All those interested in Australia having a quality education system whereby our international performance in literacy and mathematics is going up - not down, as is presently the case - should welcome the review of the national curriculum.
First, let us be clear about one thing: this review was not a surprise sprung on an unsuspecting public.
The Coalition promised to have a curriculum review before the 2010 election. This was repeated before the election last year. Far from being a secret, it was shouted from the rooftops before, and during, the election campaign. The Coalition has been consistent about the need for a review for several years. Doubters can check the record.
The Coalition has been in this policy space for a long, long time. We made a formal submission to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, the body tasked with developing the curriculum. We expressed our concerns, as did many others, about elements of the curriculum.
There can be little doubt the Abbott government has a firm mandate to initiate a review of the national curriculum. The electorate endorsed it; parents want it; many education experts and teachers desire it; and, for the sake of our students and developing a quality education system, this government is doing it, as promised.
To suggest the review is a political ploy is disingenuous. Those who think so should have a close look at their own motives for articulating such a nonsense: partisan politics is at its worst when dressed up as public concern.
Those who are critical of the review and question the sincerity of the government's motives might be forgetting that incoming governments not only have a right to review their predecessor's policies, they have a duty to do so, to ensure policies are still relevant, needed, cost-effective and meet voters' expectations, as variously expressed in the most recent and decisive election.
Let us not forget the shambolic policy processes of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments in education, on school funding, the national curriculum and university funding arrangements.
It was rushed, ad hoc, stop-go; frequently involved threats; lacked a clear evidence base and was driven almost solely by a desperate government seeking to pursue a politics-first policy agenda designed to get the government over the line at the election. It was not about developing a good, long-term education policy.
There are good educational reasons for the curriculum review. While the Coalition agrees that in a small, united country like Australia, faced with globalisation and increasing international competition, we need a national curriculum, we must ensure it genuinely meets students' needs, matches parents' expectations and drives education quality. It is, of course, not the only driver of quality, but it is an important one.
There are serious doubts that the national curriculum, in its present form, is meeting those policy demands.
The review is an open, independent public inquiry. Its terms of reference are broad, it is required to consult and its report will be made public.
So far, criticism of the inquiry has been almost entirely about its members. Whoever is appointed to lead an inquiry of this type is likely to attract criticism. The important point for those with strongly held views is to participate in the process, and then assess what the findings say, but to do so in terms of the evidence that underpins the recommendations.
Petty personal attacks before we even get to the result of the review serve no purpose other than the political - the last thing we all need.
We expect the states, the main deliverers of school education, to be fully involved in the review.
This government, like every other government before it in dealing with a review's recommendations, will listen to community's response to those recommendations.
This nation's curriculum policy must not be captured by any fad, by any vested interest group, or by those pursuing political or narrow agendas.
It must be balanced, ensuring students are exposed to a full array of ideas; up-to-date, relevant and help students develop the appropriate critical skills so they can make their own choices about what they want to believe or support.
The national curriculum is a work in progress. It is new. Before it is fully rolled out, let us make sure we have got it right. We are not there yet. That is the reason for the review. Not a diversion, rather part of the main game of developing a quality education system.
Christopher Pyne is the federal Minister for Education.