AustMS Reminds Us That ACARA Stuffed Up

We still haven’t had the time, the energy or the stomach to analyse ACARA’s sparkly new curriculum. We’ll get there, we promise.

In the meantime, Ole Warnaar, the President of the Australian Mathematical Society and previous recipient of ACARA’s contempt, has written bluntly on just how farcical was the final act of ACARA’s two-year farce. Ole’s remarks, from his letter in the May issue of the AustMS Gazette are reproduced below.

Ole says plenty, and there is plenty more that he doesn’t say, all of it said and not said way too late. We have huge respect for Ole, but we think Ole, and AMSI’s Director Tim Marchant, erred badly, by not being sufficiently public or sufficiently loud when the ball was still in play. Yes, they had ACARA’s insidious confidentiality agreement looming over their shoulder. But there was plenty they could have safely said and done, and did not. It was a mistake. We told them at the time, repeatedly, that their public invisibility was a mistake. It was a mistake that probably made no difference, but it was a mistake.

But of course the real screw-ups here are ACARA’s smugwits. It is clear to us that CEO David de Carvalho and Board Chair Derek Scott have been worse than useless, and that they should be moved to a convenient iceberg at the first practicable opportunity.

Here are Ole’s remarks:

In last September’s Presidential Column I mentioned a letter, co-written with AMSI Director Tim Marchant, to the then Minister for Education Alan Tudge, calling for AMSI and AustMS to be given the opportunity to work together with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to address some of the serious shortcomings in the draft National Curriculum for Mathematics released for public consultation in April 2021. This led to an invitation to Tim and myself to attend an ACARA workshop in Sydney on the 15th of March. The aim of this workshop was to finalise the curriculum before an ACARA board meeting on the 28th of March was set to recommend the draft to the Education Council — the Federal and State Ministers for Education — which was scheduled to meet on the first of April to make a final decision on the adoption of the new curriculum.

I note the extremely short timeline, especially in view of the entire revision process — without meaningful AMSI or AustMS involvement — having taken close to two years. I also note the earlier flat-out rejection of engagement with AustMS by ACARA CEO David de Carvalho in July last year, and the fact that neither Tim nor I are experts in mathematics curricula but were prevented from consulting with experts on school mathematics and mathematics curricula within AMSI and AustMS as were bound by a deed of confidentiality. ACARA did agree to my request to include Prof. Tim Brown in the workshop. Tim had been part of a small AMSI/AustMS working group advising the minister’s office on several not-publicly-released draft mathematics curricula prepared by ACARA after last year’s public consultation process had been completed.

Perhaps not so much the workshop itself, but the days following the workshop did give the three of us the opportunity to carefully scrutinize the curriculum and make a large number of suggestions for correction and improvement. Many of the most egregious errors, there were some real doozies, have been eliminated from the final version that was approved by the Education Council. Nonetheless, quite a number of issues that we raised have not been addressed, and it is clear that the new curriculum could have been much better if the whole process had not been so flawed and ACARA had not left the mathematics profession out of the process till the very last moment. A real opportunity to design a world-class mathematics curriculum for our schools has been lost.

2 Replies to “AustMS Reminds Us That ACARA Stuffed Up”

  1. Analysing, debunking, and ultimately improving a mathematics curriculum is a major task. So you may find it helpful to start by looking at my own efforts to do this for the 2013 curriculum adopted in England:
    https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/340 (free download).
    I put these in the public domain because everyone else seemed to be pussyfooting round the problems, and I wanted to see whether I had got something wrong. The general response seemed to be that my analysis was reasonably sound, and my proposals generally sensible (if naturally incomplete): but everyone continued as if I had not bothered (though the reader and download statistics
    https://reports.openbookpublishers.com/public/report/10.11647/obp.0071
    suggest that someone took notice.)

    1. Thanks very much, Tony. Your book is quite an amazing work. And, even though the book is tied to a specific curriculum, it is great to read. I have stolen from your book for this blog, here, here, here and here.

      But of course the main, depressing point of your comment is:

      everyone continued as if I had not bothered.

      Educational powers and their lackeys simply do not care about evidence or argument.

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