What are the changes to the New South Wales Year 12 syllabus?

By the National Reporting Team’s Natasha Robinson and Rebecca Armitage

The New South Wales Higher School Certificate (HSC) syllabus has been given a radical overhaul for the first time in 16 years.

The new syllabus moves away from a “social context” approach to teaching that critics — particularly in science academia — argued had led to a “dumbing down” of subject matter.


  • Overhaul of curriculum to focus on science concepts rather than their context. For example, instead of writing essays about famous physicists, students will be studying the quantitative theories
  • Increased mathematical content especially in physics and chemistry
  • A focus on learning scientific principles, theories and laws
  • Option topics such as The Chemistry of Art have been scrapped
  • More practical investigations
  • Up to 15 hours each year of “depth studies” to allow students to investigate concepts in more detail


  • Deeper study of texts across all levels with a focus on quality literature
  • Year 11 standard and advanced courses now have a mandatory first module, Reading to Write, that focuses on developing essential skills required for senior study and to refine writing skills
  • Focus on digital literacy skills in year 11 English standard module Contemporary Possibilities
  • The year 12 common module areas of study — including Journeys, Discovery, Belonging — are scrapped
  • New module The Craft of Writing now mandatory in standard and advanced courses


  • Completely new syllabus topic The Shaping of the Modern World, which includes The Enlightenment, The French Revolution, The Age of Imperialism, and The Industrial Age
  • Focus on key ideas and Western traditions including the ideas that shaped democracy and liberty, inalienable rights, and the expansion of capitalism
  • World War I is shifted from year 12 to year 11
  • World War II topics retained
  • Requirement that students study a non-European/Western study
  • Retained focus on Aboriginal history


In standard maths, there will be a focus on online data and its application in a new topic area known as Networks.

Advanced mathematics:

  • Extension of current syllabus to incorporate more complex concepts
  • New topic: Financial Mathematics
  • Statistical analysis now introduced at advanced level as well as extension 1


  • New topic of vectors has been added, providing stronger links to engineering and other STEM-related concepts
  • New topic of combinatorics

Extension 2:

  • New topics: more advanced studies in vectors and proof
  • The topic circular motion has been removed and replaced by enhanced calculus content
  • Study of complex numbers including Euler’s formula

* The new syllabus will be rolled out in 2018

Source: NSW Education Standards Authority

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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