About Educating the Australian Adolescent

An historical study of curriculum, student counselling and citizenship, 1930s - 1970s

About the project

Educating the Australian Adolescent is an historical study of Australian secondary education in the middle decades of the twentieth century. The project is examining ideas and debates about how best to educate Australian secondary school students and the role of schooling in shaping social values and citizenship, in the past and in the present.

Image: A. G. Foster, Group of school students and teachers outside their school, National Library of Australia, pic-vn3101021

This research takes a close look at curriculum programs and reforms and at the role and development of child and adolescent guidance in schools during three decades of educational upheaval – 1930s, 1950s, 1970s.

Across each of the three periods, Educating the Australian Adolescent will:

  1. Map key curriculum policy, scholarly and professional discussions about the purposes of secondary schooling, and critically analyze the philosophies and ideas that underlay the education of Australian adolescent;
  2. Examine changing conceptions of the ‘good student’, and the role of different curriculum areas in the shaping of rational, well-adjusted future citizens;
  3. Develop a history of child and adolescent psychological guidance and counselling services in schools, which will in turn, shed light on ideals of the adolescent and ‘good student’.

The research will provide historical perspectives on current concerns about school values and student wellbeing, enrich theories of citizenship and ethics, deepen understandings of transnational educational ideas and policy drivers, and contribute new knowledge about Australia's education history.

This research has been funded by the Australian Research Council, 2009-2011 (Discovery Project DP0987299) and has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of Melbourne.


There are two main parts to the study:

  1. Archival research on documentary material Documentary sources include professional and scholarly reports, curriculum texts and proposals, administrative records, and the papers of key players and agencies.
  2. Oral history interviews These interviews will bring the perspectives of different educational actors — pupils; teachers; guidance, curriculum and policy personnel — in to our analysis of adolescence and schooling over three generations.