Time for Schooling to Keep Up

By Greg Whitby, 23 May 2018
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.

 

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

If you believe the newspaper headlines, our schools are headed for a shake-up. The recently announced curriculum review is aimed at ‘decluttering’ what many see as an already crowded curriculum, with the priority being to ensure that literacy and numeracy are treated as ‘foundational skills’. The review will also incorporate the recent ‘Gonski 2.0’ recommendations on how we can improve student performance.

The three areas identified for review (curriculum, technology and the nature of teaching) are important because none of them can operate properly without the other. Each element is critical to ensure that today’s learners are equipped with the skills necessary for tomorrow’s jobs.

The first area identified for review is the curriculum itself. The NSW curriculum is organised around specific areas of knowledge or key learning areas (for example, Maths, English, Science etc). Secondary students have the opportunity to incorporate vocational education and training (VET) subjects in their patterns of study. There is a lot of content to cover which makes it difficult to explore specific subjects areas in depth or provide students with the opportunity for them to seek out personal areas of interest.

Technology is the second significant area targeted for review. In the past, the main focus on technology use was to provide students with devices and for keeping up-to-date with the latest apps. Now it needs to be about using technology to enhance learning and create better teaching practice.

The third area is perhaps the most important of all. A good teacher is the most powerful app students have in today’s world. Ask most teachers and they will tell you that an over-crowded curriculum and the ever-increasing compliance burden leave little time for the real work of teaching. We need to address the changing nature of the work, given that we operate in a highly connected and global community. As much as possible, we need to be looking at how we can release teachers from the burden of compliance so that they can get on with their core work, which is bringing learning alive for young people.

This review needs to chart a new path. If we get more of the same or a watered down version of the existing curriculum, or we spend more money on devices rather than on technologies to deepen learning and improve teaching, it will be a waste of time and money.

I’d like to see greater involvement from parents, teachers and the wider community in a discussion about what we want today’s learners to know and do. As NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said when the review was announced, the world has changed since the last major curriculum review in 1989. It is time for schools to catch up!

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

 

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