NSW Curriculum Review – I’ve had my say.

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 12.14.05 pm

My most recent blog The NSW Curriculum – Less is Best (November, 2018)  encouraged Professor Geoff Masters and colleagues to declutter the NSW Curriculum. Since then, and in response for a call for submissions, I considered the four leading questions of the Review. 

  • What should the purpose of schooling be in the 21st century?
  • What knowledge, skills and attributes should every student develop at school?
  • How could the curriculum better support every student’s learning?
  • What else needs to change?

So, I decided to answer these questions with many links and references to blogs I have written over the last 3 to 4 years. Here we go…

What should the purpose of schooling be in the 21st century?

To consider the purpose of schooling, one must consider its connection with learning and teaching (January, 2015). So, for me, starting with a deep belief that each child can learn, the purpose of schooling in the 21st century is to firstly provide precise and rigorous instructional teaching so students can engage with the foundations of literacy and numeracy. Once these essential foundations are established, a child is then enabled  to develop the social skills and enterprise skills so they can maximise their potential as learners and then become creative contributors and innovative problem solvers for a rapidly changing world.

What knowledge, skills and attributes should every student develop at school?

There needs to be a greater focus on the ACARA general capabilities as per Recommendation 7 of the Through Growth to Achievement Report which reads:

“Strengthen the development of the general capabilities, and raise their status within curriculum delivery, by using learning progressions to support clear and structured approaches to their teaching, assessment, reporting and integration with learning areas.”

As such, a new curriculum needs to bring social skills and enterprise skills to prominence (February, 2017) in schools and promote these social skills and enterprise skills (March, 2017) to parents and wider community so that they are seen as the equal of literacy, numeracy and key learning areas. Schools should be encouraged, challenged and, most importantly, trusted to develop a local contextual interpretation of the GCs.

At St Luke’s Catholic College, 6 Pillars of Learning provide a strong reference point for learning growth and development for each child. These 6 Pillars, framed largely from the Australian General Capabilities, were established in 2017 in response to the school’s commitment to bring social skills and enterprise skills to prominence (December, 2016). These 6 Pillars support a student’s ability to reflect on the skills and capabilities, receive feedback from teachers and we even report on social skills and enterprise twice a year (June, 2017). And over the last six months we have developed a partnership with UTS to use the “Review Tool” to develop and update our 6 Pillars.

Whilst the GCs address the skills and capabilities for a changing world, we also need to consider and reflect on the development of dispositions for each child. As young adults they will also be required to have endless reservoirs of empathy, resilience and persistence to problem solve with various teams of people in order to respond to the needs of the local community and the capitalise on the opportunities of living in an increasingly global world.

With a balanced approach towards the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy, the development of the GCs and a commitment to engage with the messiness of assessing (even assessing) dispositions, it may mean we continue to proud each and every Australia Day (January, 2018).

How could the curriculum better support every student’s learning?

We need to give back the learning to students by reducing core curriculum hours (even less than they are now) and allowing even instructing teachers and schools to not then ‘go over hours’ to ‘fill a day’ or fill a timetable’. This would encourage free thinking to minimise the hours and allow for exciting learning initiatives such as Adventure Learning (July, 2018), Genius Hour or Google 80/20 time.

We also need to get better at creating time (January, 2016) by considering bold ideas to better use time (November, 2015). We could flip the thinking about mandated hours (March, 2015) so that we can ‘give back time’ to students so they see their time at school as My Learning (March, 2018). This will assist with the aspiration to provide authentic personalised learning (November, 2016). Instead of parents asking how to study for NAPLAN or how do I best prepare my teenager for the HSC, it might mean that parents see a new set of non-negotiables (September, 2016) by asking:

  • “What did my child create today?”
  • “How is my child collaborating?”
  • “How are their presentation skills developing?”
  • “What team is my child working with and what problem are they trying to solve?”

What else needs to change?

With leadership from NESA, schools rethinking education (January, 2015) will move away from easily measurable standardised approaches to learning which will reduce media fascination with league table comparisons between schools.

Furthermore, there needs to be new pathways to post school (June, 2016) and a significant adjustment to what was labelled a modernised HSC (January, 2016) so that online folios of work showcasing the very best of a student’s skills and capabilities count more than one mark on one day at the end of 13 years of schooling.

What are your answers to the four questions of the Review?

As usual, comments and feedback are most welcome.