Curriculum review: what more is in store?

An acknowledgement by the federal government that the curriculum is overcrowded and that time allocations need to be practically implementable may be music to our ears, but there is much more to the Review of the Australian Curriculum than meets the eye...

In January 2014, the federal government commissioned Dr Kevin Donnelly and Professor Ken Wiltshire to undertake a comprehensive review of the Australian Curriculum. The resultant Federal Review of the Australian Curriculum: Final Report contains 30 key recommendations to improve and further develop the curriculum. In its initial response to the report, the federal government recommended that 10 recommendations be endorsed at this stage.

While some of the recommendations may be supportable, such as producing more work samples illustrating A-E achievement and the uniform adoption of A-E reporting to parents, there is much to be maligned.

The proposal to narrow the focus to literacy and numeracy in foundation-year 2 disregards the importance of play-based learning, which is seen as best practice in the early years. The Queensland Government already focuses on improvements in literacy and numeracy in the early years with its Great Results Guarantee.

The push to place more emphasis on morals, values, and spirituality to “better recognise our Judeo-Christian heritage” has no place in a secular state schooling system. The QTU believes that the placement of chaplains in state schools is inappropriate and inconsistent with an open, secular state system serving a multicultural society. The QTU supports and promotes professionally conducted programs of education in the area of belief. It does not support or promote any program of study where content is selected from a faith perspective, as in religious instruction. Student participation in religious instruction is voluntary and parents can exercise their right to withdraw students from any RI program offered at the school, if they choose.

The recommendation that cross-curriculum priorities be “reconceptualised” and embedded in the teaching and learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability, “only where educationally relevant, in the mandatory content of the curriculum” could mean the wholesale rewriting of key elements of the curriculum to reflect the neo-liberal view of the world.

In a bid to silence state-based voices, there is a recommendation to reconstitute ACARA as a company with a board with no representation from education authorities, but with hand-picked “curriculum and assessment experts" instead.

The reviewers are individually drawn to two very different preferred models for a national formal intended curriculum. It will be left to the federal government to decide which model is preferable and then the proposed model will need to be considered by state and territory governments before it can be implemented. The timing of any changes to the curriculum will need to be agreed to by all education ministers. Ministers for Education will be meeting in December to consider the report, however it is unlikely that any changes will be made until 2016. The QTU has written to the Queensland Minister for Education, Training and Employment to offer its expertise and advice in development of any state-based response to the review and has requested that it is consulted in the development of timelines for the implementation of actions arising from the report.

Any changes to future curriculum should take into account the impact on teacher workload and recognise that Queensland is already ahead of many other states in terms of its implementation of Phase 1 and 2 of the Australian Curriculum. Schools should not be making any premature changes to their curriculum offerings until such time as they are instructed to do so by the Department of Education, Training and Employment and the QCAA.

Members are encouraged to provide feedback to the QTU in relation to the report to assist in the development of a state-based response.

You can find the report at www.studentsfirst.gov.au/review-australian-curriculum

Leah Mertens
Research Officer – Professional Issues


Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 No 8, 14 November 2014, p15