The curriculum is just one piece of the bigger puzzle

The current review of the NSW curriculum – what schools teach – aims to “ensure it equips students to contribute to Australian society in the 21st century.” It’s a welcome recognition that our education system no longer fulfils this purpose, but curriculum is only one piece of a bigger puzzle.

In 1962, the Wyndham Scheme established most of the educational norms that we have been reviewing ever since! As we reshaped the jigsaw pieces one-by-one (and then over and over again), the result was an education system that didn’t fit together quite so neatly. That’s why a curriculum review is not quite the right approach: we need to look equally at how we teach or indeed why?

It’s time we looked at the missing pieces. We have what could be a one-off opportunity to adapt to what this review recognises is “a world in which rapid technological advances are contributing to unprecedented economic and social change in unpredictable ways.”

The magnitude of delivering systemic change and innovation to schooling too often leads to resistance to change. We can learn from other industry sectors that embracing change is critical to their future. Over one hundred years of delivering schooling as a standardised mass production one-size-fits-all process will take some time to change but it is already under way. It is also a challenge to our imagination to think so differently.

Thinking big in education takes time – more time than the election cycle allows. Yet governments come and go, children enrol and young adults graduate. In the same time that our schools, students and educators have adapted (and adapted again) to the recommendations of generations of reviews, we could have already established a new way forward.

The word ‘curriculum’ comes from the Latin word meaning something like ‘run’ or ‘course’. I believe that a curriculum review, as an approach to educational reform, has run its course. Seriousness about sorting out some of the pieces in education is commendable. However, a continued failure to look at the bigger picture when it comes to reshaping learning and teaching in Australia would be puzzling indeed.

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