The NSW Curriculum – Less is Best.

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The New South Wales curriculum is a little like our state’s capital city – overcrowded and full of congestion!

Thankfully, the NSW Government has commenced a review of the NSW school curriculum to ensure students are prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. This is the first comprehensive review since 1989. The aim of the review is to reshape education in NSW so that it engages and challenges every student to develop the strong foundations of knowledge, skills and capabilities required to flourish in a world experiencing unprecedented and unpredictable change.

Recently, I read the article There is a better way fo teaching bored Australian students. In the article Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel talks about “T-shaped workers.” The vertical line of the T represents deep knowledge and subject expertise. The horizontal bar represents the skills and capabilities required to apply that expertise as part of a team to solve real world problems. Maybe the new NSW Curriculum could adopt the intent to nurture “T-Shaped” students. I grant you, this is too simplistic?

We know that Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) are the keys which unlock the potential for all learners. From 2018, the national literacy and numeracy learning progressions will be phased in to replace the existing NSW literacy and numeracy continuums. We could do worse than strip back the curriculum so that it focuses on students moving through these progressions as they engage in passion projects which integrate Key Learning Areas. It would be good to do this without the scheduling of ‘minute perfect timetables’ in an already full school day. Less rather than more is needed because there can be no more put into the school day.

In the same article mentioned above, Professor John Fischetti is quoted as saying,

“We have to get everyone to figure out what their potential is, how it maps to their passion and go for it – because there’ll be nothing to do if you are under-educated in Australia.”

As the foundations of literacy, numeracy and language are developed by each student, it might be that we facilitate learning opportunities which will enable them to deepen their understanding of ‘Who I am’, What I can do’ and ‘What problems I want to solve’. As they become young adults, students can come to know their vocation by answering the 3 questions of Reverend Michael Himes:

  • What gives you joy?  This is not the same as being happy.
  • Are you good at it? Know your strengths and talents.
  • Does anyone need you to do it?  Identify how you can work with others to respond to the needs of the local community.

With such provocative questions shaping each young person’s thinking, learning could increasingly become more self-directed with a reduced core curriculum forming part of a broader personalised curriculum. This personalised curriculum could be made up of passions projects and/or bespoke courses designed to enhance skills and capabilities identified and needed by local businesses, national industries or online, global networks.

Who knows what will come of the NSW Curriculum Review? I trust that Professor Geoff Masters and his team will declutter the curriculum by taking a ‘Less is Best’ approach.

As always, comments, questions and wonderings are welcome.

Greg.