Oct 14, 2014

Opaques in Spring. Curriculum Review.

I've had to eat my words about my final goodbye to opaques for 2014.

Power walking on my last Tuesday at work before next week's leave....  Dress - Boden, opaques - Mix, shoes - Rockport.


Because I wore them today just to make sure the random storm activity that's hovering over Sydney at the moment didn't catch me by surprise for the second day running.

But enough about the weather, my outfits and I.

Have you heard about the latest National Curriculum Review for Australian schools?  It's been interesting reading and hearing about the recommendations as well as the way many in education seem to be in agreement about the proposals.  The direction education takes affects us all even if our own student days are ancient history.  Parents of students, employers, clients, the taxpayer who funds education.  One way or another, we all have ongoing ties to our education system.

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My own memories of primary school education revolve around Strand crayons which from which I graduated to Faber Castell pencils.  There was lots of reading from actual books.  And then there was lots of actual writing because computers weren't in the classroom.

My early primary school teachers were Mrs Murdoch, Mrs Stanley and Ms Stevens (a trailblazer in our conservative neighbourhood with her mini skirts, boyfriend called Pete who happened to be a policeman and whom we met on school camp along with Ms Stevens' mum who came along to babysit Keisha but I digress... I grew to love science because of Ms Stevens' terrarium project using cut up soft drink bottles).  They were all firm but fair.  They'd go through our work with red pen, correcting grammar and spelling.  Encouragement or constructive criticism was given and then a golden peacock sticker affixed to the top of your page if it was particularly good.  And not everyone got a sticker.  And we all turned out all right.

From what I can gather, something changed in primary school teaching and the emphasis moved from phonetics and the three R's to education based on themes and the curriculum seems to have gotten really crowded.  Effective communication didn't seem to require correct spelling and grammar to be deemed effective.  Then NAPLAN came in highlighted disparities in numeracy and literacy across the nation that had some correlation to students' socioeconomic status.  And then the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results hit the media and it found that Australian teenagers' performance in maths, science and reading were falling further behind the results of South East Asian nations despite all the money being poured into the new curriculum.

Enter the 2014 review with Education Minister Christopher Pyne calling himself Captain Co-Operative in his goal of getting the states and the Commonwealth to work together to turn our education system around.  The key recommendations of this latest review aren't ground breaking.    A move away from the themes (and the challenges of incorporating them into every subject syllabus) and a swing back to the basics of phonics and numeracy.  A decluttering of the range of topics and capablities that need to be taught, especially in the primary years to emphasize depth not breadth of knowledge.

Interestingly and somewhat controversially, there is also a call for the education system to show a greater emphasis and appreciation of Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage.  In a time when we've made considerable progress in healing racial vilification of the past and are trying to calm the religious tensions of the present.

I'd love to hear from any teachers or other education specialists who may be reading this post.  What are your thoughts on the review?  What were and are your experiences with the current curriculum?  Will the proposed return to basics be more effective in equipping our children to negotiate study, work and life in general?  To compete at higher level in the global playing field that education seems to have become.

But most importantly, will the schools of the future teach Toddler SSG  really important life skills like:


- how to reset the work printer when it's been off line for a day.  And how to clear the backlog of printing jobs by placing them in the printing tray rather than leaving them on the printer.


- the most efficient way of dividing a loaf of banana bread into single serve slices for the freezer?  Without a set of kitchen scales and with minimal mess or loss of baked good in the cutting process.

8 comments:

  1. Everyone is an expert in education because they went to school. Society/media has influenced the crowding of the curriculum. If there is a problem in society schools are expected to teach it. Road safety, approaching dogs and eating healthy are examples. Why aren't parents taking responsibility for teaching this? These are experiences outside of the school or classroom environment.
    The curriculum has only just changed. A review already?
    The inclusion of technology and ipads in school is a parent pleaser but no necessarily educationally sound. There are a million apps out there that are not actually educational or develop skills in students.
    NAPLAN would be a hell of a lot more useful if the results weren't published on the Web. Please do not use them to choose a school.
    School choice. The only thing you can guarantee won't change during the enrolment of the toddler will be the location of the school. Teachers, Principal and fellow students move in schools. Some retire, some take leave and some get jobs elsewhere.
    My two or three cents

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      Thanks for sharing your insights. I do agree with you about the shift of responsibility for many things away from parents and onto teachers.

      SSG xxx

      Delete
  2. Oh I expect I'll be all caught up on the curriculum and suggested changes and impacts and things in a few years with baby T! I already have my mother in law trying to suggest schools...haha. He's not even 1 year old yet! I'm putting it in the "worry about later" pile. It will be so interesting if the need for laptops for every child happens from the start of school though, I wonder.

    Away From The Blue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In most schools these days all students from Prep onwards have iPads supplied.

      Delete
  3. My comment supports the problematic nature of developing themes (and too many subjects) and subsequently reducing time to build skills and technique particularly in the Arts. I have noted a decline in focus on skills.
    IMO English is on the improve with more structure, recommended reading and curriculum to classroom resources. I am also all for the three over-arching strands that guide content: ABTSI perspectives.....Asian perspectives and sustainability. States have their own framework too, to endure ABTSI perspectives are developed.
    In QLD, a major exam for final year results is still hand-written over two days...I am not really happy with constant use of IT devices.
    Call me old school. There are ways for teachers to look at their students screens from their own laptop - but in a class of 31, it has hard to sit at a desk - checking screens..,
    NAPLAN is a just a moment in time for an exam result - no-one should pay that much attention to it it because it can have knowledge asked for that teachers didn't 'teach' students...,but might have taught other...although it does provide some reliable data. It is too much of a big deal for young students.
    By all means pay money for a private school..,but public education can be just as good, or better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Flora
      I didn't appreciate the actual logistics required to supervise 30 students on their devices during class. Just had it in my head that they'd only be off using them to do assignments out of class time. And I suppose it's not just the computer you see on their desks but the smartphones they may have under the desks. If adults in the workforce manage to use both all the time, school age people can probably do it twice as sneakily.

      Thank you for your NAPLAN insights. Again, something I only read about in the press and don't have any first hand experience with.

      SSG xxx

      Delete
  4. I really hope that when james goes to school he'll be taught to write not just type :S

    xx

    Thrive on Novelty

    ReplyDelete
  5. Didn't comment earlier as not a teacher or education specialist, but am a mum of a student in first year high school and a year 5 primary student. As a parent, problem with naplan is that exam in May but results not out until September so barely a term left for teacher to rectify any issues. If your child is in year 7, naplan doesn't reflect high school only last 2 years of primary. Appalled by parents stating that school told them that their child does not have to sit naplan. This was from a parent who moved to our local public from an exclusive expensive private girls school nearby as her daughter has learning issues.
    Flora, you are spot on about good public schools. And a shout out to our fantastic local high school which not only caters for the academically selective but also for the special needs students in met north. I think the principal is on the money as she has said she wants to harness students creativity and forward thinking skills because at a recent principals conference she was informed that in 20 years time, 40% of all professional jobs will be gone. As 2 professionals we are aware of the massive change in work practices and skills. Den x

    ReplyDelete

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