Aboriginal history "crucial" for national curriculum, says schools submission

The state's school sectors including the Department of Education, the Association of Independent Schools and the Catholic Education Commission have lodged a highly critical submission to the national curriculum review.

Alexandra Smith Sydney Morning Herald 28 March 2014


Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

NSW schools want Aboriginal history to remain a "crucial feature" of a national curriculum, putting them at odds with the federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne's push for a greater focus on Western civilisations.

The state's school sectors including the Department of Education, the Association of Independent Schools and the Catholic Education Commission have lodged a highly critical submission to the national curriculum review.

In their joint submission, which also represents the position of the NSW Board of Studies, the school sectors argue that studying Aboriginal history and culture is "essential for the education of all Australian students".

"The NSW education community strongly supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and cultures as crucial features in any curriculum that is defined as national or Australian," the submission says.

Mr Pyne launched a review of the national curriculum in January to ensure it was "balanced in its content, free of partisan bias and deals with real-world issues" amid concerns it was too left-leaning and was failing students.

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He appointed two outspoken critics of the curriculum, including former teacher Kevin Donnelly, to review it. Mr Donnelly has warned that education has become too secular and has lurched to the "cultural left" and Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum.

"The fact that the national curriculum stipulates that every subject must be interpreted through a prism involving indigenous, Asian and sustainability perspectives needs to be revisited," Mr Donnelly said.

But the NSW schools submission warns that an understanding of Asia, as well as sustainability, was vital.

"An understanding of Asia and our relationship to the region as well as issues of sustainability are also strongly supported by stakeholders in NSW as important to subject-specific learning," the submission says.

The schools sector also criticises the national curriculum for having "excessive content" for some of the key subjects.

"It is possible to reasonably interpret that curriculum documents were designed for more teaching hours in total than was available within the school teaching year," the submission says.

Mr Donnelly and the other reviewer, Kenneth Wiltshire, a Queensland academic who has labelled the implementation of the Gonski funding model "a national disgrace", are expected to finish their report by midyear.

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