Teaching Ethics across the Curriculum: Potential Barriers to Australia’s Ethical Understanding Curriculum

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    In 2008, the newly established Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) began work on the development of Australia’s first national curriculum. Besides content descriptors and achievement standards for traditional school subjects, the curriculum names seven general capabilities. Each general capability consists of a set of interdisciplinary skills, knowledge, and behaviours, which are to be taught within each subject area up to Year 10 (about ages 5-16). One of the general capabilities is called Ethical Understanding. This capability emphasises the ability to inquire into ethical issues and formulate moral judgements. Ethical inquiry skills include giving reasons, being consistent, critically analysing ethical concepts, values and character traits. The ethical understanding curriculum also states that students should develop a “strong personal and socially oriented ethical outlook” through fostering the development of values like honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others, and the capacity to act with ethical integrity” (ACARA, n.d.). The inclusion of inquiry based ethics on the national curriculum is a promising development. However, there are many impediments to the successful implementation of this curriculum. This paper examines some of these impediments and suggests ways to overcome them. Issues discussed include concerns about the potential for moral indoctrination or, conversely, for promoting moral relativism; the difficulties with teaching of controversial topics (e.g., euthanasia, animal rights); the rights of parents to impart moral values derived from their own culture and religion; the ability and willingness of teachers to teach ethics; and the problem with embedding interdisciplinary curriculum elements within subject based curriculum.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
    EventAnnual Conference of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia 2017 - Crowne Plaza, Newcastle , Australia
    Duration: 1 Dec 20175 Dec 2017
    Conference number: 47


    ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia 2017
    Abbreviated titlePESA Conference 2017
    Internet address


    • Ethics curriculum; moral education; Australian curriculum; philosophy in schools; Kohlberg; Dewey

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