Education Letter to the Editor

Charting the Development of Australia’s Curriculum

May 11, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

In general, your In Perspective article “National Curriculum Inching Forward” (April 22, 2009) presents an extensive and perceptive account of the debate among Australian policymakers over the development of a national curriculum for that country’s schools. The piece, however, fails to highlight sufficiently several important issues.

First, the article mentions only in passing the formation of national statements and profiles between 1986 and 1993. Based on the principles of outcomes-based education, these documents provided the foundation for curricula developed by each Australian state and territory. The lengthy dominance of outcomes-based education and increasing divergence among state and territorial curricula were important factors leading to the current debate.

Second, the piece fails to note similarities in the curriculum-development processes applied earlier and currently. In both cases, the education establishment has controlled the process by using a centralized approach and unrealistically short timelines, which limit opportunities for public input.

Third, the article gives little attention to the nature of the work undertaken to date by the National Curriculum Board. Consistent with a centralized approach to curriculum development, small advisory groups of academics, curriculum specialists, and teachers wrote advice papers that were then revised to form framing papers. During 2009, committees of writers will use the framing papers to devise curriculum frameworks for English, history, mathematics, and science.

In spite of these shortcomings, your article describes well the potential challenges facing the process of developing and implementing a national curriculum for schools across Australia. It is unfortunate, however, that a wider range of education leaders are not represented in the piece, since most of the officials quoted reflect the views of the education establishment.

I hope that Education Week will continue to update readers on Australia’s progress in creating a national curriculum.

Michael Watt

Education Consultant
Hobart, Tasmania

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A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2009 edition of Education Week as Charting the Development Of Australia’s Curriculum