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Gillard, Rudd launch national curriculum -

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Gillard, Rudd launch national curriculum

Sabra Lane reported this story on Monday, March 1, 2010 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: The Prime Minister and his deputy and Education Minister, Julia Gillard, launched the
first draft of Australia's first ever national curriculum this morning.

The draft covers the teaching of English, maths, science and history from kindergarten until Year
10. Children will be taught phonics and grammar, as well as Aboriginal and Asian history and the
Government is inviting public comment on the curriculum before it is introduced into schools next

But already the Australian Education Union has attacked the Federal Government for a lack of

Sabra Lane has been at the launch in Canberra and she joins us now.

So Sabra, the Prime Minister pointedly said the Government had to do more to deliver on its
promises. He said this on the weekend. Was this launch part of that effort?

SABRA LANE: Certainly was Eleanor. That is exactly how the Prime Minister kicked off his press
conference today when he talked about the launch of the national curriculum. He said the Government
needs to lift its performance and he believes that delivering national curriculum, one of the key
policies that Labor promised to introduce before the 2007 election, he said they were delivering on
that key election commitment today.

So he said that for the first time in the Commonwealth's 110-year history that this is the first
time that all states and territories will share the same curriculum. He said that there had been a
lot squabbling and fighting, that it had been tough delivering this kind of reform, echoing the
fact that a number of the policies that the Government has tried to introduce over the last two
years has been a tough effort indeed but he said unashamedly, that it was a case of back to basics,
that things like phonics and grammar were coming back into vogue under their policy.

Let's now listen to what the Prime Minister had to say.

KEVIN RUDD: Getting the states and territories to agree over a long period of time on a single
national curriculum with basic standards in it has been really, really hard. There has been a lot
of resistance. There has been a lot bureaucracy. There has been a lot of people getting in the
road. That is the first thing.

The second is over a long period of time, I think what you've seen in different states across
Australia is pretty patchy standards emerging, pretty patchy standards. Let's just be frank about
it. Various states have tried to fix up these holes on the way through whether it is on literacy or
whether it is numeracy or other areas but over a period of time a whole lot of, shall I say,
less-than-adequate standards and less-than-adequate content has crept in.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the Prime Minister at the launch of the national curriculum this morning.

Sabra, the Prime Minister says that he wants this in schools next year. What is the process for
that to happen?

SABRA LANE: Well, the process now is that they have put this draft out for public feedback. It is
available now on one of the Government's websites and now for the next three months until the end
of May, it wants to hear from everybody.

It wants to hear from parents, it wants to hear from teachers who are teaching this material to
students and Mr Rudd says that they will take account of all this feedback because he did
acknowledge this morning that there may be the need to shake further gremlins out of the national

But also that this, the draft now will be taught in 150 schools around Australia from today for the
next three months so they will get an indication of what things need to ironed out and what
policies they believe they are on the right track with.

ELEANOR HALL: Did Kevin Rudd say anything to head off criticism that the history curriculum could
be seen as politically correct?

SABRA LANE: Certainly, that was one question that was put to him and Julia Gillard during the press
conference. Indigenous history and Asian history will be taught to students from Year 4 in fact.
They will be learning about first Australians.

The Prime Minister deflected to the Education Minister and she said this couldn't be viewed as
neither a black-armband view as history more a white-blindfold view of history.

It is important that history is not the only subject that they have looked at today. It is English,
maths and science as well but she also deferred to Barry McGaw, Professor Barry McGaw who is the
head of the Australian Curriculum Assessment Authority who has been in charge of putting this
national curriculum together. He said that they have widely consulted in putting this curriculum in

Let's now hear from Professor McGaw.

BARRY MCGAW: We have been very careful to make sure that we had balanced voices at the table as we
started. The original draft of a shape of the curriculum in history was crafted by a team that
included school-based people and historians that might be characterised as left or right.

We had John Hirst and Tony Taylor and Stuart Macintyre in that group. Now that is a diverse group
of eminent historians.

And what they brought forward is a proposal that, for example, with respect to Aboriginal and
Indigenous or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island perspectives, that their history should be
represented in the curriculum. Their history before the arrival of Europeans and upon the arrival
of Europeans, their perspectives as well as those of the settlers.

The settlers' perspectives are part celebration. It is not black armband in that sense at all. It
is people travelling enormous distances and setting up a whole new country in a hostile environment
on the one hand but there are Indigenous perspectives on that as well and we are covering both.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Professor Barry McGaw, the head of the Government's national curriculum

Now Sabra, despite those comments there about consultation, the Australian Education Union is
already criticising the Government for a lack of consultation. Did the Prime Minister or the
Minister for Education respond to that?

SABRA LANE: Yes, Julia Gillard said that she expected that they would be hearing the different
views from the education union and pointed to the fact that already the union had been resisting,
that the My School website that the Government launched earlier this year which ranked schools and

She said that the Government is absolutely determined to make a difference to children here. That
teachers aren't particularly top of mind here. She said that they want to make a difference to
every child in every school and that is their particular focus and she said they had no apologies
for doing that and she is absolutely determined to make sure that the Government delivers on that.

ELEANOR HALL: Sabra Lane in Canberra, thank you.