What the curriculum review means for schools

What the curriculum review means for schools

NSW Education Minister, Rob Stokes, has released terms of reference for the first major overhaul of the state’s school curriculum since 1989.

Minister Stokes said the review will examine “detail, design and overcrowding” to make it simpler for educators to understand and teach.
“As we embrace new technology, we can deliver new personalised teaching practices to ensure students are prepared for a future that will be increasingly interconnected and complex,” Minister Stokes said.

“Education today is a lifelong pursuit. That is why it is essential that we search out the best ways to educate, inform and inspire the young minds who are the future of our State."

Some of the major areas being put under the microscope include teacher workloads and assessments, including the HSC and NAPLAN.

The review, led by Professor Geoff Masters, will consider and broaden the findings of the ‘Gonski 2.0’ report into Australia’s education system. Submissions will be accepted until November, and Professor Masters will hold public meetings across Sydney and the rest of the state.

"We want this [review] to generate thoughtful discussions amongst people from around the State,” Prof Masters said.

“This is about re-conceptualising the purpose of education in a rapidly changing world and will look at how the curriculum is structured, taught, and assessed."

The 18-month review began in May this year, with the terms of reference now agreed upon following extensive discussions with key education stakeholders including, principals, the NSW Teachers Federation and parents' organisations, universities, early childhood, special education and aboriginal groups.

The final report will be handed down at the end of next year, following extensive community consultation. This will include surveys, written submissions and a schedule for regional and metropolitan public meetings across the state from Wagga Wagga, to Coffs Harbour and as far west as Broken Hill.

Catholic Schools NSW (CSNSW) welcomed the review but said that a strong focus is needed on the middle years – particularly Year 9 – where research has shown that maintaining student engagement is difficult.

“The review needs to focus on how students’ engagement, performance and classroom experiences from Year 7 affect their engagement and performance in Year 9,” CSNSW chief executive officer, Dallas McInerney, said.

McInerney also said the review must examine ways to make maths and science subjects more contemporary, more appealing and more accessible to students.

A 2014 University of Sydney study of student participation in NSW HSC STEM subjects found a substantial decline between 2001 and 2013 in students who undertook at least one maths and one science subject. 

“The proportion of students going on to study the HSC without any maths tripled from 3.2% to 9.7%, highlighted by a big drop in 2 unit maths (down from 16.8% of students to 11.4%),” he said.  

“We need to improve the way we teach these subjects to address those declines and maintain high participation rates, while ensuring rigour and confidence in the NSW curriculum.”