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.”
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.