Overhaul of NSW HSC courses starting 2018

There’ll be more maths in science subjects, a greater focus on writing in English and a new emphasis on Australia’s western heritage in history under a revamped NSW Higher School Certificate.


HSC students in 2018 and beyond will study new English, maths, science and history courses in the first shake-up of the core-subject syllabuses in almost two decades.

The changes reduce the scope of subjects and allow students to think more critically, the NSW Education Standards Authority says.

English students will no longer have to study texts through a theme such as “journeys” or “belonging” and instead focus more on the text itself.

There’ll also be a compulsory unit on writing in all English courses.

For the first time, statistics will be part of the calculus courses for mathematics extension students, reflecting the growing importance of data in work life.

A perceived anomaly in which some maths students have been selecting easier courses in order to gain a higher ATAR will also be scrapped.

A new marking system will ensure students taking higher-level maths will be appropriately scaled.

“Our advice to them is do the courses that you love and do them at the highest level you’re capable of,” Paul Hewitt, NESA’s executive director of curriculum and assessment, told AAP on Tuesday.

For science, there will be a greater focus on maths and quantitative analytical content.

It comes after criticism from one the nation’s leading scientists that the physics curriculum had been too “feminised” to appeal to girls.

Mr Hewitt said those concerns had already been addressed.

“It’s no good getting into an engineering (degree) and not have the chance to be successful in first year of study,” he said.

For history, the importance of Australia’s western heritage will be emphasised under topics including the Enlightenment, and the French and industrial revolutions.

The focus on World War I will be expanded to look between the wars and examine events not just from a Euro-centric, but Asian, perspective as well.

Students will also get more opportunities to study Asian history and Australia’s role in the Asian century.

The changes are aimed at better equipping students for university and work life.

“They can apply what they know and that will place them in a much better stead in whatever path they go into the future,” Mr Hewitt said.

This is the first upgrade of the syllabuses since the existing HSC was launched nearly 20 years ago.