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Prime Minister releases a guide for teaching history in schools.

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Thursday 11 October 2007

Prime Minister releases a guide for teaching history in schools


MARK COLVIN: The history wars are on again, and this time the parties in conflict are the Federal Go vernment and the States. 


The Prime Minister says if the States want federal money for education, they'll introduce compulsory teaching of Australian history in years nine and 10. 


From 2009, Mr Howard wants students to have a fixed minimum of hours learning about such events as the original settlement of the continent, between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago, the first Australian cricket tour of England in 1868, and the start of myxomatosis trials in 1950. 


He says it's time to restore "a coherent sequenced narrative of our national story" to a central place in the curriculum. 


Kevin Rudd supports a national curriculum, though he says he'd seek the cooperation of the States, rather than confront them.  


Alexandra Kirk reports. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister has completed what he calls his root-and-branch renewal of teaching Australian history in schools that he began almost two years ago.  


In August last year he convened the History Summit, which recommended Australian history be a core subject for all year nine and ten students. 


JOHN HOWARD: I believe that this country has badly neglected the teaching of Australian history. We have lapsed into teaching it in accordance with a very uncoordinated haphazard thematic approach, instead of doing it with a proper regard to the narrative and the unfolding and compelling story of Australia. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Today Mr Howard unveiled the teaching guide, or program of study, with nine topics and key historic events. 


JOHN HOWARD: And I believe that it will provide a comprehensive set of signposts, milestones, for the teaching of Australian history. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Some of those milestones include Indigenous settlement, Federation, the beginning and end of the White Australia policy, the first Holden car, the Bodyline cricket controversy, the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and start of the ABC, the Mabo judgement and the Sydney Olympics.  


JOHN HOWARD: How can we understand where we want to take ourselves if we don't understand from where we've come? 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Howard expects from 2009 the Commonwealth will require all junior secondary school students to be taught at least 150 hours of history. The Prime Minister will ask premiers and chief ministers to agree.  


In any case, he says, it will be enforced through the next schools funding agreement.  


JOHN HOWARD: I would hope to enlist the support of both sides of politics, and I don't want history to be taught in a partisan way. I don't want a Liberal version of history any more than I want a Labor version of history.  


I just want an accurate version of history. I want us to understand our triumphs, as well as understanding our failures and our blemishes. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: New South Wales Education Minister, John Della Bosca, says history has been compulsory in that State's schools for more than a decade, covering all key events and themes.  


JOHN DELLA BOSCA: This demonstrates that Mr Howard is either arrogant and out of touch, or sadly mistaken about the use of his election stunts.  


Once again Mr Howard has taken the view that he should bully the States, bully school communities, and badger people and blackmail school communities using federal taxpayers' money. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Howard has acknowledged New South Wales has taken the matter more seriously than other parts of the country.  


Further north, Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, hasn't seen the guide but says she's ready to carefully examine it.  


ANNA BLIGH: I'd have to say I'm disappointed to see these sorts of things being made a political football in the middle of a federal election campaign.  


I think Australian parents will see John Howard's moves today for exactly what it is - another desperate last minute effort by a prime minister who's in electoral trouble, desperate to put off having an election, and desperate to scramble for new ideas. 


John Howard has had 12 years to put more funding into our schools. This is, in my view, like so many other things in the last week, another example of too little, too late. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: While the Prime Minister was talking history, Kevin Rudd was making another election health promise, this time to double federal funding for bowel cancer screening - starting with all 50 year olds.  


Visiting a Cancer Council facility in Perth, he made friends with a guide dog, shaking her paw and scratching her tummy. 


KEVIN RUDD: Scratch my tummy? 


DOG OWNER: Shame you can't vote … 


(Sound of photograper taking photos) 


KEVIN RUDD: She's lovely. We have a retriever. 




ALEXANDRA KIRK: There's no argument from Mr Rudd on the Government's history proposal, just that the Labor leader would get the States onside cooperatively through a national curriculum board. 


KEVIN RUDD: We believe that Australia needs a national curriculum, in English, in history, in maths, science, and other core subjects. And therefore federal funding support is necessary. 


I've seen Mr Howard's comments on history. I support history being in a national curriculum, content-based history. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Mr Rudd's getting impatient - keen for the Prime Minister to call the election, critical of the cost to taxpayers should Mr Howard leave it a while longer.  


JOHN HOWARD: Well Parliament, if it meets, that will involve some expense, but you do have to pay for democracy. 


KEVIN RUDD: Well can I say, based on our calculations, it's at least $6-million. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Mr Howard's still keeping everyone guessing. 


JOHN HOWARD: Look, Parliament is scheduled to meet next week. I think we're playing games, okay? 


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister John Howard, ending Alexandra Kirk's report.