Monday, October 13, 2014

Review of the Australian School Curriculum Misses Importance of e-Learning

The Australian Government has released the Final Report of a  "Review of the Australian Curriculum" by Professor Ken Wiltshire AO and Dr Kevin Donnelly.  Available are:
  1. Final Report of the Review of the Australian Curriculum: (PDF 3.27 MB or DOCX 11.82 MB)
  2. Initial Australian Government Response Review of the Australian Curriculum
  3. Supplementary Material for the Review of the Australian Curriculum
  4. Fact Sheet on the Review of the Australian Curriculum
  5. Frequently Asked Questions on the Review of the Australian Curriculum
One concern I have is that sufficient weight is not being given to the way the Internet is changing how education is provided. The report mentions "Internet" only twice in 294 pages (on  Page 147).

In the first reference the authors comment that just having information via the Internet is not sufficient for understanding. However this fails to mention decades of research and practical experience showing it is possible to provide quality education on-line:
"The argument that the disciplines are changing so rapidly that it is impossible to identify them with any certainty or precision and, as a result, that all students need to do is to access the internet when wanting information, is misleading. Information is not knowledge and understanding is not wisdom. Education, while dealing with information and understanding, is primarily concerned with knowledge and wisdom that while evolving and open to debate has stood the test of time."
The second mention of the Internet claims that  "many" complained about a lack of hard copy of the curriculum materials. It is not clear how these many complaints were received, given that the review used an an online submission process (those who sent a submission must have had Internet access). Also, as the authors state, not all households have Internet access, but the ABS says 83% do. There are more than one million householders without Internet access, if many of had complained (in this context "many" would be tens of thousands of people).
"The bulk of parents seem to have been unhappy about the token involvement of parents in development of the curriculum, and report frustration in being able to gain independent access to curriculum documents. Many complain about the lack of hard copy, pointing out that not all households have internet access (265); nor are all parents computer literate. As in so many other aspects of government service delivery in Australia, purely web-based delivery is not adequate."
The technologies curriculum, that is teaching ICT is better covered in the report, than the use of ICT for teaching:
"There is also strong support for its inclusion in
the Australian Curriculum – particularly from professional bodies associated with computers and technologies – and a belief that it appropriately captured the critical elements of the learning area and provided a sound curriculum foundation which could accommodate future instances of digital technology. The Australian Computer Society (ACS) says:

The ACS strongly endorses the creation of the digital technologies subject and notes the
important distinction of this subject from the role of ICT as a general capability. Both aspects
are critically important in the education of students, but the distinction between them is vital
for individual students and for Australia as a nation.
414" Page 208
Recommendation 15 of the report is likely to be most contriversial and with which I have most difficulty with:
"ACARA revise the Australian Curriculum to place more emphasis on morals, values and spirituality as outlined in the Melbourne Declaration, and to better recognise the contribution of Western civilisation, our Judeo-Christian heritage, the role of economic development and industry and the
democratic underpinning of the British system of government to Australia’s development." Page 246
It is not clear to me why the many Australian citizens who do not have a British Judeo-Christian heritage should have their taxes spent indoctoranating their children in someone else's values. Discussion of "Western civilisation" belongs in history courses, but alongside the other civilisations which have contributed to today's Australia.

An emphasis on morals and values would be appropriate for schools, along the lines of the  Primary Ethics, program developed by St James Ethics Centre for NSW primary schools. However, this should discuss Judeo-Christian concepts alongside other religions and moral systems of Australians.

1 comment:

  1. The Australian Council for Computers in Education has expressed concerns about the Review of the Australian Curriculum.