Gaining credit for prior learning

By Greg Whitby, 10 April 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

In a few months, the recommendations following the NSW Government’s review into the curriculum will be released. The review sought feedback from the community, including parents, to determine whether the current curriculum still meets the needs of students.

Many teachers believe that the curriculum is already over-crowded, meaning there is little time to dive deeper into topics or for students to explore things that really interest them. In Singaporean schools, the goal is to teach less so students can learn more.

A modern curriculum also needs to support students acquiring and getting credit for skills whether these are gained at school or outside of it. We need to be able to recognise what learners can do with their knowledge regardless of where that knowledge comes from.

Lots of students are involved in extracurricular activities after school and on weekends. Whether it’s playing sport, dancing or learning computer coding or participating in Girl Guides or Scouts, these activities teach valuable skills. Unfortunately, there is no provision that allows schools to give students a credit (it’s called ‘recognised prior learning’ or RPL) for these activities. Only vocational subjects currently have RPL status.

If schools were able to extend RPL to skills gained outside of school, students would have the option of spending their time during school hours pursuing other interests and activities that contribute to well-rounded and holistic education. Students need a curriculum that expands their pathways and their learning, not narrow then.

I am not sure that the outcome of the NSW curriculum review will be, but for me, the message is simple: We need to move away from the one-size-fits-all model of schooling that continues to ignore how and where students of today learn and gets in the way of teachers creating exciting new learning opportunities for young people.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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