PC is out, ABCs back in classes

Schools to re­turn to core val­ues in rad­i­cal cur­ricu­lum re­form

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE - JACK MORPHET

EV­ERY school sub­ject from kin­der­garten to Year 12 will be stripped of un­nec­es­sary “clut­ter” in a bid to re­turn ed­u­ca­tion to the core val­ues of English, maths and sciences.

In the first to­tal re­view of ed­u­ca­tion in 30 years, the state gov­ern­ment also wants to re­move so­cial and po­lit­i­cally cor­rect agen­das from the class­room be­cause they have made the cur­ricu­lum “hard to de­ci­pher”. Of­fi­cials will also cut the num­ber of ex­ams.

THE school cur­ricu­lum will be stripped back to core val­ues of English, maths and the sciences in a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion re­view to “de­clut­ter” the en­tire ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Ev­ery sub­ject from kin­der­garten to Year 12 will go un­der the mi­cro­scope to re­move what the state gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers ir­rel­e­vant con­tent that has crept in over the past 30 years.

One po­ten­tial ef­fect of the over­haul, to be an­nounced to­day by Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Rob Stokes, would be to elim­i­nate “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” from ed­u­ca­tion.

The re­view will also fo­cus more on achieve­ments by Aus­tralian au­thors and in­ven­tors while rais­ing the im­por­tance of vo­ca­tional train­ing for those who don’t want to go to uni­ver­sity.

The num­ber numb of f ex­ams and tests will also be cut.

Au­thor­i­ties fear the rudi­ments of lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy have suf­fered be­cause teach­ers must work in an in­creas­ingly com­plex frame­work dic­tated by var­i­ous so­cial and po­lit­i­cal agen­das.

For ex­am­ple, re­gard­less of the sub­ject, ev­ery teacher must in­cor­po­rate con­tent about Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der his­to­ries and cul­tures, sus­tain­abil­ity, and Aus­tralia’s en­gage­ment with Asia. This might re­sult in a maths teacher teach­ing prob­a­bil­ity by us­ing Asian games of chance to il­lus­trate their point. Mr Stokes said while such frame­works are “nice to have, we need to fo­cus on things we must do”. He be­lieves the cur­ricu­lum has be­come “hard to de­ci­pher, clut­tered, com­plex and not trans­par­ent”.

In the past 15 years Aus­tralia’s world rank­ing has slipped from fourth to 16th in read­ing, from sev­enth to 25th in math­e­mat­ics, and from fourth to 14th in science.

“The basics of lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy need to be ac­quired ear­lier and that needs to be re­flected in the cur­ricu­lum, so by the age of eight kids have the basics down pat,” Mr Stokes said.

The re­view, to be con­ducted by the CEO of the Aus­tralian Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tional Re­search Ge­off Masters, will be the first since 1989, the year the in­ter­net was launched. It is ex­pected to take more than 18 months.

While it will not change the con­tent of in­di­vid­ual sub­jects, it will es­tab­lish what lessons have been added into each sub­ject over the past three decades that are not

es­sen­tial. “We want to de­clut

ter the cur­ricu­lum,” Ms Bere

jik­lian said. “I want to see a

fo­cus on the basics like liter

acy and nu­mer­acy.”

Pri­mary teach­ers say the cur­ricu­lum is so crowded it has be­come im­pos­si­ble to cover ev­ery­thing and still teach core sub­jects in any depth.

“It is im­pos­si­ble for pri­mary teach­ers to get through the en­tire cur­ricu­lum each year,” Pri­mary Prin­ci­pals’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Phil Sey­mour said. “You’d have to skate across the top of the core sub­jects — English, maths and science.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Sey­mour, “ad­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties so­ci­ety has pushed on us” like pet care and road safety aren’t ex­plic­itly men­tioned in the cur­ricu­lum, but it is as­sumed teach­ers will find time to squeeze them in.

Pres­i­dent of the Sec­ondary Prin­ci­pals Coun­cil Chris Pres­land said the sit­u­a­tion was no bet­ter in high schools.

“Schools are now ex­pected to teach road safety, al­co­hol and drug safety, teach­ing kids how to be­have on­line, health and fit­ness, wa­ter safety, CPR, first aid — the list goes on,” Mr Pres­land said.

This was as well as teach­ing new skills such as typ­ing, which comes on top of hand­writ­ing, and “soft skills” like cre­ativ­ity, team-build­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“Can you tell me some­thing that’s been taken out of the syl­labus in the past 30 years? The an­swer is no,” Mr Pres­land said.

“It is pos­si­ble to teach all of those things but it’s not easy, es­pe­cially as the cur­ricu­lum doesn’t ex­plain how to teach them, it’s just as­sumed teach­ers will work it out.”

Vis­it­ing her old school, North Ryde Pub­lic, Ms Bere­jik­lian said the new cur­ricu­lum would show stu­dents “the sky’s the limit” by putting a stronger em­pha­sis on Aus­tralian au­thors and in­ven­tors and also fo­cus on vo­ca­tions at high schools.

Pic­ture: Sam Rut­tyn

NSW Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian at her old p pri­mary imary sch school, North Ryde Pub­lic, with Kirin Naidoo Ben­nett, Charlotte Chow, Tat­su­fumi Mo­to­hiro and Sarah Cum­ming.

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