Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Australian National Curriculum. Back to the future?

Earlier this week ACARA released the draft Australian National Curriculum for English, Mathematics, Science and History for general consultation.

Like my colleague, Helen from Rapantred, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the political rhetoric surrounding the release of the draft curriculum.

I attended several forums on the proposed National Curriculum that ACARA held. One of the key messages at these forums was about developing a curriculum for this century that will take Australia forward.

The Shaping Paper from ACARA reflected this:

Changed context

Schooling must not only deal with these remarkable changes but also, as far as possible, anticipate the kinds of conditions in which young Australians will need to function as individuals, citizens and workers. These future conditions are distant and difficult to predict. We expect almost all young Australians who begin primary school in 2011 will continue their initial education until 2022. Many will go on to post-secondary education and not complete their initial education until the mid-2020s and later. However dimly the demands of societies in the mid-2020s can now be seen, some serious attempt must be made to envisage those demands and to ensure they are taken into account in present-day curriculum development.

A curriculum for the 21st century will reflect an understanding and acknowledgment of the changing nature of young people as learners and the challenges and demands that will continue to shape their learning in the future. Young people will need a wide and adaptive set of knowledge, skills and understandings to meet the changing expectations of society and to contribute to the creation of a more productive, sustainable and just society.”

The Shape of the Australian Curriculum (2009)

I was impressed with Barry McGaw, and believe him to be a man of integrity, with the ACARA Board seeking to deliver a curriculum for Australia's future.

The political rhetoric is less inspiring.

The Government has been focusing on rhetoric about about a Back-to-basics curriculum (with a hint of the future):

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, this is basics and beyond. I think the Prime Minister is using the description basics because this is returning to some traditional styles, some traditional curriculum content that has been lost in the last few years in education. So for example, children are learnt to read by sounding out letters - "cuh, ah, tuh: cat" - and of course children are going to be taught grammar at every level - sentence construction, nouns, verbs - all of those things that perhaps you and I were taught when we were at school which haven't been common in teaching of late. But this is curriculum for kids from the first year - prep or kindergarten; it's called different things in different states - through to Year 10, so we don't have kids in year 10 going, "cuh, ah, tuh: cat". By then, of course, we hope that they are studying rich lit
erature works, but this curriculum does continue to have literacy support through each year level. So rather than saying we teach literacy to young kids and if you miss the bus, well, too bad, even for the older children, if they still need literacy support, it will be there.

As Helen points out, the basics (phonics, grammar) have been a part of the English syllabus here in New South Wales for a while.

Meanwhile we have an opposition attempting to generate old debates: Black arm band views of History and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at the expense of British traditions and British heritage.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I note that there are 118 references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
Curriculum development is always contentious. But I'm not sure how this sort of rhetoric leads to the development of a world-class education system for the future.

It seems that the more the Government develops its Education Revolution the more things stay the same: testing, school halls, laptops. Perhaps all good for what is today - but it seems to be a case of the more things change the more they stay the same.

Maybe that's what revolutions are about - finishing up where you started.

1 comment:

Mark Walker said...

Understand the frustration surrounding the National Curriculum. Back to Basics or Back to the Future is that the question

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