Replied to Will curriculum reform take students back to basics, or prepare them for the future? ([object Object])

After two years, months of consultation and much debate, the government has firmly committed only to decluttering syllabuses – in other words, to act on something everyone agreed was necessary from the outset.

The consultation ensured the teaching profession had a voice, and Masters’ report provided food for thought. But on the question of whether the process has advanced debate, one insider pauses. “I would say not a lot.”

Putting aside questions of logistics, I think that the ‘crowded curriculum‘ debate encapsulated in the NSW review is intriguing.

“He’s [Masters] put his finger on the right problem, and it’s particularly an issue at primary school,” says one insider. “There are kids going from primary to secondary, they can’t write, they can’t read, they can’t spell, they can’t do basic maths. We can’t let kids move ahead without these basic literacy and numeracy skills. But that’s not a curriculum problem. It’s a pedagogy [teaching method] problem.”

How schools choose to implement and enact the curriculum will still be at a school level, right?

Replied to Sweeping changes to HSC and syllabus proposed by government review (The Sydney Morning Herald)

The report proposed reducing more than 170 senior-level courses to a “limited set of rigorous, high-quality, advanced courses”. Vocational and academic subjects would slowly be brought closer so that eventually every course would mix theory and application.

HSC students would also have to complete a single major project, which would allow the development and assessment of skills such as gathering and analysing, as well as so-called general capabilities such as team work and communication.

It is interesting to consider the proposed changes in the NSW Curriculum Review Interim Report against other curriculum frameworks, like New Zealand. It also reminds me of a comment someone once made to me that curriculum is the best guess for tomorrow. I was also intrigued by Marten Koomen’s take, especially highlighting Masters’ Rasch over Reckase. It makes me rethink the use of ‘crowded curriculum‘.
Bookmarked ‘Big ideas’ and digital literacy: education department calls for NSW schools shake-up (

Students should be taught digital literacy, there should be a plain-language version of the curriculum, and the role of syllabuses should be reconsidered, the NSW Department of Education has told the NSW curriculum review.

It will be interesting to see what Geoff Masters comes up with in his review of the NSW curriculum. Although the discussion of big ideas and deep learning seem new, this was how VELS was introduced to me some fifteen years ago. I think what is missed is some creativity in how schools and educators approach the curriculum. There are those like Bianca Hewes who are already championing this. I just worry about a back-to-basics approach that is mooted in some circles.
It is interesting listening to this conversation between John Hattie and Geoff Masters that occurred before the Gonski 2.0. The discussion touches on progression, growth and formative assessment. Although Hattie and Masters agree on a few things, one of the things that came out was some of the nuances between their ideas.
Listened Gonski 2.0 – what would these changes mean? from ABC Radio

The Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools discusses a model that gives children personalised teaching based on their ability and achievements, rather than grouping children together according to their age.

On Focus, Nadia sets out to find out exactly what personalised learning is, how it works and what its benefits – or shortcomings – might be.

She speaks to Professor Geoff Masters, CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research, who outlines the shortcomings in our current system and the alarming decline in the performance of 15-year-olds compared to students in other countries.

Dr Glenn Savage, senior lecturer in Public Policy and Sociology of Education at the University of Western Australia agrees that while there is a definite decline in the achievement of Australian students compared to their international peers, he is more sceptical about the recommendations made in Gonski 2.0.

He says there are better things to be spending our education dollars on than another big overhaul of the Australian education system.

He also believes several changes over the past few years have not helped stem the decline and we still have not tackled the issues of inequitable access to education funding that were identified by the first Gonski report.

Glenn Savage and Geoff Masters talk with Nadia Mitsopoulos about the new Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. Some of the points discussed include:

  • Does the new report addresses the question of inequality?
  • Is ‘personalised teaching’ worth the money and investment?
  • Is the educational sector exhausted by continual reform agendas?
  • Do the recommendations really address what is happening in the classroom?

Glenn Savage also summarised his thoughts in a post on The Conversation. While Geoff Masters (and Ray Adams) published a post in the ACER Newsletter addressing the question of ‘inequality’ arguing that recent findings have found that equity and fairness are often more important.

In an ‘equitable’ school system, students’ special needs and unequal socioeconomic backgrounds are recognised and resources (for example, teaching expertise) are distributed unequally in an attempt to redress disadvantage due to personal and social circumstances. Here again, ‘equity’ is achieved by prioritising fairness over equality.source

Liked A different way to organise the school curriculum (Australian Council for Educational Research – ACER)

The way we organise the school curriculum (and the way most of the world organises the school curriculum) is not consistent with what we know about the conditions for successful learning. The current curriculum is not designed to guarantee teaching at an appropriate level of challenge for each and every learner.

An alternative would be to structure the curriculum not in year levels but in proficiency levels, where a proficiency level is an absolute level of attainment or competence in an area of learning, regardless of age or year of school.