Curriculum review a chance to transform education

The power of education, as noted in the Alice Springs Mparntwe Education Declaration agreed by all Australian education ministers in 2019, is that it transforms lives.

Through education, young people are able to realise their full potential for living creatively, healthily and productively. Can there be anything more important to a nation than the quality of the education our young people receive?

A review of the Australian curriculum is a chance to establish a world-leading education system. Credit:Marina Neil

In 2008, all Australian governments agreed that a national curriculum would have a key role in delivering quality education for young Australians. The Australian Curriculum was developed over a number of years, learning area by learning area, beginning with new curricula for English, mathematics, science and history.

It is an articulation of the knowledge, skills and understandings that we as a nation believe are needed for young Australians to be productive and well-adjusted adult citizens. The current version has been in place since 2015 and will go on to be reviewed every six years.

On Thursday, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) will release proposed revisions to the Australian Curriculum for public consultation. This is the first time the Australian Curriculum has been reviewed in its entirety, rather than by individual learning area.

This review is being undertaken at a pivotal point in our history. Not only is there growing alarm at the steady decline in the performance of Australian students in international assessments, but recent results in the triennial Civics and Citizenship assessment indicate that the level of knowledge and understanding of the profound value and significance of democracy is lacking. This should concern us all.

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According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), our 15-year-old students’ scores in literacy, numeracy and science are in long-term decline, and for the first time in the assessment’s history, Australia has failed to meet the OECD average in mathematics performance.

While multiple factors contribute to a worsening report card – teachers know this better than anyone – the Australian Curriculum has a part to play in turning these results around.

We need to ensure our education system strongly supports a commitment to, and respect for, knowledge, facts, truth and respect. This includes when it comes to listening to the experience of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Australian Curriculum is the basis upon which all state and territory curricula is developed and is a joint and collective effort of hundreds of educators and curriculum experts from all around the country.

The release of the draft revisions this week creates the opportunity to shape a world-leading national school curriculum that delivers the excellent education outcomes our students deserve and need to thrive in an increasingly complex world.

The new Australian Curriculum will be available to schools and systems for implementation from early next year. It needs to serve the needs of our students, employers, society and the nation. And it needs to be teachable.

To be successful, we must ensure our teachers and principals are fully supported and receive the assistance and the resources they need to achieve our national vision for education.

I urge as many Australians as possible, particularly our teachers, to take some time to visit the Australian Curriculum consultation website and share their thoughts.

Belinda Robinson is chair of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.

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