Special edition: Release of National Curriculum Review

by Institute of Public Affairs on October 13, 2014

Welcome to a special edition of Horizons.

Yesterday the Federal government released the much-anticipated Review of the Australian National Curriculum by Professor Kenneth Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly. You can read the review here and the government response here.

This is the media release the IPA issued yesterday on why this is the ‘beginning of the end’ for the National Curriculum. 

The IPA has been critical of the National Curriculum’s ideological imbalance, exposing its hostility to Western Civilisation and Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage, and the contribution of entrepreneurs and free markets.

This Review confirms IPA research that the National Curriculum is politically biased, deficient and overcrowded.

It states that the National Curriculum – particularly the History Curriculum – fails to ‘adequately deal with the historical impact and significance of Western civilisation and Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage and values and beliefs.’

And it describes as ‘grossly deficient’ its failure to acknowledge that the unprecedented reduction in poverty experienced in recent decades has been the direct result of economic freedom, market liberalisation and increased international trade.

A very important section of the report is its analysis of the Economics and Business Curriculum from pages 198 to 203. Professor Tony Makin and Dr Alex Robson’s report on the subject is highly critical, slamming the omission of key economic concepts – such as the role of entrepreneurs – and the inclusion of inappropriate materials like the ‘benefits of government intervention with no discussion of … the costs of intervention.’

The examination of the Civics and Citizenship Curriculum by Professor Anne Twomey on pages 193 to 198 identifies significant gaps and the substandard nature of the curriculum, declaring ‘no one who had been taught it could graduate with a clear understanding of the system of government’.

You can read a thorough analysis of the National Curriculum by contributors such as Professor Tony Makin, Dr Alex Robson, Professor Anne Twomey, and Professor Gregory Melleuish here.

A highlight of the Review is its critique of the cross-curriculum priorities. It observes that the cross-curriculum priorities are inappropriate and ideologically driven, and it was ‘a mistake to endeavour to embed each of the three themes across the whole curriculum.’

The Review argues that the English curriculum specifically ‘should be revised to place greater emphasis on a more structured and systematic phonics and phonemic awareness approach during the early years of reading.’

Finally, a strength of the Review is its criticism of the faddish teaching methods the curriculum promotes. Prevalent throughout the curriculum is the idea that one pedagogical approach to teaching – constructivism and student-centred learning – is better than all the others. The role of the teacher is as ‘facilitator’ of the learning process, as opposed to ‘expert’.

Every child is different. Every discipline had different needs. And every pedagogy – whether it be constructivism, behaviourism, or direct instruction to name a few – has significant strengths and weaknesses. The privileging of constructivism and student-centred learning fails to take into account the realities of a classroom, the fact that different subjects are best served by different pedagogies, and that a teacher with deep curriculum content has more to contribute than as a passive facilitator.

Then shadow education minister Christopher Pyne first announced the Review of the National Curriculum in this important speech to the Institute of Public Affairs back in January 2011, upon the release of the IPA’s monograph The National Curriculum: A Critique.

In March this year, the IPA made this submission to the Federal Department of Education on the National Curriculum. The IPA’s submission is quoted extensively in the Review. We argued that the National Curriculum should be scrapped and that any cross-curriculum priorities must be abolished. You can view the IPA’s media release here

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