The National Curriculum could be cited as one of the greatest political false starts of all time. Recently, as cited across a number of major media outlets (for example, Justine Ferrari, ‘Australian’, 9/8/11) and through the Minister for Education Peter Garrett’s own tweets (@PGarrettMP, 9/8/11, 4.03 pm) the implementation of the National Curriculum is set to be delayed in at least one State of Australia. Further delay is not a surprise to those observers and stakeholders who have previously highlighted the flaws within this attempt at curriculum renewal. And, while Minister Garrett claims there is ‘no justifiable reason for the 11th hour backdown’ (Ferrari, ‘Australian’, 10/8/11), key stakeholders would argue that there is very little upon which they have formally been consulted or agreed. The ACARA concept of consultation in this process has been to inform professional educators what they should teach, in ways that privilege particular curriculum areas, and then allow them to offer specific feedback in 1000 characters or less.
Specifically, Dillon (25/5/11, ‘Daily Telegraph’) suggests that teacher groups feel ‘irked’ that they have not been consulted at all, and have been ‘denied a role in the process’. It was these concerns early in the process that led to organisations such as Deakin University’s School of Education bringing groups of stakeholders together in a Public Policy Forum. Across various sectors such as parents, unions, teachers, principals, teacher educators, politicians, community groups, media and educational researchers, there was an overwhelming sense of dismay at what was on the table (seehttp://communities.deakin.edu.au/ppf2010/ ). Other such forums have also been facilitated, with foci on the ways in which feedback and alternatives could be articulated.
Had policy-makers and curriculum writers in this project listened to the voices raising the concerns, they would have known that stakeholders were keen to know the overall vision of the curriculum renewal much more than the pieces that would be thrown together. Had anyone of the ACARA crew listened attentively to keynotes such as Alan Reid’s, at the Australian Curriculum Studies Association 2009 (seehttp://www.acsa.edu.au/pages/page484.asp), they might have asked for broader and less hasty timelines and discussions to renew purposes and practices of curriculum within Australia. They might have been less tokenistic in the placement of core capabilities and the ways in which they flowed through a more cohesive attempt to develop learners and citizens of the future.
From a curriculum perspective, as a distinct lack of vision and integrity, the Educational Revolution has indeed come full circle – right back to the beginning of thinking whether and/or how we should have an Australian National Curriculum.
Dr Debra Bateman, senior lecturer in higher education, Higher Education Research Group (HERG), Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Victoria