The new Australian Curriculum is profoundly flawed

I have been worrying for some time about the results of the Australian Curriculum review. Despite encouraging signs, the end result is deeply depressing in at least one aspect; the new collapsed “HASS” curriculum involves teaching children hardly any worthwhile content. In this post, I raised the following concern:

“We need to be aware just how horrible “Humanities and the Social Sciences,” could be in the wrong hands. We could have Dewey-inspired approaches that start with the child and their place in the world etc. rather than learning about the Romans or the Egyptians or about the countries of the world.”

Well, that’s what we’ve got.

A quick search of the HASS document finds no mention of the Romans or Egyptians until Year 7. Instead, in an almost complete adoption of the APPA’s submission to the review, we have a vague, inquiry-based curriculum, light on content.

Year 1 is typical. Here students will be, “given opportunities to explore how changes occur over time in relation to themselves, their own families, and the places they and others belong to.” The history ‘knowledge and understanding’ is described as follows:

“The content in the history sub-strand provides opportunities for students to develop historical understanding through key concepts including continuity and change, perspectives, empathy and significance. The content for this year focuses on similarities and differences in family life over recent time (continuity and change, perspectives) and how people may have lived differently in the past (empathy). Students’ understanding is further developed as they consider dates and changes that have personal significance (significance). As students continue to explore the past and the present, they begin to speculate about the future (continuity and change).”

‘Empathy’ as content.

Students will be investigating the Inquiry Questions, “How has family life changed or remained the same over time? How can we show that the present is different from or similar to the past? How do we describe the sequence of time?

And of course, this is all written-out in a confusing and unusable way, complete with loads of little icons to indicate general capabilities such as ‘critical and creative thinking’ that the more sensible submissions to the review sought to do away with due to the fact that they cannot really be taught.

So a complete win there for Deweyan ideology; the idea that social studies have to start with the child’s immediate universe and work outwards. This, in turn, represents a total rejection of the scientifically-based Core Knowledge argument that knowledge of the world aids reading comprehension. So it also potentially hobbles any gains available through the new curriculum’s much vaunted emphasis on phonics.

Moreover, it is a boring and woolly curriculum for young children to follow. As a father of two young daughters, I can confirm that they are hungry for knowledge of the world, ancient and modern, near and far, and that their imaginations are not limited to their immediate vicinity. It is hard to even comprehend such a narrow perspective except through the lens of ideology. Of course, children with middle class parents will still gain a lot of world knowledge from home and so the curriculum will act to aggravate inequality.

What a complete waste of everyone’s time.

Australia adopts the thinking of John Dewey from circa 1900

ACARA adopts the thinking of John Dewey, circa 1916

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5 Comments on “The new Australian Curriculum is profoundly flawed”

  1. Tara Houle says:

    I would have thought with all the backlash against inquiry based learning elsewhere, Australia would have taken notice. This is a truly abysmal prospect. New Zealand’s independent report on their failing maths curricula, specifically determined inquiry based learning as THE biggest culprit behind poor maths skills http://nzinitiative.org.nz/shop/Library+by+type/Books+and+reports/Un%28ac%29countable%3A+Why+millions+on+maths+returned+little/x_show_article/1.html. This has also been confirmed by Dr. Stokke’s CD Howe report in Canada http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/commentary_427.pdf Although these examples pertain to maths, the same is for all other subjects when it comes to poor learning strategies. By dumbing down, how does this create a more creative, innovative student?

    I am very discouraged at hearing how Australia’s curriculum review, by some of the finest educators in your country, have led to these disastrous conclusions. Perhaps a parent strike by withdrawing their children from the school system is in order. One must ask what it is, in fact, that taxpayers are paying for in your country, when it comes to your education system.

  2. Tempe says:

    This is so disappointing and awfully depressing. I really thought this was our chance to bring about real change to the curriculum. I have honestly thought about moving to the UK to give my kids a chance at a decent education. I want them to have knowledge. And you are right, this nebulous, skills based curriculum revolving around critical/creative skills that can’t even be defined is boring, boring, boring for students. Kids love facts and yet we deprive them of them. I think the time has come for parents & teachers to fight back. Time to get our own petition up and running and sart making more noise.. This situation is ridiculous…

  3. […] for nearly a hundred years. Despite being comprehensively critiqued in 1980, expanding horizons is the model for a brand new social studies curriculum in […]

  4. […] for more reading and numeracy – a back to basics approach. History was lost in favour of a lightweight and retro social studies curriculum of the kind debunked by Kieran Egan back in […]


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