A National Curriculum for Australia

A National Curriculum for Australia

© Beverley Paine, 27 Nov 07
Homeschool Australia

A media statement issued by Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith on the 28th February 2007 outlined the newly elected government’s plans to set up a National Curriculum Board with the aim of developing a “rigorous, consistent and quality curriculum for all Australian students – from kindergarten to year 12” within three years.

A National Curriculum has long been sought largely to eliminate the problems that arise when students move between states.

According to the statement “the National Curriculum Board will bring together Australia’s best and brightest educationalists to ensure the best aspects of State and Territory curricula are available to all our children.” It would be wonderful to see some input from home educators, but I suspect that this education sector will be overlooked.

In reality, a National Curriculum is yet another move towards eliminating the sovereignty of the States. Nationalisation is probably an inevitable outcome of Federalism, it’s just taking a century or so to completely weasel the authority away from the States…

In the 1990s a National Curriculum was vociferously rejected, principally in the first instance by universities, and then by private schools and most senior high school staff. It was implemented fully in only one state (SA) and then abandoned. I can hear SA teachers groaning at the thought of learning yet another new curriculum (the fourth in just under two decades!)

The focus on Maths, Sciences, English and History will be met with considerable opposition from educators across Australia. It ignores placing any emphasis on the important role of The Arts in our cultural identity and day to day life. Inter-cultural studies – currently disguised as Studies in Society and Environment as well as Languages Other Than English – are not yet mentioned. And what about Geography?

In truth, it is impossible to carve up what a child needs to learn into distinct subject areas. The only reason any education system does so is purely for the purposes of tracking the educational progress of children en masse. Individualised education programs do not need to be divided into separate subjects and dished up piece-meal to students. A study of history naturally encompasses all other subjects, and if it doesn’t then the child isn’t receiving an optimal education.

Will the introduction of this National Curriculum simplify the existing curriculum frameworks – at the expense of an adequate education for Australian children? Teachers and teacher unions will not allow it. There are some heady battles ahead for the newly elected Australian government.

There is already a strong indication that home educators will be compelled to comply with the curriculum. For many this will have very little effect, and may even prove to be advantageous over current arrangements with state educational authorities. However, it will not embrace religious tolerance in the fullest sense, and will continue to teach content that many in the community, especially homeschooling community, find objectionable.

The debate over whether Australian schools teach Creation Science as well as, or in place of, Evolution Science, is one that was raised a couple of years ago and then buried. It’s a hot topic for debate elsewhere in the world and I’m sure it will surface again here. Many homeschoolers may find it impossible to comply with a curriculum that forces them to teach evolution. The ability to teach a curriculum that reflects family values and religious beliefs are among the many reasons home educators reject school based education.

Unschoolers and natural learners will also find much to be dismayed about with a compulsory National Curriculum. Children learn in their own way in their own time in an unschooling home and often the results are not visible or evidenced until the adolescent years when it can all come together with amazing totality. Although I found recording my children’s learning on a regular basis a useful planning aid, many families find the amount of specific detail required by educational authorities unnecessary and tedious to the point that it can interfere with the purpose of educating their children.

There is little doubt in my mind that the Labor Government will do it’s best to implement its election promises. There is a huge question mark hanging over their ability to do so. Once people begin to see the detail in this new push for a National Curriculum I foresee that the opposition will grow considerably.

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