Saturday, 11 October 2014

Curriculum Review released


The Napthine government admits it may not be able to meet an ambitious promise to ensure every student up to year 10 will study a language by 2025, starting with prep next year.

At the 2010 state election, the Coalition announced a bilingual revival!

The commitment was widely applauded at the time, ( Those of us at the chalk face always had our doubts!) and was also highlighted again last week as part of Premier Denis Napthine's multibillion-dollar jobs strategy.

However, asked if the government could categorically guarantee that every prep student would be studying a language in 2015 to kickstart the policy, the Coalition could not provide that assurance.

"We are on track to ensuring the vast majority of preps in government schools will be learning a language next year," said Education Minister Martin Dixon.

"We will work directly with every school unable to meet this requirement next year to ensure they offer a language as soon as possible."

Figures show that while the number of primary schools offering a language has increased by 10 per cent since 2012, more than a quarter still don't provide language classes to students.

LOTE has been pushed hard from time to time since the early 90s. The problem is that no government has ever made any serious attempt to train the thousands of teachers required to teach it! this has been another colossal failure by another government. ( I have discussed in previous posts the problems with teaching LOTE in rural schools, the reliance on video conferencing - which is difficult when they won't give you the equipment and problems attracting qualified staff for very small time fractions. This has been highlighted to DEECD but they just don't get it! Rural education has its own issues which need an imaginative, well resourced and student focussed approach. The provision of LOTE is a perfect example of their failure to recognise this ( Where is that Rural Education Plan that was supposed to be released in May!?) Another problem is the lack of consensus within the school about what language we should teach. In rural areas availability of trained staff dictates that more than student need. I would love to further explore the individual delivery of LOTE via iPads. ( DEECD won't accept that as a proper LOTE a program.) It is a pity DEECD doesn't have the resources, wit or drive to invest in developing  apps that can deliver learning content using a personalised learning approach.

Curriculum expected

Schools are not devoting sufficient time to literacy and numeracy in the early years of primary school because the national curriculum is too overcrowded, according to a review released today.

The Abbott government has pledged to deal with the overcrowding of the curriculum as a "matter of priority", saying it would look carefully at when and how subjects were introduced to children.( We've been talking about the 'overcrowded curriculum' for years but nothing is ever done about it. What would they remove from the curriculum? What about the politicians and social engineers who want schools to 'do something' about the next big social I'll)

The review received almost 1600 public submissions and held consultations with 72 organisations and eight individuals.( I wonder who the lucky 8 were?)

"Overcrowding means that teachers are finding it difficult to implement the Australian curriculum and cover all the content in each subject," the Australian government said in its response to the review.

"It also means that students are not necessarily getting the right amount of time devoted to the content in each subject that they really need - for example, literacy and numeracy in the early years of primary schooling."

The review suggested there should be a greater emphasis on phonics (where children learn new words by sounding them out) in the English curriculum, particularly in the early years of reading.

It warned the primary science curriculum was sacrificing depth for breadth, pointing out that in Singapore and Finland - two of the most high-performing education systems in the world - science was not taught until years 3 and 5 respectively.( Why do they always focus on Finland and Singapore? You would have difficulty finding 2 countries that are any more different to Australia! )

At Glen Park we always emphasis Literacy and Numeracy. ( We have literature based themes running across all year levels) We teach phonics from the first day of school. initial sounds in preps and then blends in conjunction with learning high frequency words. I teach Australian history at Glen Park- I don't know any school that doesn't. Why do they always claim that Australian history isn't taught?They always talk about 'de-cluttering' the curriculum but keep adding to it. I always have trouble working out what schools they are talking about when they 'expose' our 'poor performances' in International testing.One of the recommendations is: 'ensuring that students in the early to middle years of primary school create less of their own literature and instead become familiar with literary texts' I'm not sure I know what that means? Do they mean children shouldn't write in the middle years but just study other people's writing?

The review said the geography curriculum should focus more on physical geography (the study of the natural environment) and less on studying human activities.( No we don't want to talk too much about that do we!)

The controversial "cross-curriculum priorities", which required sustainability, Australia's engagement with Asia, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures to be "embedded" in every subject, also came under fire.

"There is concern about the seemingly political determination of these three "priorities" ... and a fear that changes of political persuasion could lead to constant changes in the priorities," the report said.( Like they are now ...with this review?)

Science and maths teachers had questioned whether it was appropriate to teach themes such as "engagement with Asia" within their disciplines.

The review also questioned whether the curriculum was balanced.

"The review received a significant number of submissions arguing that the Australian curriculum did not pay enough attention to the impact of Western civilisation and Judeo-Christianity on Australia's development, institutions and broader society and culture," it said.

Although these concerns were predominantly raised in relation to history and civics and citizenship, they also cropped up in arts, English, economics and business.

Inquiry-based learning, where students work on projects related to their area of interest, was privileged in the geography, history and science curriculums according to the review.

"Such an approach is often associated with constructivism and a focus on skills and capabilities at the expense of essential knowledge and the need for explicit teaching of which direct instruction is one example," the review said. ( No inquiry learning, what a surprise! we don't want inquiring minds do we.)

In fairness Donelly and Whiltshire said they were not saying there was no place for inquiry-based learning but that caution should be exercised to ensure it did not become the prevailing orthodoxy.

Opposition education spokeswoman Kate Ellis welcomed the release of the report, but said she was focused on the Government's cuts to the education budget.

"I think it has been feedback from many people in education circles that we need to look at ensuring there isn't overcrowding, particularly at a primary school level," she said.

"This is something that has been feedback, that's been coming for a long time, and I think it's sensible that we look at ways that we can constantly improve the implementation of the national curriculum."

A preliminary report, released in June, suggested there would be no recommended changes to the curriculum.

According to the report released today, the Federal Government would work with state and territory governments to consider the review's recommendations before any action was taken.

However, Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said there is nothing in the Government's response that has justified the review of the national curriculum.

"It has not told us anything that we don't know and, indeed, it certainly highlights that it was intended to be a political distraction, diverting attention from what matters most and that's Gonski funding reforms which this Government wants to turn its back on," he said.

"This Government has turned its back on our neediest students, our most disadvantaged students, by failing to commit to the funding reforms."

Education Minister Pyne said Australia's educational performance would fall behind unless most of the review's recommendations are adopted. To read more of his predictable response go to the link below:

Read more:

Read the report from this site:

Sunday around the lake.

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