Makes sense

February 8, 2007

The push to introduce a national curriculum makes sense as far as I’m concerned. Quite apart from the administration and co-ordination benefits that such a move would undoubtedly bring, I think there are plenty of benefits for teachers in terms of their pedagogical development and for students wanting to co-ordinate their learning with other students as well.

Consider the fact that Australia’s population is only a little over 20 million, with a little over three million school students across all states and territories. Consider the fact that there are about 235,000 teachers teaching these students. With 7 different forms of subjects across KLAs such as English, Science, the Humanities and Vocational courses being taught in a different order, with different content and with different emphasis on different aspects of each subject, it’s no wonder students are coming out with different levels of skills and knowledge every year.

With tools such as the internet revolutionising the classroom, the benefits of nationalising the curriculum only increase for teachers and students. For example, teachers are using the net more and more to swap ideas, resources and strategies about what they teach with each other. Imagine a teacher from Sydney chatting and swapping resources with a teacher from Perth with both of them referring to the same curriculum framework or syllabus – two heads working together and their students will be the winners. Furthermore, when I was doing my HSC, the benefits of swapping ideas and having online debates were only beginning to be felt – I spent many a night up late debating historical points with other HSC students; this helped me enormously come exam time. With a nationalised curriculum, the participation and room for wider interpretation by students and teachers only increases – and they’ll all be referring to the same content, themes, objectives and outcomes.

I can’t really see a problem with co-ordinating the curriculum across states and territories.



  1. I think that one single national curriculum imposed upon all educational jurisdictions would be detrimental to education in this country. It’d be an Orwellian centralisation of knowledge, with one body deciding what every single student in the country learns about, and I think that’s a potentially dangerous situation.

    I suppose that in order for educational standards to be maintained at high levels consistently across the population, the various curricula on some level needs to be standardised, but a balance needs to be struck: balance between having a standardised curriculum and academic diversity. I think that largely, the current state-based structures do strike that balance, and I don’t think that replacing the state bureaucracy with an more distant federal one would benefit the students, the teachers nor the bodies of knowledge that are deconstructed and constructed in classrooms daily.

    Problems like incompatibility between the states might be managed by having agreed curriculum guildelines, but the states should be left to create their own curricula (in theory, no state would want to be left behind the others and would make their curricula as vigorous as the others, but of course that may not pan out). I think the resources that each state puts in to developing their curricula are well worth it (but must and can improve), and that the economic rationalist reasons for creating a single system disregard the academic benefits of having several ways of teaching the same content. Diversity allows each of the states to learn from each other and in some ways, I think it can reduce the influence of dogma and of particular interests.

    Also I take issue with the argument of the Feds to remove the state-based ideologues who set curricula. Who’s to say that they won’t be replaced by another bunch of ideologues but of a different political persuasion?

  2. Points taken. Perhaps what is needed then, as you suggested is more of a national “curriculum framework” with a large degree of autonomy for teachers regarding actual content and strategies – that is the system for high schools here in the ACT and I think it’s a good one.

    Also, I agree with you on the ideology issue. Whilst I think it’s a good idea to co-ordinate the curriculum in some form nationally, I certainly do not agree with the clearly ideological reasons behind the Howard Government’s push for it.

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