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Australian National Curriculum [sic] Review

I must admit that I decided to provide a brief submission late on the evening of the deadline, with a plane to catch in the morning, and on the (correct, unfortunately) assumption (given that I had not seen a draft) that the Australian association of Steiner Schools (SEA) had not prepared a submission.

The terms of reference were directly relevant to processes to which Steiner schools were then contributing numerous resources, including a paid (part-time) position, and vast amounts of hours of dedication.

It should perhaps be pointed out (even to Australian readers - an unfortunate situation, as we should be aware that education is a state, not federal, domain) that ACARA is a body that, in my personal professional view, ought not even have been created. It simply adds to the inappropriate bureaucratisation of education.

It is (again) simply astounding, given the resources placed on the writing of the documents for submission to ACARA for the Australian Steiner Curriculum Framework, that no submission on this review, no matter how brief, was forthcoming.

Anyhow... below are the 'Terms of Reference' and what I was able to quickly put together (late in the evening) and submit (the terms of reference for the review were obtained from the government website www.studentsfirst.gov.au).


 

Terms of Reference for the review of the Australian Curriculum

The Australian Government has announced a review of the Australian Curriculum evaluate its robustness, independence and balance and examine the content and development process.

The Terms of Reference for the review are below.

Review of the Australian Curriculum Terms of Reference

  • The Review of the Australian curriculum will evaluate the development and implementation of the Australian Curriculum.
  • The reviewers will consider the robustness, independence and balance of the Australian Curriculum, including:
    • the process of curriculum shaping, development, monitoring, evaluation and review.
    • the curriculum content from Foundation to Year 12 for subjects developed to date, with a particular focus on the curriculum for English, mathematics, science, history and geography.
  • The reviewers will provide recommendations to the Commonwealth Minister for Education regarding:
    1. the curriculum shaping process followed by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to ensure that the curriculum is balanced and offers students an appropriate degree of choice and diversity;
    2. the process of curriculum development to be followed by the ACARA for the development and revision of all future curriculum content;
    3. the content in learning areas, cross curriculum priorities and general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum;
    4. the ongoing monitoring, evaluation and review of curriculum content used by ACARA to ensure independence, rigour and balance in curriculum development; and
  • The reviewers will provide a preliminary report to the Commonwealth Minister for Education by 31 March 2014. The Panel will provide its final report to the Commonwealth Minister for Education by the 31 July 2014.
  

jmd's submission

> pdf version

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this much needed review. That an alternative to the provisions made by State bodies be available to broaden flexibility in curricula innovation is desirable. What has instead emerged is a tendency towards centralisation and increased bureaucratisation of education. Broad guidelines suggesting general disciplines to be covered, without content specificity, would be more desirable.

The curriculum shaping process followed by ACARA to ensure that the curriculum is balanced and offers students an appropriate degree of choice and diversity

The shaping process needs to allow for both diversity as well as innovation. As an example, should the current ‘shaping process’ have been in place some 40 years ago, innovative and highly successful opportunities developed by the IB, Steiner, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia would likely have been prevented from taking place in Australia. The experience of teachers with varying approaches, as well as varying targeted foci determined at the local level, can lead to far greater choice for both families as well as, in the longer term, provide for educational improvement over time across methodologies and educational philosophical views.

The national curricula would best be loosely based with minimal ‘prescribed’ breadth and depth in order for dynamic localised activities of human inquiry to determine how to innovatively engage. A guiding principle that may be considered is that educators are developing and educated professionals who guide and enucleate basic curricula not in isolation, but in the context of differing schools.

The process of curriculum development to be followed by the ACARA for the development and revision of all future curriculum content

The process of curriculum development and revision with regards curricula content would do well to be minimalist, in order, to again, maximise diversity and innovative solutions. The greater the prescription, the less is likely to be developed depth and diversity of views, effectively politicising education. A good example of this has been the tendency towards ‘left-wing’ ideological views within History.

The content in learning areas, cross curriculum priorities and general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum

Cross-curricula ‘priorities’ have the greatest risk of politicisation. General principles of autonomy and wisdom would best here prevail. Again, the development of individuals growing in a changing world requires that diverse sensibilities and even diverse educational opportunities arise within the context of a broad, vibrant and diverse educational landscape. The current trend, though undoubtedly filled with good intentions, imposes narrow educational research outcomes as assumed best practice.

The on-going monitoring, evaluation and review of curriculum content used by ACARA to ensure independence, rigour and balance in curriculum development

There will result an oxymoronic challenge if the ‘monitoring, evaluation and review’ is considered against autonomy, ‘independence, rigour and balance’, as these last depend on the dynamic engagement of educators focussed on the specific needs of their students and the stage of development at which they find themselves, together with an appreciation for a call to be wholesome. ACARA’s minutia of detail within current documents not only fractures approaches that place emphasis on understanding as a four-fold process (being attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible), but also diminishes the likelihood that teaching (and hence teachers) will place value on this longer-term activity.

Ultimately, curricula that enucleates in varied and autonomous ways core disciplines in age-appropriate ways would result in a diminishment of bureaucratised curricula development to the benefit of strong and autonomous education in a diverse and richer landscape.