Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has called for a new debate surrounding the review of the national primary and secondary curricula, in part because new additions like the digital technologies curriculum have led to schools “sacrificing quality for quantity.”
In a major speech to the Beyond Year 12 Conference on Monday, Tehan noted that “the first Australian Curriculum was created in 2010 with English, mathematics, science and history chosen as its basis,” but lamented that “by 2015, the humanities, social sciences, the arts, technologies, health and physical education, and languages had been added.”
The minister said that in his consultations with “teachers and parents, I keep hearing the same message: the curriculum is overcrowded and that means we are sacrificing quality for quantity.
Teachers tell me that there is too much being taught and we should be concentrating on developing a deeper understanding of essential content,” Tehan said.
The minster therefore called for the 2019-2020 the COAG Education Council "to consider if the Australian Curriculum requires reviewing and refining."
Tehan’s remarks and that review are certain to turn heads in the technology industry after the sector lobbied long and hard for the creation of the digital technologies curriculum and was pleased after it was adopted in 2015.
Google showed particular enthusiasm for the curriculum by encouraging development of courses for teachers to bring them up to speed with the skills and content required to implement it.
After substantial investment, suggestions the digital technologies curriculum may now be dialed down or pared back are certain to be met with vocal disappointment over a lack of policy consistency.
Tehan did offer some hope for the tech industry when he paraphrased chief scientist Alan Finkel’s recent remarks to the effect that “mathematics is a skillset that is fundamental to science, to economics, to medicine, to engineering, to geography, to architecture, to IT.”
But his speech will bemuse many who follow education policy. In 2015 then-education-minister Christopher Pyne trumpeted the launch of the new national curriculum by declaring “these changes will resolve the overcrowding in the primary curriculum”.
Pyne also praised the addition of the new digital technologies curriculum, which brought "computational thinking" - aka basic coding - into high schools, saying it would mean “students can learn important skills in problem solving and technical skills such as coding, right from their early years.”
Just three years later a new minister has identified a curriculum crowding problem and fingered technology teaching as one of the reasons for the problem.
Tehan's talk also touched on cyber-bullying, which he said was a major concern.,
Referencing the need for more “common sense” in education, Tehan said “if mobile phones are distracting students in the classroom then teachers should be empowered to conduct a class without them.
“There is a time and place for technology in education and surely we can all agree on that.”
But with a review of the national curriculum now on the cards, it appears the time and place for technology teaching may be up for debate again.