In the classic 1993 Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, Murray was forced to relive the same day over and over again until he learnt from his mistakes. Whilst only a light-hearted comedy on the surface, Groundhog Day was a timely reminder that mistakes and there consequences are repeated over and over again until they are learnt from.
Every time the curriculum changes I think of Groundhog Day. I’ve only been a teacher for a short time, yet already I have seen the curriculum change 3 times. First it was the CSF, then it became the CSF 2, followed soon after by VELS. And the curriculum is about to change yet again!
Why do they do it to us? Just when you get used to one curriculum, they change it from another.
The cynic in me says the Government is bereft of ideas. They know that education outcomes are underwhelming, that there isn’t much satisfaction in the quality of schools and performance indicators are not painting a rosy picture. Yet, they don’t have a clue what to do about it. They neither have the money, vision or gumption to make any real change, so they go for the obvious alternative – perceived change.
When asked to reflect on their achievements in Education, the Government will proudly point to overhauling the curriculum. In Australia’s case, they will triumphantly declare that by introducing a national curriculum, they have been able to do what previous administrations couldn’t.
But they will know the truth all along – you can’t change the fortunes of a countries academic performance by altering and renaming a curriculum. In fact, from my experience you can’t expect any change at all.
Even if my cynical take is wrong, and there is some good intention behind this new curriculum, it wasn’t evident in the released draft, which like its predecessors, didn’t seem to be adding anything of substance. A bit more grammar, a deeper focus on handwriting and a greater emphasis on history sounds good. But when it comes down to it, it is just like my boss said both this time and last time, “Don’t worry. It is going to be very similar to our current curriculum.”
From reports the states don’t want their current curriculums meddled with. Critics like Chris Berg from the Sydney Morning Herald have slammed the draft curriculum:
The plan was to have the curriculum rolled out in the 2011 school year, but only the ACT will meet that deadline.
New South Wales and Western Australia have decided to delay the curriculum to 2013. The Victorian government announced recently it would do the same. But there are problems with what’s in the curriculum too. //
Take, for example, the history syllabus. After a full quota of compulsory schooling, Australian students will be none the wiser about the origins and central tenets of liberalism: the basics of individual rights, representative democracy and the market economy, and the importance of civil society.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are the absolute fundamentals of Western civilisation. And they are missing from the national curriculum.
One need look no further than how the curriculum purports to teach ”struggles for freedom and rights”, a ”depth study” for year 10 students.
The struggle for liberty against tyranny is one of the most important themes of the history of the past 500 years. From the English Civil War to the American and French revolutions, the proclamation of the rights of individuals has given us a rich inheritance of liberalism and civil liberties. That, at least, is how you’d think it would be taught.
But according to the national curriculum, the struggle for individual liberty started in 1945. Because that’s when the United Nations was founded.
To hinge the next generation’s understanding of individual rights on such a discredited institution is inexcusable. And it says a lot about the ideology of the curriculum’s compilers: as if individual rights were given to us by bureaucrats devising international treaties in committee.
At the end of the day, all we are really left with is a bad case of Groundhog Day. The results wont change, yet the same mistakes are being made over and over and over again …