The Federal Government has reiterated its aim to focus more on the basics in primary education following the release of the 2019 NAPLAN National Report which showed that primary students still posted significant gains from the past decade despite earlier reports saying otherwise.
This year, the Federal Government is seeking to fast track the review of the Australian Curriculum starting with maths and science, while also focussing on students’ learning progressions in literacy and numeracy.
The plan to make phonics and reading instruction mandatory for initial teacher education courses will also be pushed through.
As part of the education overhaul, the government has also pledged to cut red tape in schools and set up a national evidence institute to develop best-practice solutions for improving student outcomes.
"We have made improving literacy and numeracy a focus of this Government,” Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said.
“That is why we are introducing a free, Year One phonics check for all students to assess their language skills and why we are providing $9.5 million to strengthen the capacity of teachers to teach mathematics and numeracy.”
The 2019 NAPLAN results found significant gains across some domains and year levels, especially in Year 5 numeracy and Year 3 grammar. These two, including Years 3 and 5 performances in reading and spelling, were “significantly above the NAPLAN 2008 average,” ACARA CEO David de Carvalho said.
Students with language background other than English also posted gains in Years 3, 5 and 7reading, Years 3 and 7 grammar and punctuation, Years 3 and 5 spelling and Year 5 numeracy.
However, students falling under this demographic posted the best gains in Year 3 writing.
Female students in general saw more improvements in Years 3 and 5 reading, Year 5 spelling, Year 3 grammar and punctuation and Year 5 numeracy. Male students likewise saw gains in Years 3 and 5 reading, Year 3 grammar and punctuation and Year 5 numeracy.
Male students also marked improvements in Years 3 and 5 spelling.
Taking a modern approach
Despite the ‘back to basics’ stance of federal and state governments, a school in NSW is opting for a more modern approach.
Teachers in Mount Terry Public School, a finalist in NSW’s Game Changer Challenge in 2019, is considering merging design thinking in its curriculum planning to change the way its students learn.
Two teams from the NSW school made it to the final round of the challenge which posed the questions on how to humanise technology. Along the way, these students also learned how to produce their own videos and compose music.
The design thinking approach, which focusses more on ‘empathy’ and collaboration’ in solving problems, is a counter to the explicit instruction favoured by some experts. The school’s teachers who were involved in the Game Changer challenge already made use of this approach in their own classrooms.
Gifted and Talented Coordinator Evan Livingstone, one of these teachers, said in a statement that the design thinking process not only helps foster deeper engagement with students but also helps them understand more complex problems and think up efficient solutions.