The Federal Government has released the long-awaited Review of the Australian Curriculum which has revealed the curriculum is overcrowded and not enough time is spent on numeracy and literacy.
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said he will bring the review and the Initial Australian Government Response to an Education Ministers’ conference in December and begin negotiations with the states.
The review found the curriculum was overcrowded in the early years and that there needs to be a greater focus on literacy and numeracy and phonics. It also recommended a more parent-friendly curriculum and that teachers needed to be taught grammar and punctuation.
The review also called for more emphasis on Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage, the role of Western civilisation in contributing to Australian society, and the influence of the country’s British system of government. It also recommended a restructure of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) should take place so it is “at arm’s length” from education ministers and the education department.
The Federal Government’s Initial Response focusses on five key themes of the review:
- Addressing the identified concerns of an overcrowded curriculum;
- Improving parental engagement around the curriculum;
- Improving accessibility for all students – particularly those with disability;
- Rebalancing the curriculum – ensuring that a range of views are taught; and,
- Reviewing the governance of ACARA – ensuring its members have the highest expertise and that it operates independently of government.
Minister Pyne commended the review’s authors for a “valuable, well researched, and well considered piece of work” and said a strong national curriculum is a key pillar in the Government’s Students Frist policy.
“The review confirms what all education ministers are hearing from parents and teachers that there’s simply too much to try to learn, and students and teachers are swamped,” he said. “This is an opportunity for my state and territory colleagues to work with me to ensure the curriculum is delivering the outcomes we want for our students.”
Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Western Australia, Bill Louden, told The Conversation that on the whole the review is a fair and thoughtful response to the almost 1600 submissions received.
“The recommendation that the “cross-curriculum priorities” and “general capabilities” be more firmly anchored in subject content will not please everyone, but it will help simplify the curriculum,” he said.
Lecturer in Literacies Education at the University of Southern Queensland, Stewart Riddle, told The Conversation the review has been little more than a political distraction from addressing serious concerns about equity in our schools.
“This is a review where the outcome was pre-determined by the minister’s choice of reviewers and a long-running media campaign of promoting a “back to the basics” approach,” he said. “Yet, reading through this “balanced” and “fair” review, the first thing that struck me was the staggering lack of engagement with empirical research. Apart from government reports and curriculum documents, there are only a handful of references to research literature. Given the scope and scale of this review, such a limited engagement with evidence is troubling.”
ACARA Chairman Prof Barry McGaw said its Board and staff will read the review and offer comments and advice at the Education Ministers’ conference in December.