The Australian Curriculum Sucks. Who Knew?

Well, um, we knew. As did anyone who cared to look. Now, it seems, Australia’s education reporters know. In the last couple of days the Australian Curriculum has been getting a proper pounding from the Guardian, the Age/SMH, the AFR sticking both boots in, and the Australian sticking three boots in (Murdoch, paywalled).

The impetus for this all pounding is a new report by education think tank Learning First, on Australia’s science curriculum. The problem in brief is that the science curriculum contains bugger all science. Rather than actually learning stuff, the curriculum has the kids cosplaying scientists, employing their “21st century skills” in order to “discover” things. Of course this is also great fun for the teachers, who must attempt to turn the curriculum’s it’s-the-vibe guidance into some kind of coherent lesson plan.

It’s a big, easy target, but Ben Jensen, Learning First’s CEO, also aims well. We have no real idea who Jensen is but he’s previously given ACARA and its absurd curriculum a couple decent whacks, and it’s pleasing to have him on the team. On those previous occasions Ben was too gentle, although one of his whacks was still sufficient to provoke a clueless response from ACARA’s now ex CEO, David de Carvalho.

This time, Ben is notably less gentle. Ben’s opinion piece in The Australian is strong, and his demeanour during his Radio National interview was even stronger. Ben’s exasperation, if not contempt, is now palpable. We feel for Ben, but we’re glad that he’s has added a little Ditterich to his game. We’ll keep Ben in the ruck.

ACARA’s response to all this has been pretty muted. We’ve heard nothing from newly acting CEO, Stephen Gniel, which is perhaps not a great surprise. ACARA did, however, release a statement, quoted in part by various reporters, including the Australian’s Natasha Bita:

“[Australia’s is] a world-class curriculum that identifies the essential content all Australian children should learn, including in science.”

“The review process also included international benchmarking with high-achieving counter­parts such as Singapore, which found the Australian Curriculum was on par with these curriculums in terms of overall breadth, depth, and rigour.”

Utter nonsense, of course, and no one need bother refuting it. But for anyone who wants the details, they can read this and this and this and this. (We read ACARA’s nonsense so you don’t have to.)

There is one final point to make: a message for education reporters. It is pleasing to see you guys currently giving ACARA’s curriculum the hammering it so much deserves. But, Dear Education Reporters, please keep the focus.

Natasha Bita closes her companion op-ed to Learning First’s report with a strong, telling line:

Educators espouse the importance of “21st century critical thinking skills” but kids can’t use knowledge they haven’t been taught.

Excellent. Except, a year ago Bita was providing ample puff space for exactly this type of nonsense. Worse, when ACARA’s appalling curriculum was approved last year, every damn education reporter in the country parroted ACARA’s thoroughly idiotic line about the curriculum being “back to basics”. Bita was King Parrot.

So, Dear Education Reporters, thank you for your recent reports. When, however, ACARA comes out with their next gaslighting media release, please pay attention. Please do a little more remembering, a little more reading and a little less parroting.

14 Replies to “The Australian Curriculum Sucks. Who Knew?”

  1. But it’s not ACARA’s fault, Marty!
    ACARA “said the science curriculum was formally endorsed by all nine education ministers in April 2022.”
    ACARA is clearly suggesting it’s the fault of “all nine education ministers” for endorsing its crap in the first place. (Endorsed after the curriculum repeatedly being returned to sender for improvement and falling nearly a year behind its scheduled roll out).

    Pathetic.

    1. ACARA can be both right and wrong. ACARA is responsible for the creation of their nonsense, and the ministers are responsible for signing off on it.

      1. I understand that much of the world is like this, but why is Victoria worse than nationally and NSW better? Who are the stakeholders?

    1. “It” comes from everywhere.

      Think about how often someone will say “X should be taught in schools”. Or “the young people of tomorrow will need skills X, Y, Z to cope in the modern world.”

      And so the curriculum grows.

      Except, X, Y, Z need proper foundations that now occupy less and less time at school and are probably practiced less and less at home. So X, Y, Z are not really learned at all.

      Then some international comparison comes along and shows (insert name of country of choice here) is “falling behind” and we change the curriculum again.

      Queensland had the best slogan I’ve ever heard in the early 2000s. “We are not going back to basics. We are going forward to fundamentals!”

      There are lots of voices in the education debate.

      Not all of them need to be listened to.

      (Apologies to Marty and other grammar experts for ending my sentence with a preposition.)

  2. I remember being told during my DipEd in the mid 80s that Victoria had the most unregulated below Year 12 science curriculum in the world as it wasn’t specified. Have to confess that didn’t seem to have a negative impact as the science I taught and saw taught was rigorous.

    1. In the late-80’s I was a college maths tutor to large cohorts of 1st Yr university students. The cohort was a mixture of Victorian and NSW students. I could always pick the NSW student because of the gaps and weaknesses in their knowledge and understanding. Fast forward to the 2000’s – Times change.

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