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NSW Curriculum
NSW Education Standards Authority

Capabilities and priorities

In the NSW Curriculum, the Australian Curriculum general capabilities, cross-curriculum priorities and other areas identified as important learning by NESA are defined as ‘capabilities and priorities’. These were previously identified as ‘Learning across the curriculum’.

Capabilities and priorities in the NSW Curriculum assist students to achieve the broad learning outcomes defined in the:

  • NESA Statement of Equity Principles
  • Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (December 2019)
  • Australian Government’s Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (2013).

Capabilities and priorities are developed through the relevant subject-specific content. The new approach ensures that the capabilities and priorities in the new syllabuses emerge authentically from the content and are not an additional layer on the curriculum.

Capabilities and priorities do not need to be taught, assessed or reported separately to syllabus outcomes and content.


The capabilities encompass the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours that assist students to live and work successfully. 

The capabilities are:

  • Literacy 
  • Numeracy 
  • Digital literacy 
  • Critical and creative thinking 
  • Ethical understanding 
  • Intercultural understanding 
  • Personal and social capability.


Literacy involves students developing their understanding and application of knowledge and skills to communicate and comprehend effectively. Literacy is fundamental to a student’s ability to learn at school and engage in the world around them.

Across the curriculum, students are provided with opportunities to draw on their contextual knowledge to decide on the most appropriate ways to use and interpret language. Applying literacy knowledge and skills across the curriculum can enrich the study of all learning areas and help students develop a broader and deeper understanding of literacy. 


Numeracy involves understanding and applying mathematical knowledge and skills in a wide range of contexts. The application of mathematics across the curriculum enriches the study of other learning areas and helps to develop a broader and deeper understanding of numeracy.

A numerate person (Hogan, 2000) uses a blend of:

  • mathematical knowledge: concepts and skills within mathematics
  • contextual knowledge: to recognise and link mathematics to broader situations
  • strategic knowledge: to apply mathematics in situations and evaluate if the solution is reasonable.

Digital literacy

The digital literacy capability encompasses the interrelated knowledge, skills and understanding students need in order to access and contribute to the world around them.

This capability develops a student’s understanding and awareness of the role of technology in society. Alongside encouraging students to develop their own digital identity in a socially responsible way, the capability enables students to be informed about the ethical aspects of the use of different technologies.

Students are supported to develop skills to connect, communicate and collaborate with others effectively and safely in a digital environment and to gather, analyse and evaluate digital information as a part of learning.

Critical and creative thinking

The capability of critical and creative thinking gives students the tools to examine the world they live in, analyse their findings and reach conclusions using evidence.

Students are provided with the opportunity to harness a rich knowledge of each subject and apply their critical and creative thinking skills in a way that is specific to the subject.

In learning to think broadly and deeply, students use reason and imagination to direct their thinking for different purposes. 

Ethical understanding

The ethical understanding capability involves students developing an understanding of ethical and moral concepts. Students build a strong personal and socially oriented ethical outlook. This helps them manage context, conflict and uncertainty, and to understand the impact of values and behaviours.

Students are supported to understand the consequences of their actions and how to make ethical decisions in real-life contexts when undertaking research, working collaboratively and using digital technologies.

Students learn about the need to protect data and intellectual property, including Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP). Students consider a range of perspectives and perceptions and apply their ethical understanding to a variety of contexts, including digital citizenship.

Intercultural understanding

The intercultural understanding capability provides students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of the dynamic and variable nature of culture. They learn that their own culture(s), language(s) and beliefs are part of the richness that cultural diversity brings to a range of contexts.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their own and other cultures in ways that recognise similarities and differences, to create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect.

Personal and social capability

The personal and social capability supports students to understand themselves and others. They learn to manage their relationships, lives, work and learning more effectively.

Students are provided with opportunities to understand their personal qualities and areas of growth. They develop an emotional awareness, empathy and resilience in the face of setbacks.

The personal and social capability supports students in developing a strong sense of personal identity. They appreciate diversity and the importance of building caring and respectful relationships. Students develop an appreciation for the different insights and perspectives of their peers and community.


The priorities develop students’ understanding of communities, contemporary issues and the world around them.

The priorities are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures 
  • Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia 
  • Sustainability
  • Civics and citizenship
  • Diversity and difference
  • Work and enterprise

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures priority supports students to develop their knowledge of the world’s oldest continuous living culture. This priority encompasses the concepts of Country and Place, People, Culture and Identity.

When planning and programming content relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, teachers are encouraged to:

  • involve local Aboriginal communities and/or appropriate Knowledge holders in determining suitable resources, or to use Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander authored or endorsed publications
  • read the principles and protocols relating to teaching and learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures and the involvement of local Aboriginal communities.

Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia

The Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia priority supports students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the diversity of the region of Asia, Australia’s engagement with it, and how the peoples of Asia have contributed to world history and human endeavour.


The sustainability priority supports students to develop the knowledge, skills, values and worldviews necessary to contribute to a sustainable future. This includes students developing an understanding of how sustainable practices address the ongoing capacity of the Earth to maintain all forms of life.

Civics and citizenship

The civics and citizenship priority supports students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the role and structure of government and the law, and their rights and responsibilities to be informed, responsible and active citizens.

Diversity and difference

The diversity and difference priority promotes inclusion and respectful relationships. The priority refers to ability, ethnicity, cultural background, socioeconomic status, nationality, language, gender, sexual orientation and beliefs.

Work and enterprise

The work and enterprise priority supports students to develop enterprising behaviours, including collaborative workplace skills, decision-making skills and effective communication skills.