Masters of a new curriculum.

On Thursday 20 February, 2020 I participated as a panelist and attendee at the 2nd Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) schools summit. I tweeted at the end of the day…

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There was intriguing commentary about the future of education, not the least being the presentation from Professor Geoff Masters who is overseeing the NSW Curriculum review. An interim report was shared in October 2019 with the general conclusion being that there is need for major reform.

As part of the review, Professors Masters said it was obvious “too many students are disengaged from learning” and, “performance across many forums and tests have been in decline for quite some time with one example below.”

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Provided by Professor Geoff Masters AO at SMH Summit 20 February, 2020.

Professor Masters reflected, ”the decline in absolute terms in key indicators is almost unmatched in comparison to the rest of the world and the reform of the curriculum has the potential to arrest this decline. He also stated, “Decline in performance and increasing engagement are definitely related.”

Whilst there was reference to the usual standardised data sets, it was pleasing to hear the human side of the review. Professor Masters noted that the biggest bugbear of teachers was an overcrowded curriculum with little flexibility. He agreed by offering, 

Current syllabuses are too crowded with procedural content, ‘skating across the surface’ limiting the ability to cover more important ideas in more depth.

Professor Masters then hinted of what is to come. He started, “there is a need to get rid of the peripheral content” and, “if we design syllabuses for year levels we are going to get it wrong.” He even mentioned there might be a 30% reduction on current content.

So, what can we expect? Well, we may see the ‘time anchored’ approach to year level learning give way to a sequence of learning levels, “untied from time”, with students progressing to the next ‘level’ when they are ready.

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Provided by Professor Geoff Masters AO at SMH Summit 20 February, 2020.

The proposed curriculum prioritises students’ understandings of core concepts and principles and their practical application with the goal for every student to learn with understanding. The existing curriculum is not designed to ensure every student is appropriately challenged in their learning. The proposed new curriculum is structured as a sequence of learning units through which every student progresses. 

Upon reflection, if there is a reduction in content allowing students to appreciate the meaning and practical relevance of what they are learning through their interests and passions, may we soon all become masters of a new curriculum.

Yours in contemporary learning,


P.S. As you know, comments, questions and wonderings are always welcome.

3 thoughts on “Masters of a new curriculum.

  1. Great to see new thinking on addressing the challenges of our new age.
    I just hope when masters delivers his report the Politicians and learning sceptics don’t undermine it.

  2. “Skating across the surface” is a challenge, that not only needs to be overcome, but importantly school leaders need to call this out. In doing so, our staff have have permission to dive deep, extend students learning and allow our students to follow their passions.

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