The present study is an analysis of curriculum-related papers in primary education published by the education departments of New South Wales, Australia, and Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The aim is to unravel and contrast the ideological positions adopted by the two communities in their approaches to first language education so that common-sense beliefs and practices may be challenged. Analysis shows that the Australian school discourse system exhibits characteristics of progressivism, utilitarianism and reconstructionism whereas the Chinese system in Hong Kong displays combined elements of European classical humanism and Confucianism. It appears that the Australian system prefers flexibility, free choice, individual autonomy, student-centredness, and exploratory spirit, whereas the latter inclines towards uniformity, orderliness, harmony, language-centredness and discipline. The Australian emphasis in language education is social, functional and communicative, while the Chinese focus is on formal correctness and integration of language, morality and aesthetics. These different ideological inclinations are suggestive of similar orientations at the societal level and affect the discourse practices at the situational level of the classroom.