I find it interesting that just as the world is opening up to new possibilities of accessing and sharing information, connecting and collaborating globally, the government’s strategic policy focus is defining what should be learned by all students in all Australian schools today. Perhaps the new draft K-10 national curriculum is more a response to the fear that these new capabilities will only weaken the traditional transmission of knowledge. It seems to me that there is an inherent paradox in our current situation that the more freedom we have to expand our knowledge, the more we want to protect and narrow what we deem to be valuable.
The first casualty of the initial draft is what subjects were in and what was out. No surprise that the big winners are: maths, science, grammar and phonics. Wouldn’t it have been interesting if the first draft ignored this and opted for creative and performing arts, music, health and well-being and geography. Do we assume here that science is more important in today’s world than music? These are the realities we face and it is no different from the ideological battles of the past 100 years in education about what should and should not be taught in schools.
Fortunately, we will have a curriculum where the devil is not in its detail. This is a broad curriculum mapping the essentials around content and achievement levels for the various key learning areas. The detail is in how well teachers deliver the curriculum to today’s learners.
The Federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard made it clear that while the government wants to ensure all students are literate, numerate and well-equipped to contribute to the world in which they live, the central issue is bringing all states into some sort of alignment over processes and procedures around schooling. The issue of children moving interstate and readjusting to a new framework has been a key driver as has been an attempt to standardise assessment processes so comparisons can be made about school and student performance.
While these are important, we need much more work on teacher practice and how teachers improve their practice within the new ACARA framework. What ACARA does with community feedback on the draft curriculum is not as critical as what teachers do with it.