Wondering about NSW Curriculum Reform

Yesterday, in response to the NSW Curriculum Review final reportNurturing Wonder and Igniting Passion – chaired by Independent Review Lead, Professor Geoff Masters AO, the NSW government issued a press release (15/1/21). In part, it was communicated that the NSW Curriculum Reform is powering on with the first stage of decluttering that will see a reduction of more than 80 courses developed by schools classified as unnecessary. It went on to say this first step will soon be followed by the roll out of the new, streamlined K-2 English and Maths syllabuses in March this year. This will be welcomed by the teachers who oversee very crowded Maths and English courses for 5-8 year old children.

But, I am still wondering about the first step…

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According to our Premier Galdys Berejiklian and Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell, the action of “removing unnecessary courses” developed by high schools is “decluttering the curriculum”. Dare I say it, it is also removing choice from students and voice from schools! However, whilst this action reduces the number of courses, it does not address the crowded nature of the curriculum, most notably the amount of content knowledge and skills that some syllabuses expect teachers to cover and students to learn.

By 2022 all Year 9 and 10 elective courses developed by schools will be phased out with “Year 9 and 10 students able to select elective subjects that will be developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority and will be available state-wide.” Again, I wonder…

The reason I wonder is because electives are no longer mandated by the NSW government. 10 years ago, the (old) School Certificate ceased. In its place came a more fluid and flexible accreditation known as the Record of School Achievement (ROSA). With this, mandated requirements changed. Consequently, the requirement for students to complete electives ended. This has been the case for 10 years!

Essentially, once schools cover mandated requirements in core areas by timetabling minimum indicative hours for each course (subject), there is no need to offer any electives. So, I am wondering, why has the government started its release of curriculum reform with this focus?

A number of recommendations came from the NSW Curriculum Review final report. Most notably, one of Professor Masters’ key recommendations was to consider moving away from the time anchored nature of the current curriculum and strive for so-called untimed learning. This might mean students could move through content at their own pace, moving away from a time anchored, age related curriculum. Another key recommendation was for teaching and learning in the senior secondary school to be less focussed on examination preparation, ATAR rankings and university entrance, and more focussed on equipping every student with the knowledge, skills and attributes they will require for further learning, life and work. I look forward to these ‘bigger ticket items’ becoming a reality sooner rather than later, starting with the new, streamlined K-2 English and Maths syllabuses in March this year.

Whatever the detail, the vast majority of educators responsible for teaching and learning in the thousands of classrooms around New South wales, yearn for curriculum reform which ensures each student is Nurturing Wonder and Igniting Passion.


2 thoughts on “Wondering about NSW Curriculum Reform

  1. Thank you, Greg, for your incisive comments. Sadly the Government has missed the point about crowded curricula and a moment of innovative insightfulness to give learning back to the learners and teachers.

  2. I agree that students should be offered a variety of classes. Lots of students resent school because none of the classes interest them, so I think that it is important for schools to offer classes that get students excited about attending school.

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