Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 31 January 2008


Patricia Karvelas (Political correspondent) writing in today’s Oz –

Kevin Rudd has handed a Melbourne academic the "for­midable challenge" of leading the creation of a new national schools curriculum.

The Prime Minister yesterday named Barry McGaw as head of the new National Curriculum Board, to be established by January 1 next year with a mission of forging a single national curriculum.

The Labor Government's nat­ional curriculum, which will be implemented in 2011, will init­ially cover English, mathematics, science and history from kinder­garten through to the end of high school.

It’s obvious that Karvelas is a Political rather than an Educational Correspondent, as she seems to have a less than clear understanding of the term “curriculum”.

I found this definition (among others) on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curriculum

Curriculum means two things: (i) the range of courses from which students choose what subject matters to study, and (ii) a specific learning program. In the latter case, the curriculum collectively describes the teaching, learning, and assessment materials available for a given course of study.

The other definitions include the lived experience of the student, and this extra component is critical, but beyond the capacity of government to fashion, so the more limited concept works for this discussion. Using this definition, it’s clear that Curriculum is both what is learned (the range of courses from which students choose what subject matters to study) and how it is taught (a specific learning program).

Karvelas is talking only about the first component – what is learned. The notion that this should be uniform across the country is positive, for a range of obvious reasons, but if the new government is earnest about true educational reform, it’s only part of the story.

National pay and qualification benchmarks and national consistency in regards to teacher preparation are just as important. These factors influence the “how” of curriculum, and action on them must be included in any reform.

Mr Rudd warned that it would be difficult to put a national curriculum in place because the states were attached to their own systems and had resisted adopt­ing new approaches.

"In terms of the task ahead, it's formidable. This is an area of work which historically has been paved with good intentions, but with very little outcome," Mr Rudd said.

"Our intention is to make a difference, but it's going to be very hard and we recognise that. It's a three-year task — it'll be tough and intensive work. The nation hasn't done this before, so I'm being entirely up-front with you about how complex I think it's going to be."

With the national workforce increasingly mobile, the Prime Minister said, it was illogical that 80.000 children whose parents moved last year had to face a new curriculum at new schools this week.

He warned that the education system was not world-class be­cause of the different curriculums across the country.

"You could argue that we're small enough to do things as a whole," he said.

Professor McGaw said the states had never used the oppor­tunity of having different curriculums to drive improvements.

I couldn’t agree more – but by itself universal content is not going to change much for the better. Get it right while you’re at it, Kevin, and introduce reform that takes all these other factors into account. The chance may not come again.

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