National Curriculum – where are we headed?

I went to a briefing last night regarding the National Curriculum and progress that is being made in relation to the major curriculum changes that will be changing the face of education in Australia. It was delivered by Tony Mackay, who is the Deputy Chair of the National Curriculum Board. I’d read the recent ‘Shape of the  Australian Curriculum’ report and felt quite positive about the direction it was taking.

I’m OK with the idea of a National Curriculum. I think the idea of it reflects the kind of country we are. We occupy a vast landscape, but I feel that most people are unified and take pride in calling themselves Australians. (That, of course, is my take and my take only.)  I, for one, don’t mind the fact that they are proposing quite a bit of focus on understanding the history of our country and our Asian counterparts. I do think it important to have a grounding in the history of our country and the region we inhabit.

What was troublesome for me after last night’s meeting was the apparent increase in testing, similar to Naplan testing that exists now,  that is going to result from a shift to a National Curriculum. The message I was receiving suggests that our students are going to be tested in quite a few areas, possibly four, on a regular basis. As a mother of a 10 year old,  who was quite stressed about the recent round of  Naplan testing, I’m not relishing the idea of putting our kids through more of it. Nor am I liking the idea from a teacher’s perspective. The suggestion made by Tony Mackay was that the tests would be cyclical. My reading of that was that we would test kids on differing subjects every second year, effectively meaning that our kids are going to face rounds of Naplan tests every year of their school lives from at least Grade three up. Maybe I’m wrong about that and I’m happy to stand corrected.  

My other concern is just what is going to be done with the data. Will schools be compared regardless of their socioeconomic locale? Will funding be tied to making sure the testing is done? Will schools be economically disadvantaged if they aren’t performing? Will our curriculum lack innovation if we find schools teaching to the tests because they are fearful of underperforming and having the data used against them? 

I used my Livescribe pen last night to record the session. I am seriously impressed with the pen. You need to use special paper to write your notes on and the pen records the audio. You then upload the data from the pen to your computer, both notes and audio. You can then pinpoint any part of the text and the audio will replay from that part of the session. You can do this just using the pen and notebook too. If you upload your recording to Livescribe online you can share the session with friends or share the link. I’m going to link to it below so you can get a feel for what it is. Excuse my messy handwriting and packed page of notes. I wasn’t sure if you needed to stop recording when you started a new page so I stuck to the one. I’ve since found out you don’t have to. (You can get one from IT made simple if you’re interested. And no, I’m not taking commission for that plug!)  

The session was being videoed for upload to a website, so I’m not concerned about linking to it here. If I were at a PD where it wasn’t already being recorded I would think it only fitting that you seek the permission of the speaker before you did so.

Take a listen and see what you think.

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