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Sydney Secondary College Balmain Campus

Sydney Secondary College Balmain Campus

Quality, Opportunity, Diversity

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Human society and its environment

In human society and its environment (HSIE), both subjects of history and geography are mandatory from Kindergarten to Year 10.

Students learn specific historical and geographical concepts and skills in history and geography. They also have an opportunity to learn more about people and the societies and environments in which they live through elective subjects in Years 7 to 10 (Stages 4 to 5).

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
  • Business Studies
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History Extension
  • Legal Studies
  • Modern History
  • Society and Culture
  • Studies of Religion.

Human Society and Its Environment is one of the eight secondary Key Learning Areas (KLAs). This key learning area involves the study of people, cultures, societies and environments. Studies in this area encompass people and environments (human and natural) over time.

Mandatory courses


The geography (mandatory) NSW NESA course requires students to complete:

  • 100 hours in Stage 4 – Years 7 and 8
  • 100 hours of in Stage 5 – Years 9 and 10

Geography allows students to develop enjoyment of and interest in the interaction of the physical and human environments. Students will develop geographic knowledge, understanding, inquiry skills in order to engage in the community as informed and active citizens.


The history (mandatory) NSW NESA course requires students to complete:

  • 100 hours of History in Stage 4
  • 100 hours of Australian History in Stage 5.

History develops in young people an interest in and enjoyment of exploring the past. A study of history provides opportunities for examining events, people and societies from ancient, medieval and modern times, including twentieth-century Australia.

Elective courses

All courses are 200 hour non mandatory courses studied in Stage 5, years 9 and 10

Elective history

History as a discipline has its own methods and procedures. It is much more than the simple presentation of facts and dates from the past. History provides the skills for students to answer the question ‘How do we know?’ An investigation of an historical issue through a range of sources can stimulate curiosity and develop problem-solving, research and critical thinking skills. It develops language specific to the discipline of History and provides opportunities to further develop literacy skills. Students learn to critically analyse and interpret sources of evidence in order to construct reasoned explanations and a rational and informed argument based on evidence, drawn from the remains of the past. Students engage in research involving traditional methods and ICT, including evaluating web-based sources and using a range of technologies for historical research and communication.

Earth citizens

Earth Citizens enables young people to develop an interest in and engagement with the world. It provides opportunities to develop a broader understanding of the discipline of Geography, including physical, social, cultural, economic and political influences on people, places and environments, from local to global scales. Students are accredited with Elective Geography on their ROSA.

Big history

Big history examines our past, explains our present, and imagines our future. It's a story about us. An idea that arose from a desire to go beyond specialised and self-contained fields of study to grasp history as a whole. This growing, multi-disciplinary approach is focused on high school students, yet designed for anyone seeking answers to the big questions about the history of our Universe.

The big history project is a joint effort between teachers, scholars, scientists, and their supporters to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to knowledge to lifelong learners around the world.

International studies

International studies BEC provides students with an opportunity to explore and recognise their own cultures, and appreciate the richness of multicultural Australia and the world. As Australia is part of the Asia-Pacific region, the course lends itself to an emphasis on, but is not limited to, this region.

They gain knowledge of different cultural practices, values, beliefs and heritages to form a broader world-view. They gain the skills to recognise fact, detect bias and challenge stereotypes by exploring cultural difference and interconnectedness. This enables them to understand and value inclusion, and to respect the rights of others.


Commerce provides the knowledge, skills, understanding and values that form the foundation on which young people make sound decisions on consumer, financial, business, legal and employment issues. It develops in students an understanding of commercial and legal processes and competencies for personal financial management. Through the study of commerce students develop financial literacy which enables them to participate in the workplace.

Work education

The work education syllabus provides students with an opportunity to develop knowledge and a contemporary understanding of the world of work, the diverse sectors within the community, and the roles of education, employment and training systems. Both paid and unpaid work will be explored through a range of contexts and issues. This includes volunteer work, casual or part-time employment, changes in industry, the changing nature of work in a local and global arena, workplace legislation, and the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers. The roles of local and Australia-wide organisations across all sectors will be examined through discussion of concepts such as corporate accountability, social responsibility, partnerships and developing social capital. Students’ understanding of education, employment and training systems and the opportunities they provide will be developed through the investigation of current initiatives and recent reforms.