions and discerning quality, trustworthy answers when interacting with government agencies and the finance industry.

    There is also the potential to learn to be critical of a system where it is possible for some large organisations to pay no corporate income tax. Personal and social capability is central to recognising and regulating the emotions that influence how we think and feel about money matters. For example, making personal contributions to 'top up' one’s superannuation demonstrates self-regulation and an ability to delay gratification. Ethical understandings are crucial to honest financial dealings and navigating the impact of personal financial values and behaviours on others. For example, it is both illegal and unethical to evade and avoid paying tax. Intercultural understandings also shape personal identities, values, and practices related to money. For example, remote communities sometimes rely on cash transactions and bartering.

    Curriculum implementation is typically assumed to be a rational process whereby school leaders and teaching teams design programs that cohere with what curriculum writers intend (Taylor, Rizvi, Lingard, and Henry, 1997). The term ‘curriculum enactment’ better characterises the messy, contested, creative practices associated with making sense of policy and curriculum at the school level (Ball et al., 2012; Hardy, 2015). Since teachers’ work is shaped by competing priorities and pressures, teachers’ authoritative voice is firmly anchored in local implementation and enactment (Kirk and MacDonald, 2001). Teacher professional learning focused on program and task design principles and innovative pedagogical practice is crucial (Sawatzki and Goos, 2018; Sawatzki et al., 2017). We recommend that the ATO partner with teacher professional associations with a view to transforming the way schools and teachers perceive and prioritise opportunities to teach and learn about taxation and superannuation. This recommendation aligns with the Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (Commonwealth of Australia, 2018), which argues for strategies that create, support, and value a profession of expert educators and promote excellence in classroom practice.

      Last modified: 04 Sep 2018QC 56750