Australia's educational performance has been in decline since the 1970s, but this is no accident. It is by design, curriculum design to be specific.
When the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority released its new draft curriculum there was a barrage of deserved criticism about proposed changes.
I feel sorry for Alan Tudge, the Education Minister, who is obviously unhappy with the proposed amendments, but he has little leverage over the curriculum. The way the board of ACARA is set up its governing body is constituted by representatives of all the states and territories, as well as the Commonwealth. Inasmuch as educational faddism is identified with the Labor party, the faddists have a 5 to 4 advantage at the moment.
My problems with the review start with the old curriculum, and go deeper than the changes in the new curriculum.
One of my major issues is the intrusion of inappropriate ideologies into the school curriculum. I use the word "inappropriate", because education should have a worldview. It should be based on empirical intellectual inquiry and open discussion. It should teach values like the inherent worth and dignity of all people (otherwise you end up with argument from authority rather than empirical inquiry).
When we say we want education to be secular, the word doesn't just mean that it shouldn't entrench any religion, we mean that it should be evidence-based and materialistic, teaching facts and methods of rational analysis. That is not a neutral position, it is an ideological one, but it is an ideology that has served our culture well and which has contributed to it being the richest society ever, and I don't just mean in a material sense.
There are a lot of ways that ideologies contrary to that notion of a secular, empirical education have invaded the education system, but two of the most obvious are the requirement to teach "sustainability" and "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures" across all subject areas.
Before getting to why they are ideological, these are actually subject areas in their own right. "Sustainability" appears to be most broadly ecology, and more narrowly climate "science", conservation, or things like recycling. ATSI histories and culture is most properly anthropology.
So, just on a discipline basis they don't belong in English, foreign languages, or mathematics, and teachers in those disciplines are not going to be qualified to teach them. Sustainability might have some place in geography, biology, chemistry and physics, at the margins, and ATSI might have some place in history or geography, but again, not throughout the curriculum, and again teachers are unlikely to be qualified.
One of the most significant complaints from teachers is that the curriculum is too crowded. Putting these unrelated issues into subject areas which are complex and difficult to learn on their own terms is not going to make the curriculum any less crowded.
There are a number of sites dedicated to providing resources for teaching sustainability and ATSI history and culture like https://sustainabilityinschools.edu.au/teaching-resources or https://www.coolaustralia.org/. When you look at their curriculum resources you realise how much time is being eaten up in disciplines by material that is tangential at best to mastering the skills to master the subject.
When you look closer you will also see the ideological nature of the curriculum.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
20 posts so far.