• NSW and the Australian Curriculum: What is all the fuss about?

NSW and the Australian Curriculum: What is all the fuss about?

16 Dec 2014 5:16 PM | Anonymous

Much of what is being written in the papers currently about the Review of the Australian Curriculum is irrelevant to schools in NSW. For many of the subjects under discussion, NSW has no plans for implementation.  This is despite the fact that some subjects are crying out for the revision the Australian Curriculum undertook.  How many NSW parents know their children are studying a Technology Curriculum (for example, Stage 4 Tech Mandatory) that was implemented 14 years ago?  When the writing and consultation period is taken into account, this means that the content taught now is nearly 20 years old. We, ICT Educators of NSW, of all people, know how much technology has evolved and completely changed in that time. Is it any wonder the large technology employers in Australia can’t find suitably qualified local graduates to employ? And is this why at every conference we attend the major tech companies are there begging us to find ways to encourage more students into the Technologies subjects?

On the front page the Sydney Morning Herald (‘PM’s cash for classes’; 15 Oct 2014) it stated that Mr Abbott

was keen to explore a trial of an industry-linked Pathways in Technology Early College High School … like the one he visited in New York earlier this year.

Would a school like that be able to operate in NSW shackled with the limitations of the current technologies curricular or would this be another loss to Victoria who are currently in the implementation stages of the new Australian Technologies Curriculum as MANDATORY study for all students in Years K-10?

NSW decided to move forward with Stage 1 of the Australian Curriculum (as taught in NSW) in the areas of English, Maths, Science and History, and also Geography. Our own area, Technologies, is still awaiting final endorsement but in November 2013 the Federal Council agreed that the curriculum could be made available for State and Territory use.  Every other state and territory has made some attempt to prepare for the implementation of this new Technologies curriculum – except NSW.

In a letter to Principals from Tom Alegounarias, President – Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards, he wrote on 14/02/2014

there are no implications for the implementation of the new NSW syllabuses from the present review of the Australian curriculum by the Commonwealth Government. Schools and teachers are to continue their implementation of the new NSW syllabuses on the existing schedule.

The curriculum, as it is to be taught in NSW, is legislated as a decision to be made by the NSW authorities. The Board of Studies, Teaching & Educational Standards (BOSTES) is the body that determines what is taught in all NSW schools (State, Catholic and Independent). Whilst the Federal Government and the Federal Minister of Education can recommend changes to the curriculum, only a revision of the legislation can require NSW to change what is taught in our schools without BOSTES approval. This means NSW schools are one step removed from the Australian Curriculum debate.

So, ICT Educators of NSW, don’t take all the recent media publicity about the new Australian Curriculum to heart – we won’t need to worry about being forced to deal with a new Technologies curriculum for years and years.  Let the other states educate the future Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburgs of this world.

Leanne Cameron
President, ICT Educators NSW

Below you will find the press release written by the ACCE President, Dr Jason Zagami.  The Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) is the national professional education body for the teaching of computing in Australian schools and our parent body. It comprises representatives from all state and territory associations and the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

Australian Council for Computers in Education has deep concerns with inconsistent support for school computing in the government’s response to the Review of the Australian Curriculum

ACCE has considered the Review of the Australian Curriculum Report andSupplementary Material, and is deeply concerned by some of the recommendations being considered by the government in the Initial Australian Government Response.

While ACCE acknowledges concern about a perceived overcrowding of the primary curriculum, there are many ways to address this other than a return to 19th and 20th Century curriculum priorities. It is an opportunity to refocus the curriculum on the 21st Century and to acknowledge ways in which subjects can be taught together in the primary years. This interdisciplinary collaboration in industry has stimulated many of the great innovations we now enjoy in modern society.

The USA and UK have identified the teaching of the computing discipline as a national priority. It would be a threat to Australia’s economic future if Australian students are excluded from being able to fully contribute to such innovations by a curriculum that limits their learning about digital technologies to a comparably superficial treatment in the senior years of schooling. Students in other countries will be advantaged by a developmental curriculum throughout their schooling. We do not expect students studying mathematics or science to start their studies in upper secondary for the same good reasons.

It is perplexing that the lack of support for computing as a discipline in the report is inconsistent with the Australian Government’s recognition of the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). ACCE was encouraged by the government’s investment of 12 million dollars in theRestoring the focus on STEM in schools initiative that includes “the introduction of computer coding across different year levels in Australian schools leading to greater exposure to computational thinking, and, ultimately, expanding the pool of ICT-skilled workers.” ACCE is subsequently dismayed that this is not reflected in the proposed curriculum models.

For Australia to have a world class, 21st Century curriculum, students should have the opportunity to engage in meaningful ways with how they can develop digital solutions that improve their lives and solve problems that increase in complexity over time. This is necessary to develop students’ capacity to creatively develop digital solutions, and in doing so, enable them with the ability to make considered study and career choices that involve the many facets of digital technologies, be they in information technology, science, the media, service, construction, medicine, arts, entertainment, law, teaching, politics, or other careers.

ACCE maintains that the teaching of computing as a discipline should be a core subject in any modern curriculum. Unfortunately, that view was not expressed in the report. Curiously, this view was expressed by the report subject matter specialist in the supplementary material. Of the two models presented in the report, the one proposed by Dr. Donnelly includes study of Digital Technologies only as an option for educational authorities in the states and territories. Such an approach loses much of the value of an Australian curriculum to further national goals. However, this is preferable to a mandated limiting of the study of the computing discipline to just the upper years of schooling as proposed by Professor Wiltshire. ACCE reiterates the need for Digital Technologies to be included as a core subject to some degree at all levels of schooling to enable a developmental approach to the discipline.

ACCE strongly recommends the government consults more widely with industry and professional groups such as the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE), Australian Computer Society (ACS), Australian Information Industries Association(AIIA), and Digital Careers, and relevant government departments, to resolve how Digital Technologies can be included as a core subject in a 21st Century Australian Curriculum.

Dr Jason Zagami
Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE)
j.zagami@griffith.edu.au 0755528454

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