ACARA’s Senior Moment

ACARA, it seems, has embarked upon a review of the senior curriculum. They just forgot to tell anyone.

OK, that’s not quite true. The Terms of Reference, embedded below, provide for certain groups to be represented at information-providing fora for the various subjects, with a subsequent “consultation” of unspecified nature. And to be fair, having learned at least one thing from the debacle of the F-10 curriculum review, ACARA has invited mathematician organisations to participate in such a forum. The mathematicians’ input will presumably be swamped by that of the maths ed people and the education bureaucrats, and then ARACA’s “working group” will go off to do whatever they please, but at least a few mathematicians will be in the vicinity.

The general public, however, has not been invited to participate in the review, and seemingly has not even been informed of the review’s existence. Although the senior curriculum process supposedly began in 2023, there is still no notification of the review on ACARA’s curriculum page, or on ACARA’s curriculum review page, or on ACARA’s senior curriculum page, or anywhere we could see. Transparency, thy name is not ACARA.

A few people told us about the senior curriculum review. In particular, Marvellous MERGA was of course asked to participate. MERGA subsequently notified their members, including providing the Terms of Reference, which are seemingly nowhere on ACARA’s website. It appears that the review will consider Essential Mathematics and General Mathematics this year, and Methods and Specialist in 2025. We don’t much know much beyond what is in the Terms of Reference. We do, however, have some questions.

1. When, if ever, does ACARA plan to tell anyone?

It’s not a given that the general public should have input into every curriculum review, but pretty obviously they should know about every review.

2. Is the senior curriculum review guided by a review process paper?

As a reminder, as well as Terms of Reference, ACARA’s F-10 curriculum had a Review Process Paper, basically a statement of the rules for the review. Not that ACARA paid much attention to the rules last time, but it’d still be nice to know the rules, if any.

3. Where does the senior curriculum review fit into ACARA’s “six year cycle”?

The 2015 Federal Government Review of ACARA recommended that “ACARA undertakes a six year cycle of review of the Australian Curriculum”; the Review recommendations were subsequently endorsed by the Education Council, later in 2015. The senior mathematics curriculum was first published in 2012, and subsequently various versions have appeared, but to our knowledge the curriculum has not undergone any alterations beyond minor tinkering.

4. Why is the senior curriculum review “minor”?

Given that we’re apparently twelve years into a six-year cycle, one would have imagined that the review would be a little more major than “minor”.

5. Does it matter?

To be honest, we’ve never really looked at ACARA’s senior mathematics curriculum. Our attention at the senior level has been on Victoria’s VCE, which VCAA prefers to stuff up in their own, VCAA manner. But perhaps it matters more in other states. We’ve put up posts for Essential and General, so that people can pick away.

What clearly matters, however, is the process, that ACARA declares publicly what they are doing, including the rules supposedly governing what they are doing. There’s also a bit more we could say, with a number of points in the Terms of Reference that are concerning and/or unclear. But that’ll probably do. People can nitpick the ToR, and Essential and General, if they have the energy.

17 Replies to “ACARA’s Senior Moment”

  1. Is this moving to a national curriculum for Year 11 and Year 12 rather than each state having its own curriculum? So, for example, there will be no VCE (in Victoria) or HSC (in NSW). There will only be a single senior curriculum called (something like) the ‘Australian Certificate of Education’ …?
    And, I assume, a single national exam for each subject …? (Tricky to administrate with the different time zones across Australia).

    The obvious question (for me, anyway) is why is any of this necessary? (It looks like what’s called ‘Busy work’) And why is maths being targeted by ACARA?

      1. OK, I see.

        So ACARA’s Specialist Maths and Mathematical Methods is different to VCE’s Specialist Maths and mathematical Methods. Right?

        I don’t see the point of a National Yr 11 and Yr 12 mathematics curriculum when each state has its own …?

        1. Each state has it own F-10 curriculum as well. That’s the Federal system thing.

          None of this makes much sense to me, but I gather Victoria F-10 sticks pretty close to ACARA’s F-10. Why there is a difference for senior mathematics, I don’t know.

          1. Very confusing. And seems to make ACARA’s Yr 11 – 12 curricula totally irrelevant and ‘minor reviews’ even more so. ‘Busy work’ creating the illusion of bureaucratic relevance.

            1. *Theoretically* the various state senior curricula are based on ACARA’s AC-S (Australian Curriculum – Senior) and some states (notably WA) seem to follow the AC-S more closely than others (notably NSW – draw your own conclusions…)

              What impact such a review will have on the different state offerings, I do not know. A quick read of different state examination papers will show you that just because they are all based on the same “framework” doesn’t mean they actually test the same skills.

          2. Oddly enough, public Victorian schools have to follow the Victorian curriculum, but private schools can choose to follow either the Victorian or Australian curriculum. For this reason, publishers will often have multiple versions of pretty much the same textbook (sometimes the chapters are in a different order and the outcomes use different codes, but the content seems to be 90% or more identical)

  2. It would be an opportunity to comment on the variations of rules across the states even though most students receive a *national* ATAR; for example NSW does not allow CAS calculators whereas Victoria does; there is variation in the materials that a student can bring into the examination; Victoria allows one bound volume but no other state does; do we need two examinations in mathematics subjects? (We could ask students if they prefer one exam or two.) Should mathematics be compulsory on Years 11 and 12 across Australia?

    1. Adding to variations Terry mentions – the ACT includes internal Yr 11 assessment as part of the overall calculation of the ATAR (AFAIK *).

      I agree with TM – it’s extremely unfair that a national ATAR is calculated from state assessments when there is so much variation between state assessments (including curriculum) (although I’m sure some bureaucrat will try and argue that conversion factors get applied to subjects in each state and this levels the playing field).

      * I know that this certainly used to be the case.

      1. There’s an issue, John, but “unfair” is the wrong word to describe having an ATAR system. Students change states, meaning some kind of VCE-HSC-Whatever conversion table or mechanism required. So, the ATAR or similar is necessary, and it is not a necessary fact that the ATAR is stuffed.

        It is, however, a contingent fact that the ATAR is stuffed.

        The problem is that VTAC, and seemingly their sister organisations in the other states, are stacked with arrogant clowns. See, for example, here.

        1. Yes, I remember that blog (a product of significant effort). You’re right of course and I agree – some sort of \displaystyle sensible conversion mechanism \displaystyle is necessary to cater for students changing states. But in reality it’s apparently up to the academic institutes in each state to apply the sensibility that is currently lacking in the conversion mechanisms. This requires effort, compassion and intelligence and so doesn’t always happen.

          I cannot disagree with anything in your comment.

  3. We are fast becoming a closed society.

    Absolutely disgraceful behavior from ACARA. Transparency should be one of it’s values.
    For what reason should our Curriculum be created and reviewed in secret?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here