Learning at high school
Find out what your child will learn in high school.
The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is responsible for the curriculum, Kindergarten to Year 12, for all NSW schools.
Key learning areas in high school
For the high school years, NESA develops syllabuses for all subjects in eight key learning areas:
- creative arts
- human society and its environment (HSIE)
- personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE)
- technology and applied studies (TAS).
Browse the menus below to learn more about each subject.
In creative arts, students discover a variety of art forms through a study of dance, drama, music and visual arts where they learn to appreciate, compose, listen, make and perform.
Each art form has its own unique knowledge and skills, elements or concepts as well as a capacity to inspire and enrich lives.
Students must study 100 hours of both music and visual arts during Years 7 to 10. They also have an opportunity to further develop their knowledge and skills in other art forms through elective subjects. Students can then select from a range of courses in Years 11 to 12.
Learn more about how we teach creative arts in our curriculum section.
English study is mandatory in NSW from Kindergarten to Year 12.
Students learn about the English language through written, spoken and visual texts of increasing complexity as they progress through their schooling.
An understanding of the English language is central to how we communicate and essential for intellectual, social and emotional development.
The study of English should develop a love of literature and learning and be challenging and enjoyable. It develops skills to enable students to experiment with ideas and expression, to become active, independent and lifelong learners, to work with each other and to reflect on their learning.
In Year 11 and 12, the study of English is mandatory. Courses offered include:
- English Advanced
- English as an Alternative Language or Dialect (EAL/D)
- English Extension 1
- English Extension 2
- English Life Skills
- English Standard
- English Studies.
Learn more about how we teach English in our curriculum section.
In human society and its environment (HSIE), students explore varied subjects in human society and its environment to learn about history, geography, people, societies and culture.
In HSIE the subjects of history and geography are mandatory from Kindergarten to Year 10, where students study specific historical and geographical concepts and skills. Students also have an opportunity to learn more about people and the societies and environments in which they live through elective subjects.
A large number of individual subjects make up the key learning area of HSIE in which students:
- research, gather and analyse information
- question and make judgements
- write for a variety of purposes.
In Year 11 and 12, students can choose from a range of HSIE courses. These include:
- Aboriginal Studies
- Ancient History
- Ancient History Life Skills
- Business Studies
- History Extension
- Legal Studies
- Modern History
- Modern History Life Skills
- Society and Culture.
Learn more about how we teach HSIE in our curriculum section.
In NSW high schools, languages is a key learning area.
Language study allows students to develop communication skills, learn about languages as systems and explore the relationship between language and culture. Students engage with the linguistic and cultural diversity of societies and reflect on their understanding of social interactions.
The study of a language is compulsory for 100 hours in one continuous school year from Year 7 to Year 10, but preferably in Years 7 or 8.
In Years 11 and 12, NSW schools offer a wide variety of languages, catering for beginning students to background speakers.
Learn more about how we teach languages in our curriculum section.
The study of mathematics is mandatory from Kindergarten to Year 10.
By studying mathematics, students develop knowledge, skills and understanding of mathematical concepts and their use within the classroom and beyond.
The syllabus consists of the following strands:
- number and algebra
- measurement and geometry
- statistics and probability.
In Year 11 and 12, the study of mathematics is optional. Courses offered include:
- Mathematics Advanced (from 2019)
- Mathematics Extension 1
- Mathematics Extension 2
- Mathematics Life Skills
- Mathematics Standard 1
- Mathematics Standard 2.
Learn more about how we teach mathematics in our curriculum section.
Personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE) is mandatory from Kindergarten to Year 10
PDHPE provides students with opportunities to explore issues that are likely to impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of themselves and others - now and in the future. Students also participate in challenging and enjoyable physical activity, improving their capacity to move with skill and confidence.
In Year 11 and 12, courses available include:
- Community and Family Studies
- Community and Family Studies Life Skills
- Exploring Early Childhood
- Personal Development, Health and Physical Education
- Personal Development, Health and Physical Education Life Skills
- Sport, Lifestyle and Recreation Studies.
Learn more about how we teach PDHPE in our curriculum section.
A study of science is mandatory for all students from Kindergarten to Year 10.
In science, students explore the natural and made worlds. They learn how to apply scientific skills, knowledge and understanding across a broad range of contexts.
Science provides a way of inquiring about the world around us. It explores evidence and investigates ways to discover, develop and produce solutions to real-world problems. The inquiry and skill-based nature of science opens doors to ideas and discoveries.
In Years 11 and 12, students can choose from different science disciplines, including:
- Earth and Environmental Science
- Investigating Science
- Science Life Skills.
Learn more about how we teach science in our curriculum section.
Technology and applied studies (TAS) is mandatory for all students in Year 7 and 8. Students can also select from a range of elective TAS subjects.
In TAS, students use a range of tools, materials and techniques in the design process and technological experiences through theory and practical lessons.
The continuum of technology learning is:
- based on students becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ability to design and produce solutions for authentic needs and opportunities
- an option for student specialisation in high school through a range of syllabuses addressing particular technologies and aspects of design.
Available courses include:
- Agricultural Technology 7-10
- Design and Technology 7-10
- Food Technology 7-10
- Graphics Technology 7-10
- Industrial Technology 7-10
- Information and Software Technology 7-10
- Textiles Technology 7-10
- Agriculture Stage 6
- Design and Technology Stage 6
- Engineering Studies Stage 6
- Food Technology Stage 6
- Industrial Technology Stage 6
- Information Processes and Technology Stage 6
- Software Design and Development Stage 6
- Textiles and Design Stage 6.
Learn more about how we teach TAS in our curriculum section.
Life Ready is a mandatory 25 hour program for students in Years 11 and/or 12 in NSW public schools.
It aims to prepare and support senior students as they encounter situations related to health and safety as they become more independent and gain more responsibilities.
Life Ready focuses on offering opportunities for students to build the functional knowledge and skills for life post school.
To learn more about curriculum in NSW, visit:
- NSW Department of Education - key learning areas
- NESA's Parent Guide - Schooling in NSW which provides information about learning stages, key learning areas and syllabuses
- NSW Department of Education policy - Curriculum planning and programming, assessing and reporting to parents K-12.