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Gonski 2.0 gives 'dumbed down' curriculums a D-minus

Posted on 13 November 2017
Gonski 2.0 gives 'dumbed down' curriculums a D-minus
Australian students have suffered as a result of a "dumbed down" curriculum and culture of "low expectations", and standards will continue to slide unless steps are taken to boost teacher quality and promote proven classroom techniques, the latest Gonski education review has been told.

Education advocates, including:

  • the Catholic Education Commission NSW
  • Education Standards Institute
  • NSW Secondary Principals Council and
  • the independent Schools Council of Australia

have called for a renewed focus on building teacher capacity and evidence-based teaching practices.

They have also urged a return to a "high-quality" curriculum based on core skills, including literacy and numeracy, and investment in behavioural management programs, pointing out that children will not learn in an undisciplined environment.

Dubbed "Gonski 2.0", the federal government's Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, has been urged to resist the temptation to search for a so-called "magic bullet", lamenting a long history of "good ideas" foisted upon the sector with minimal results.

International testing shows Australian students have fallen below the OECD average in terms of reading, maths and science.

Locally, NAPLAN results reveal literacy and numeracy standards have flatlined.

Education Standards Institute director Kevin Donnelly warned the review panel that the nation's education system had reached a "tipping point" and unless there was a "root and branch renewal" of schools' management, as well as teacher education and associated curriculum and pedagogy, standards would continue to fall.

"Compared to stronger performing overseas education systems, Australian schools have suffered as a result of adopting a less rigorous, academically-based curriculum," Dr Donnelly said.

"Classroom interaction and practice also suffer as a result of adopting innovations like childcentred learning, inquiry-based and discovery learning, open classrooms and constructivism.

"While all have their place, unless greater focus is given to explicit teaching and a curriculum that focuses on teaching deep knowledge, skills and understanding, standards and outcomes will not improve." The Schools Council of Australia, which represents more than 1100 schools and almost 600,000 students across the country, also advocates for a high-quality and ambitious curriculum that emphasises substantive content knowledge and essential competencies such as critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication and analysing information.

"In the highest performing education systems the curriculum tends to be rigorous and not too expansive or prescriptive, with manageable content taught well and in depth," it said.

The NSW Secondary Principals Association stressed the importance of recognising the diversity of schools and role of principals as best placed to decide what teaching and learning programs suited their context.

Several submitters lamented the so-called crowded curriculum as well as an increasing expectations on schools to undertake an expanded role in society, such as healthcare and welfare, that can distract from their core business.

Teachers needed time and resources to research, trial and share evidence of their classroom practices.

Catholic Education Commission NSW, which represents 591 Catholic schools across the state, believes school funding could significantly improve student learning if it were used to develop teachers and principals as "instructional leaders", a process that involves goal-setting, monitoring lesson plans and evaluating teachers to promote student learning.

Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, in Villawood, NSW, was recently funded to enable assistant principal Diane Shields to become a dedicated instructional leader and spend the bulk of her time modelling effective teaching techniques in classrooms across the junior year levels.

Principal Michelle Bourne said the program was aimed at building teaching capability across the school, which comprised students from low socio-economic backgrounds, many from non-English speaking families, and boosting performance. The program has been so successful across kindergarten to Year 2 levels, it has been expanded to some higher grades.

'Australian schools have suffered as a result of adopting a less rigorous, academically-based curriculum' EDUCATOR KEVIN DONNELLY


From: The Australian, Australia  by Rebecca Urban

09 Nov 2017
Tags: curriculum Government Funding
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