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Minister vows mindfulness and resilience won't hijack lessons

Posted on 30 September 2018
Minister vows mindfulness and resilience won't hijack lessons
Education Minister Dan Tehan has warned that his government will strongly resist bureaucratic pressure to redesign Australia's national curriculum with a focus on fashionable 21st -century skills, following revelations that an American firm had been hired on a $215,000 contract to help modernise the maths curriculum.
Mr Tehan is understood to have sought a meeting with heads of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority this week, where he made it clear he would not support moves to radically redesign the curriculum or shift away from providing students with basic foundations of knowledge.

The meeting was prompted by a report in The Weekend Australian last week revealing ACARA had launched its own review of the curriculum, with a focus on so-called 21st-century skills, also known as general capabilities, which range from critical and creative thinking to "mindfulness", "gratitude" and "resilience".

"Parents don't send their kids to school to be taught the latest fashionable trends in education," Mr Tehan writes in The Weekend Australian today. "And parents would be rightly concerned if they thought schools were moving away from the essentials and focusing on topics like 'mindfulness' and 'resilience'. Such a move would be a big mistake." ACARA recently appointed the Boston-based Centre for Curriculum Redesign to help design a new maths curriculum. CCR's chairman, Charles Fadel, is considered to be the founder of the 21st-century skills movement, writing several books on the topic.

Mr Fadel conducted a speaking tour in Australia late last year, encouraging educators to consider removing some disciplines from the curriculum to make way for skills training in areas such as personal finance, robotics, wellness and how to distinguish "fake news".

ACARA boss Robert Randall says the work with the CCR will "inform any future refinement of the existing Australian curriculum in mathematics" and guide improvements to its curriculum design and development process.

The NSW Teachers Federation has condemned the arrangement.

ACARA's recently retired chairman, Steven Schwartz, and its former curriculum director, Fiona Mueller, oppose the shift in focus to general capabilities. Dr Schwartz called it as an "educational fad".

Mr Tehan said it was appropriate for ACARA to look to worldleading research and participate in projects such as the OECD's Education 2030, but "the Australian curriculum will be written by Australians for Australians".

"Let me be clear: we will not be dictated to by the OECD," he said.

"This government will never commit Australia to a pan-national education project . We cannot keep shifting the goalposts on teachers and expect students to alter the foundation of their education.

From: Weekend Australian, Australia  by Rebecca Urban

22 Sep 2018
Tags: curriculum Government

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