A less crowded, parent friendly and back to basics approach has been recommended in the national curriculum review.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott believes sending schools back to basics, as recommended in the national curriculum review, will boost the economy and students’ job prospects.
But critics warn that approach could leave youngsters without the skills to navigate the 21st century.
The federal government released the long awaited 288-page report by former teacher and Liberal staffer Kevin Donnelly and business professor Ken Wiltshire and its initial response on Sunday.
It recommenced a de-cluttered, parent friendly and back to basics approach.
Excessive content was affecting students’ learning quality in particular at primary school.
Literacy and numeracy skills including phonics needed to be prioritised.
Tony Abbott wants more focus on getting the basics right so youngsters graduate with the ability to read, write, count, think and understand Australia and the world around them.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne flagged he’d like to see most of the 30 recommendations adopted and maintained the review was not an “ideological document”.
“There’s nothing in it that I can see that the states and territories would baulk at because none of it is trying to drive a political agenda,” Mr Pyne told reporters in Adelaide.
The report was critical of Western civilisation and Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage being demonised in the curriculum.
It recommended scaling back focus on indigenous history and Asian studies.
Mr Pyne said the original curriculum architects might have “gone too far in one direction”.
“We don’t want any politics in schools … we want our children to be focused on learning,” he said.
Opposition education spokeswoman Kate Ellis acknowledged the curriculum implemented under the previous Labor government was not perfect.
But she accused Mr Pyne of playing a “game of distraction” to mask broken promises on the six year Gonski school funding deals.
The Abbott government has only committed to the first four years. The bulk of the funding was set to come in years five and six.
The Australian Education Union said tinkering with the curriculum would not change the disparity between well off and disadvantaged schools.
Greens Senator Penny Wright said the review reignited the “culture wars”.
“(The) review seems to be suggesting we can just put Aboriginal culture and history in a box, bring it out once a year, and forget about it the rest of the time,” she said.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said the education system should help create well rounded members of a liberal democracy.
The report also raised concerns about teachers’ poor grammar and punctuation.
“It’s hard to expect teachers who have never been taught grammar, to teach it,” Mr Pyne said.
The reviewers received 1600 public submissions.
The federal government will release its final response to the review in early 2015 after Mr Pyne has consulted with his state and territory counterparts.
KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF CURRICULUM REVIEW
* Curriculum overcrowded particularly in primary years
* More flexibility needed
* More accessibility for special needs children
* Grammar and punctuation training for teachers
* Greater focus on literacy and numeracy in primary school
* Needs to be more parent friendly
* Curriculum body should become a private company
* Back to basics in literacy – phonics
* More emphasis on western canons of literature especially poetry
* More focus on Western civilisation and Australia’s Judeo-Christian heritage
* Scale back focus on indigenous history and Asia
* Progressing through levels to be based on knowledge rather than year level
* Reduce content and focus on depth
* Include content on Pacific Islands
* Sustainability is overused
* Music and visual arts should be mandatory.