Curriculum review aims to lift student performance in all learning areas

Curriculum review aims to lift student performance in all learning areas

All learning areas and cross-curriculum priorities will be reviewed in their entirety for the first time as the Federal Government sets out to deliver a “world class” Curriculum for the nation’s schools.

The review, announced today, follow five years of research by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which found that the Curriculum needs “refining, updating and decluttering” to better support teachers with implementation.

Under the proposed changes, humanities education will include a stronger focus on Indigenous histories, culture, and perspectives. In a long-anticipated move, school students will be taught that First Nations Australians experienced European colonisation as an invasion.

A discussion paper on the review said existing education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures failed to teach students that Australia is home to the world’s oldest continuing culture, and did not showcase “the sophisticated political, economic and social organisations systems of the First Peoples of Australia”.

Other proposed changes include a more targeted approach to equipping young people with the skills they will need once they graduate and enter the workforce.

In a bid to reverse Australia’s maths and science slump, students’ knowledge will be applied to real world situations and have a greater emphasis on problem-solving, while science classes will seek to ensure students have a more robust understanding of inquiry learning.

The review will also seek a realignment of the Technologies Curriculum and the Digital Literacy Capability (formerly the ICT capability) which removed duplications and more clearly defined and focussed the content of each of these areas.

Turning the tables

In recent years, a number of reports have triggered alarm about the declining performance of Australian students in international assessments.

Most recently, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 data shows that Australia has dropped from 4th to 16th in reading, 8th to 17th in science, and 11th to 29th in maths.

While these findings have prompted calls for a major overhaul of the way education is delivered, the review released today falls well short of the radical change that some key voices in Australian education have been calling for.

“We have benchmarked ourselves against, and looked to adapt, where relevant from, the best curricula internationally,” ACARA CEO, David de Carvalho, said.

“The national collaborative review effort has worked to deliver a less crowded and more helpful curriculum for teachers and students, reducing and refining content to focus on what is most essential for students to learn, and to be much clearer for teachers on what they have to teach to support improved student outcomes”.

ACARA’s director of curriculum, Janet Davy, said the review process involved teachers and curriculum experts from all states and territories, and the government and non-government sectors.

“From talking to teachers and principals across Australia, we know that many find the curriculum somewhat unwieldy and difficult to navigate. Giving them more time to teach essential content in a more in-depth manner is important,” Davy said.

“We do not want teachers to have to spend excessive time interpreting the curriculum. The revisions remove the guesswork and provide clearer expectations as to the essential content we want all students to learn”.

Associate Professor Catherine Attard is president of Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA).

She says the review into the Mathematics Curriculum will provide “essential opportunities” for students.

“Students will be able to engage in and develop a range of mathematical processes that will assist them to confidently apply mathematical concepts and understandings to solve problems,” Assoc/Prof Attard said.

“By making the proficiencies more explicit and embedding them within the mathematical content of the curriculum, teachers will be able to provide a more authentic approach to mathematics learning and inquiry that will equip our students well for life and work”.

Responses will go towards shaping the new Australian Curriculum to ensure it is serving our children and young people and equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need.”

The new Australian Curriculum will be available to schools and systems for implementation from early next year.