Friday, January 10, 2014

Education Minister Christopher Pyne Warms Up For His Rewriting Of History Curriculum

This piece written by federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne was paywalled by The Australian. Here is is for free:
A robust, relevant and up-to-date Australian Curriculum is essential to improve the quality of education of all school students.

The Australian government wants a curriculum that delivers what students need for their future, what parents want and what the nation requires in our increasingly competitive and globalised world.

It must be both content-rich and, importantly, focus on the 21st-century skills of critical thinking, team work, problem solving, creativity, analytic reasoning and communication.

It must help students to be the best they can be. It must be based on high standards and high expectations for all students.

A modern and relevant curriculum must also be one that teachers are excited to teach.

More than anything else, we want to take the politics out of this issue. What really matters to students and parents is whether the curriculum is the best possible that we can create.

That means a curriculum that is balanced in its content, free of partisan bias and deals with real-world issues.

But that doesn't mean the curriculum should be dull. Australia needs a curriculum that helps teachers to breathe life into a child's time at school, one that challenges students and assists them to make the right choices for their future.

It means a curriculum that is dynamic and evolves as necessary while maintaining an independent, robust foundation so it is effective in meeting student needs.

A small nation like Australia must develop a curriculum that is national in breadth, rigorous in content, flexible and innovative in delivery and is a key driver in our goal to improve genuine education quality results for all Australian students. We cannot afford to do otherwise.

Working with the state and territory governments, the Howard government got the ball rolling. The previous government continued this work and now it is timely to review the content of the curriculum to take into account the many views expressed so far.

In particular, concerns have been raised about the history curriculum not recognising the legacy of Western civilisation and not giving important events in Australia's history and culture the prominence they deserve, such as Anzac Day.

Today, I am announcing the appointment of Ken Wiltshire AO and Kevin Donnelly to review the Australian Curriculum so we develop and implement a curriculum that is on par with the world's best.
Between them, Professor Wiltshire and Dr Donnelly have enormous experience in education and improving the performance of educational systems.

The time is right to bring this exceptional expertise and insight to bear on examining the robustness, independence and balance of the Australian Curriculum. They will do this by evaluating both the process of its development and the content.

I have asked them to gather the views of parents, state and territory governments and educators to inform their analysis.

I am excited about putting the Australian Curriculum on a robust and sustainable path, but this is just one aspect of how we are putting students first in our education policies.

In his new year message, the Prime Minister reminded us that we are a strong, resilient and smart people, and that the strength of our country lies in the willingness of Australians to improve their own lives by "having a go".

That's why the two principles I always come back to are putting students first and implementing what works.

There's a great deal of research that shows higher school achievement depends on teacher quality, school autonomy, a robust curriculum and parental engagement in their child's education.

Adequate funding for schools is obviously necessary, but increasing funding should never be an end in itself.

Countries that spend a high proportion of their GDP on education do not automatically produce high-performing education systems.

So this year I will be working hard with the states and territories to ensure our children are getting a high-quality, world-class education by focusing on those four key areas of teacher quality, principal autonomy, parental engagement and strengthening the curriculum.

I'll be focusing on these areas because they will make a real difference to students and their education.

Professor Wiltshire and Dr Donnelly have a great responsibility to help the government ensure that what we are teaching our children is true, worthwhile and meaningful.