The Review of the Australian Curriculum – Government Response

Professor Ken Wiltshire and Dr. Kevin Donnelly were appointed by the Federal Government to conduct an independent review of the Australian Curriculum. This review has been completed and its findings have been released this month. Read the full report here. You can view the initial response by the Australian Government here. The information below is a summary of this document.

The Australian Government’s initial response to this Review encompasses five themes: (i) resolving the overcrowded curriculum, (ii) improving parental engagement around the curriculum, (iii) improving accessibility for all students (iv) rebalancing the curriculum and (v) reviewing the governance of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

1) The Overcrowded Curriculum – The Australian Government supports the Review recommendations relating to overcrowding in the curriculum. We must deal with the overcrowding of the curriculum as a matter of priority. Overcrowding means that teachers are finding it difficult to implement the Australian Curriculum and cover all the content in each subject. There are 4 recommendations listed to reduce overcrowding of the curriculum on page 7 (view here).

2. Improving Parental Engagement Around The Curriculum – Improved parent engagement means that parents have a better understanding of the teacher’s job and school curriculum. When parents are aware of what their children are learning, they are more likely to engage with their children’s learning activities at home. There is one recommendation listed to improve parental engagement on page 8 (view here).

3. Improving Accessibility For All Students – The Review heard evidence that the linear progression of the Australian Curriculum makes it difficult for children operating at below Foundation level and as a result the curriculum is not accessible for the students with additional needs. Parents of the students with additional needs are saying this was not what was promised and that the Australian Curriculum has lost credibility with them. Schools have a clear responsibility to address the learning needs of every one of their students. To better support schools in this endeavour, the Australian Curriculum needs more work to cater for student diversity. There is one recommendation listed to improve accessibility for all students on page 9 (view here).

4. Rebalancing The Curriculum – The Review highlighted that, to varying degrees, learning areas placed a strong focus on some content whilst sometimes completely neglecting other content. The Review’s Final Report has also listed recommendations for changes in the content for each subject area – these are covered in Chapter 7 of the Final Report and cover English, mathematics, history, science, geography, civics and citizenship, technologies, economics and business and lastly, health and physical education. There are two recommendations listed to improve rebalancing the curriculum on page 10 (view here).

5. Reviewing The Governance Of ACARA – Some of the recommendations of this Review go to the role, function and governance of ACARA. The Review identified concerns from some stakeholders that ACARA played the role of both developer and evaluator of the Australian Curriculum. There are two recommendations listed to improve rebalancing the curriculum on page 11 & 12 (view here).

What did I find interesting? The information below is taken from the report itself and not the Government’s response to the review.

  • Recommended that ACARA reduce content and narrow the “core” particularly in primary years.
  • Foundation to year 2 should have a stronger focus on literacy and numeracy.
  • Embed Cross Curriculum Priorities (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability) into areas only where educationally relevant.
  • General Capabilities (Literacy, Numeracy & ICT) remain embedded across all curriculum areas while all other Capabilities only appear in relevant areas of the curriculum.
  • ACARA develop a smaller, parent-friendly version of the Australian Curriculum which clearly explains the intended curriculum a child will be learning in each year they are at school.
  • ACARA make it more clear what is considered mandatory and what is optional in the curriculum.
  • Recommendation to revise the AC to better include emphasis on morals, values & spirituality and better recognise contribution of Western civilisation and our Judeo-Christian heritage.

So there you have it. I wonder how much the current curriculum will change based on this review? Will it be significant or will it end up being just a tinker around the edges?

One thought on “The Review of the Australian Curriculum – Government Response

  1. I support many of the smaller changes for example leaving the cross-curricula priorities only where they actually belong and producing a supporting document for parents (and students please), however in general this is obviously an exercise designed to justify another change in course based on ideology. The authors of this review and their paymasters were vocal about the need for this shift before they got the job and have ‘found’ exactly what they said they would. The idea of cutting sustainability or urbanisation from Geography for example is outrageous and it is hard to see how including ‘morals, values & spirituality and better recognition of the contribution of Western civilisation and our Judeo-Christian heritage’ addresses the ‘overcrowding’ this report has supposedly unearthed.

    This is particularly important for History and Geography. No other subjects are hijacked by political and cultural forces attempting to install things like citizenship or patriotism into young people. History is innately fascinating to humans yet when we try and burn the date the first fleet arrived into a child’s memory we wind up with the most boring subject matter imaginable.

    If a student doesn’t learn to read they will have a low quality of life. To various degrees this is also true of all other subjects except history. If a student doesn’t learn history there are no consequences and it only remains in our schools because it can be used a tool for installing political values. It shouldn’t matter what opinion the government of the day has on European settlement for example. History teachers need to teach both perspectives and get students to analyse the human motivations and emotions which made people do what they did. When we try to just deliver content from a neutral perspective it turns the people of the time into cardboard cut-outs and makes the topic boring. As a consequence students don’t retain anything and you don’t create better patriots or citizens from anywhere on the political spectrum if they just forget everything 5 minutes after your lesson.

    Interestingly in the states they are wrestling with similar issues on their version of the Australian Curriculum called ‘common core’. History blogger Dan Carlin wrote a piece on Edutopia recently advising teachers to just forget about the politics of history and instead tap into things young people are interested in, like the history of skateboarding, fashion, or motorcycles. Just get them to map out how something that exists came to be and what forces shaped it and spend your time focusing on these forces, not the first fleet. It is a great read and available here:

    http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-history-outside-the-box-dan-carlin

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