What is in the HSIE Syllabus?
The NSW Board of Studies Syllabus provides a definition and description about what HSIE is. It defines HSIE as:
“Human Society and Its Environment is the key learning area in which students develop knowledge, understandings, skills, and values and attitudes about people and their social and physical environments.”
The Syllabus also provides a rationale, justifying the reasons as to why HSIE is an important and influential KLA within the primary education system. It states that:
“Human Society and Its Environment K–6 provides a knowledge base for students to gain understandings about change and continuity, cultures, environments, and social systems and structures. Students will have opportunities to learn about people and the environments with which they interact. This knowledge base provides the foundation for studies of Australian and world history and geography, for social, cultural and legal studies, for environmental and economic studies, and for citizenship education.”
Through the HSIE syllabus, teachers aim to provide and equip students not only with knowledge but skills and values and attitudes that will aid them throughout their lives. These skills and values can be applied both within and outside of the school environment aiding them to become active citizens. This integration of knowledge, skills and values and attitudes can be seen though the diagram below.
Furthermore it breaks the subject up into 4 content strands, which are Change and Continuity, Cultures, Environments and Social Systems and Structures. Each strand focuses on a different aspect of HSIE.
Change and Continuity – deals with the ways in which both human societies and the environment are affected by change and continuity. It also reflects upon knowing about the past and how important it is in order to understand the present and then make predictions about the future.
An emphasis is placed on Australian heritage and important places and eras within Australian history and geography. Furthermore, it calls for students to reflect upon what it means to be Australian and aspects of the Australian culture.
Cultures – calls students to develop an understanding about themselves both as an individual and as belonging to a particular community. This content strand also incorporates how individuals develop an identity as being part of a culture and the different types of influences that being part of that culture can have. For example, that culture can be conveyed through religion, language and moral codes.
Furthermore, students gain an understanding of the different types of cultures within Australia and how to appreciate the similarities and differences between them, including Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders.
Environments – though this content strand, students are able to gain a greater understanding about local, national and international environments. They will be able to distinguish certain features and use correct terminology.
Additionally, they begin to understand how human beings can interact and have an impact (both positive and negative) on given environments. Through developing these skills the students gain a greater appreciation for the environment and come to understand their responsibilities in protecting it from harm.
Social Systems and Structures – this last content strand deals with students gathering an understanding of their wants and needs. It aids them in developing skills to interact cooperatively, respectfully and responsibly within society.
There is also a special focus on the way in which the Australian democratic system is run and the features within this style of system.
The overarching teaching style – Inquiry based learning.
Despite the differences in the four different content strands there is an overarching theme relating to the teaching style which students participate in while studying HSIE. This process is known as inquiry based learning. It allows students to research the given topic or content strand they are studying. Students develop initial questions and problems which through research allows them to gather and consolidate information. This results in the production of reasonable ways to solve these problems, especially through being an active and responsible citizen.