The move is on to establish a national curriculum. Barry McGaw and Tony McKay have ben appointed to lead the implementation of this curriculum. My question is “what is a national curriculum?” Depending on the answer, I’d have to ask do we need a national curriculum?
The current argument for a national curriculum seems to be on the basis of mobility of people moving between states and the need for a common assessment framework for all schools. Of themselves these are things that need to be addressed but I’m less sure that they justify a national curriculum.
Ask two people what a national curriculum is and you are likely to get four different answers. There is a public perception that all students will learn the same content and will be assessed in the same way. But is this what we really want to happen and will this help improve the learning outcomes for every student?
You will remember that we couldn’t even get agreement on the content of a national Australian History curriculum. There were more opinions that proposals! My sense of the discussion is that there is a definite need for a national approach to schooling and the need for much more dialogue on what is a national curriculum and the nature of learning in today’s world.
I spoke at a secondary education conference in South Australia recently about the search for relevance. The other speaker was Prof. Yong Zhao (pictured on far right with DECS Barossa District staff Yvonne Cloke and Scott Draper).
He explored this issue in some detail. He located his discussion in the global/local shift in recent decades.
In short he argues that what we really need is a global curriculum that is given life, substance and form at very local levels.
Yong further argues that schooling should move beyond a primary focus on logic based learning which leads to a reductionist curriculum model, to focus on creativity and an openness to innovation, change and well being. It is a compelling argument I think.