Alan Tudge Calls for a Rewrite of the Draft Curriculum

Rebecca Urban has a report in The Australian today (Murdoch, paywalled):

‘Warped lessons must be dumped’: Tudge

Education Minister Alan Tudge says the board of the country’s schooling authority must substantially rewrite its draft national curriculum, warning he will not endorse the proposed document amid concern student outcomes would be harmed. …

In the letter, seen by The Australian, Mr Tudge urged the [ACARA] board to seriously consider recent feedback from education experts, who have flagged concerns that the proposed changes amounted to a weakening of learning standards.

The call is for the rewrite of all the subject curricula. Urban’s article reflects Tudge’s culture wars concerns,* but there is also specific and good coverage of AMSI’s opposition to the mathematics draft.

So, what now? We were called up by a Mr. Big today, who felt pretty positive about things, and it’s obviously good news. But the fat lady isn’t even on stage yet, much less singing.

The ACARA Board has the next move, and they’re in a tough spot, of their own making. The Board are (members are) not innocents here, in particular by having signed off on a poisonously stupid Terms of Reference. The Board’s natural inclination is probably to continue Pontius Pilating through the farce, but Tudge has made that very difficult.

Whether the Board listens to Tudge or tries to tough it out there are reasonable conjectures of how this will go. There are tons of unknowns, however, and we won’t be conjecturing here. We also won’t be posting on ACARA or the draft curriculum until at least some of the dust settles.

The next few days will be very interesting.


UPDATE (20/08/21)

Lisa Visentin now has a similar report in the Sydney Morning Herald, based around critical quotes from the NSW Government’s submission to ACARA. Visentin also quotes ACARA’s CEO, David de Carvalho, responding to Tudge’s call for withdrawal:

Responding to Mr Tudge’s criticism on Thursday, ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho gave his strongest indication yet that the draft curriculum would be further revised following the consultation period,

De Carvalho has given the “strongest indication” of absolutely nothing. Of course the curriculum will be further revised. The question is, will the revisions will be sufficient to repair the draft, and is this even possible?** Nonetheless, De Carvalho indicates

… the concerns were “very much on the board’s radar”.

Yes, it’s on ACARA’s radar because a number of very accurate missiles have been fired at ACARA and its draft. That doesn’t prove that ACARA has any intention of taking these missiles as any sign that they should make substantial revisions. Indeed, in regard to the mathematics curriculum, there is evidence that suggests otherwise. We had intended to post on that evidence, this week, and we still look forward to doing so once the dust settles.

“These are also issues, it’s fair to say, that have come through the general consultation feedback. … The board will be considering all that feedback at a meeting this week.”

And, again, it comes back to the Board.


*) We have taken a brief look at the other draft curricula. They appear to be just as bad as mathematics, if not worse.

**) The answers are “no” and “no”.


22 Replies to “Alan Tudge Calls for a Rewrite of the Draft Curriculum”

  1. There was no hope. Then, there was the possibility of some hope. Now, the possibility has been bolstered.

    I’m far from an optimist, but at least this is going in the right direction.

    1. No question is it is very good news. At the very least, it puts ACARA, and the “What me worry” Board, on notice. But, yes, there’s a long, long way to go. And, in the end, the chances we’ll get a *good* curriculum are close to zero. If the stars align, we might get an adequate curriculum.

      1. How about the chances of resurrecting an old curriculum? I think mid 80s would be OK, preferably though ~half a century ago would be ideal.

        1. Of course good curricula exist. If Australia simply stole the current Singaporean curriculum and used that as a basis, it’d be great. But how do ever see that happening?

          1. I mean, I don’t see it happening at all. I just think it might be worth pointing to a few things as concrete “decent curricula”, if nothing else to short-circuit the common idea that people criticising something don’t have a better suggestion. I may also be procrastinating by wondering what it would be like for the curriculum to undergo such a seismic shift, and how fun it would be. Just a dream.

            1. Why would you think there is any worth in that? ACARA went out of their way to compare the current Australian and Singaporean curricula, and, ignoring their own evidence, concluded “Yep, pretty much the same”. If people don’t want to see, they won’t see.

              Similarly, I don’t believe that there is any common sense that “people criticising [the curriculum] don’t have a better suggestion”. People foolish enough to support the draft curriculum, or to simply trust ACARA, have exhibited no interest in other suggestions.

              1. Certainly not for the people that “don’t want to see”. But when I’ve chatted to other mathematicians (not all of them) they have actually asked “OK, but then what does a decent maths curriculum look like in your opinion?”. I’m not accusing them of assuming that I didn’t have an answer, but I think a lot of people *do* think that those criticizing don’t have a better idea. They might not actually say it, but I don’t care. I was just having a bit of fun thinking about it anyway.

                1. It’s a lazy question. I get that most mathematicians have never thought about school education (and thus should shut up, particularly if they are an AMSI member in discussions with ACARA). But it takes about ten minutes to find out which countries teach well, and what they do.

            1. Of course. Or, Victoria from 50 years ago. Nothing of the sort is going to happen.

              It is simply impossible for ACARA, or VCAA, to produce a good mathematics curriculum. It is foolish to hope for a good curriculum to emerge from this battle. If we end up with an adequate curriculum, that will be a non-trivial victory.

  2. I agree with your concerns regarding the maths curriculum. It has been going downhill for decades, but could I draw your attention to your written grammar.
    “Board”, like “team”, “group” or “government”, is a collective noun and is, therefore, singular. A board is …. Two boards are…
    We refer to a team or this team, not these team. We would never say – this horse are. The errors of grammar occurring in Australia today result from the lack of teaching grammar to those people who need to know it. I refer to news writers, politicians, journalists, etc., who continually express themselves poorly on TV and other media. My ears groan on a daily basis as I listen to the news on ABC and hear – the government are – this data is – less people – to name just the most obvious mistakes, and don’t get me started on the use or misuse of apostrophes.
    When is Australia going to return to teaching grammar, or is our language going to continue to deteriorate?

    1. Hi Libby!

      I think you’ll find no argument here. Marty is quite a grammatical fiend. He certainly has better grammar than myself. I’d like to improve my written English.

      To that end… I can find one occurrence of the mistake: “The Board are not innocents here…” should be “The Board is not innocent here…”. Did you see any others?

      (By the way, probably Marty meant to write “The members of the Board are not innocents here…”.)

    2. Libby, I am so pleased to be nitpicked, and you are, of course, correct. I’ll leave it, as a sign of my sins.

      My error was not exactly to treat the Board as plural. I was sliding from the Board to the lack of innocence of the Board members. Of course I could have referred to the lack of innocence of the Board, but that seemed less to the point.

    3. Hi Glen. I only “nitpicked” because Marty is such a good nitpicker himself and I agree with the criticisms. The members of the board ARE NOT innocent. They ARE ignorant. People in power have to be seen to be doing something to justify their substantial incomes, and if someone makes a suggestion, it is easier just to jump on the bandwagon and save themselves any effort.
      Thank you for fighting for a better maths curriculum. We certainly need to start moving in the right direction.
      Retired now, I was a mathematician and statistician , but left the education system and became a private maths tutor, hoping to improve maths concept development one student at a time. It’s good to know you guys are out there fighting for the cause.
      P.S. Love your sarcasm. Oh, and yes, there are more errors!

      1. Thanks, Libby. Of course I, and I imagine anyone who frequents this blog, took your grammatical nitpicking in the spirit intended.

        When you write there are “more errors” do you mean my grammatical errors, or do you mean errors in the draft curriculum? If the latter, might you post them as a comment, or email me? (If the former, you can indicate them to the extent they irritate you.)

              1. Sorry, John, I unapproved your other comment. Although there are public and semi-public faces of this ACARA debacle, I think it is too speculative to suggest who is how much responsible for the debacle.

                I don’t excuse these people for their role, but I don’t want specific, even oblique, accusations here, either. Whatever the individual responsibility, the larger and clearer issue is the general culture within ACARA, and within maths education generally, and within all education generally.

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