national curriculum English C+
16th March 2010

On release, the national English curriculum was well received, especially by The Australian newspaper, I disagree and argue there are a number of concerns,

 Concerns include:
        Curriculum content is only one of 3 areas covered, the other 2 are general capabilities and cross curriculum dimensions.  Content is under valued by having to teach generic skills and PC dimensions like sustainability, indigenous and Asia.
        English as a discipline is also weakened by the fact that the so-called curriculum elaborations are voluntary (the document states that teachers "may include" them).  There is no compulsion to teach the grammar and phonics detailed in the elaborations.
        Literature is weakened by the emphasis on teaching multi-modal texts and ICT, including "tween mags, avators, social networking sites and manga".
        In relation to literature, the document favours indigenous, asian and other cultural texts, there is no mention of the classics associated with the Western canon.
        Instead of being inherently worthwhile for its moral and aesthetic value, literature is dealt with as a cultural artifact.
        Similar to Australia's much discredited OBE model of curriculum, the document adopts a developmental approach to learning, bases what is taught on the world of the student and his/her immediate interest and experience and what is most familiar.
        Many of the curriculum elaborations, like OBE, are vague, generalised and fail to give teachers any clear sense of what needs to be taught.
        Mention of phonics is weakened by including whole language strategies like looking at pictures, guessing and working out what words are by context.
        Standard Australian English is described as only "one of many social dialects used in Australia".


Responses to this Post

On page 9 of 'The Australian', of Monday,28th March, 1988, an article by Greg Sheridan, explaining 'why Australia's education system has deteriorated to become one of the worst in the world', concluded with the following comment: 'Australian education is a mess.  Marked off on all sides by its deep mediocrity, pathetically unable to challenge students at any level,suffused with second-rate propaganda, dissolute, desperate and decaying, frienziedly spending money with no idea of why, unable even to assess itself, unsure of its goals and methods, subject to an internal cacophony of violently contending voices, it is sick,sick,sick. And getting sicker.'  The title of the article was, 'A roadblock of teachers' unions'.

That was 22 years ago! To have much value, a nation's education policy needs genuinely and sincerely to attempt to embrace, however imperfectly, a worthwhile sampling of that vast nation of infinitely complex imponderables which somehow produce an 'educated person'. Ultimately, and at its albeit poor best, it will foster a national belief in 'education for education's sake'; a concept which even today remains alive in the United Kingdom, where a tertiary student may pursue,say, Archaeology, then (except in the case of prerequisite vocational faculties such as Medicine), having earned a degree in an area of personal interest, enter on his life ambition of making a career in, say, General Retail; Accounting; Teaching; etc.

This concept is anything but egalitarian, and it is therefore the very antithisis of any model which world labour movements in general, or Australian Labor thinking, in particular, would embrace; realising indeed that, by its very nature, such a liberal educational philosophy more often than not fosters what sooner or later become conservative views in those thus educated. Today, we hear the complaint, ad nauseam, and when little six-year-old Jackknife Murdersmith has received a maximum two-and-a-half-day suspension for kneeing a teacher in the groin and kicking him in the head while he's down, that it's just not fair because 'he's got a right to get an education.' But one can't "get" and education; one can only "become educated".

Paradoxically - and enigmatic though 'Education' may thus appear to be - it is nonetheless possible to nominate pragmatically, faculties which the developing child and young adult needs to acquire; to stipulate a prescriptive 'list of "things" and activities which, if followed, will render these necessary faculties available to all; and to lay down a pedagogical manifesto on instructional policy which, in the absence of an individual teacher's better method, will attempt uniformly to facilitate these faculties.

The viewpoint expressed here has at least two reliable benefits in the struggle to lift educational standards. Firstly of course, it has the novelty of honesty, in acknowledging the reality that, though many will be called, fewer will be chosen and inevitable and eternal human reality which exposes the sheer absurdity of what are nowadays touted by equalitarians as 'outcomes-based programmes'; secondly, yes, it is selective (just as all life experience is). But in being so, it saves our brightest young people from the intellectual eclipse to which we are presently, plainly headed, and gives a shot in the arm for a return to a generally intelligent and knowledgeable Australia.

The Labor National Curriculum model offers none of this; rather it takes us yet further from what, 22 years ago, had already become an urgent goal.

Bruce Manning, Queensland.  



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On release, the national English curriculum was well received, especially by The Australian newspaper, I disagree and argue there are a number of concerns,  Concerns include:   &nbs...
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