The states are preparing to go to battle over a new national school curriculum, with NSW and South Australia (SA) joining the federal Education Minister in signalling their unwillingness to endorse some of the more contentious changes. Australia’s largest state has firmed in its opposition in recent days, with NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell advising party colleagues that she would not support the document in its current draft form.  Ms Mitchell told a party room meeting that she was unimpressed by the draft curriculum’s ongoing support for unscientific practices for teaching reading and its promotion of inquiry learning in mathematics, both of which are contrary to NSW’s approaches.

SA Education Minister John Gardner has also indicated unease over elements of the draft documents, suggesting he shared similar concerns to federal Education Minister Alan Tudge regarding a push to promote Indigenous perspectives throughout the curriculum while at the same time downgrading the study of the humanities, including history and the study of Western civilisation. Mr Gardner said “It is important that in our desire to highlight Aboriginal history, stories and song-lines, we mustn’t lose perspective on the historical and philosophical roots of our successful liberal democracy. “No other structure of government in the world gives such freedom and agency to its people, and if we don’t give sufficient weight to the foundations of our successful liberal democracy then we put at risk those freedoms.

It’s impossible to please everyone and it’s tricky to get the balance right, but some improvements in this area are important.” The revised curriculum, developed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority has already prompted a significant backlash, reigniting the so-called history wars and reading wars and sparking debate about the ongoing influence of the theory of constructivism, which promotes student-led inquiry learning over explicit teaching, in schools. Mr Gardner also confirmed that SA would continue to focus on “evidence-based approaches to reading instruction”, particularly the role of phonics in developing children’s letter-sound knowledge and decoding skills, despite the draft curriculum’s continued support of balanced literacy, including predictable texts that encourage children to guess unfamiliar words.

“It would be in the best interests of other jurisdictions to do the same, but we won’t be distracted from the trajectory of improvement we are on,” Gardner said. NSW, which educates more than 1.2 million schoolchildren, has also recently dumped balanced literacy in favour of phonics, with its own recent curriculum review highlighting the importance of “evidence-based teaching” to develop children’s mathematics knowledge and skills in the first few years of primary school. Ms Mitchell has previously been vocal about her desire to ensure that NSW schools adopted evidence-based teaching practices, is understood to have reassured party room colleagues that the proposed changes were still in draft form and there was an opportunity for significant alterations before it came before ministers for consideration.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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