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National Curriculum politicised by stealth.

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Senator the Hon Brett Mason

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education and School Curriculum Standards

National Curriculum politicised by stealth 07/06/10

The draft National Curriculum is being politicised by stealth and the education bureaucrats in charge of its development are unwilling or unable to explain how or why this happened, according to Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education and School Curriculum Standards.

Senator Mason was referring to his questioning in Senate Estimates hearings last week of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) officials, who are responsible for developing the new National Curriculum.

“Perhaps the biggest problem with the draft National Curriculum flows from the decision to weave through all the separate subject strands three cross-curriculum perspectives: the focus on ‘Indigenous perspectives’, ‘a commitment to sustainable patterns of living’ and ‘skills, knowledge and understandings related to Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia’,” said Senator Mason.

“I asked the ACARA officials how and why in the first place the decision to shackle the National Curriculum within the framework of cross-curricular perspectives was made, and secondly, how and why these particular three ‘politically correct’ cross-curriculum perspectives were selected.

“The officials were unable to give a satisfactory answer to either of these questions.

“I also asked if other options were considered; ones arguably as valid but also more relevant and mainstream, for example a cross-curriculum perspective that teaches students about the role and importance of liberal democratic institutions in shaping the society they live in; one about the heritage and the impact of the Judeo-Christian

Western tradition that touches on every aspect of life in a modern Western country like Australia; or one about the role of science and technology in the material progress of humankind, including its contribution to both creating and then solving problems inherent in such progress. Or indeed a practical cross-curricular theme of preparing students to face the challenges of life and work in the twenty-first century.

“Again, the officials did not have any answers.

“The only excuse ACARA officials tried to hide behind was that they were guided by the ‘Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians’ produced in December 2008 by the State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers of Education at the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.

“But the ‘Melbourne Declaration’ is a very general document that can be used to support any argument. While it indeed mentions Indigenous, Asian and environmental perspectives in passing throughout the document, it also explicitly states when discussing the National Curriculum that:

“The curriculum will support students to relate well to others and foster an understanding of Australian society, citizenship and national values, including through the study of civics and citizenship. As a foundation for further learning and adult life the curriculum will include practical knowledge and skills development in areas such as ICT and design and technology, which are central to Australia’s skilled economy and provide crucial pathways to post-school success.”

“These are precisely the points I raised as currently lacking, but when it came to drafting the National Curriculum they were downplayed by ACARA at the expense of trendy, politically correct themes.

“There was no public consultation on the three cross-curriculum perspectives. They are a product of a brainstorm by Federal and State education bureaucrats, then conveniently taken up by another set of education bureaucrats at ACARA. At no point were the parents or any other interested parties consulted.”