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Politics have no place in curriculum review: Christopher Pyne

Date

Christopher Pyne

"There are good educational reasons for the curriculum review."

"There are good educational reasons for the curriculum review." Photo: Supplied

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.

140 comments

  • Politics have no place in a curriculum review. So I suppose we can count on you, and your party mates, to promise that you'll leave this one to the experts?

    You know, the same way you left the climate science to the scientists. Or the questions of therapeutic prescriptions to doctors and the TGA.

    "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."

    Oh - funny, that sounded like politics right there. My ears must be deceiving me. Especially as the Rudd Gillard Rudd government were responsible for the Gonski funding overhaul, perhaps the most significant positive development in Australian education for the last decade.

    Commenter
    Red Pony
    Date and time
    January 20, 2014, 11:09AM
    • +1 The irony of that headline, too...

      Commenter
      Gripgirl
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 11:24AM
    • Exactly what was the Nelson-Turnbull-Abbott opposition shouting from the rooftops?

      Commenter
      Antman
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 11:35AM
    • To Red Pony,
      He He ...Especially as the Rudd Gillard Rudd government were responsible for the Gonski funding overhaul, perhaps the most significant positive development in Australian education for the last decade.
      With that comment you blow your cover ..he he ..Gonski and Funds ..where are those funds...Which Credit Card we are going to use for that "Gonski" trick.
      Give that government time to prove that are bad or not.
      Labor=Waste had 6 years to fix education and they left WASTE.

      Commenter
      ozpol
      Location
      Sydney West
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 11:52AM
    • Oh dear, Christopher. If you were a bit smarter and had one gram of political savvy, you would not have published this. Even if you totally believed everything you wrote, you would not have published it because of the picture it paints of you and your motives. If you dont believe me, read all of the comments.

      Commenter
      jessie
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 11:57AM
    • Isnt education a state issue anyway?

      And isnt the Lib party the party of decentralisation?

      Commenter
      asdf
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 12:03PM
    • ozpol,
      You're use of 'credit card' indicates that you believe government borrowings are the same as private borrowing strategies.
      You are wrong on many accounts that governments actually print and own the money and governments never die & governments usually borrow money at very low rate to generate returns larger than the cost of the money (they actually have a real return on their investments).
      Governments don't shut down to pay back credit cards & governments like the US have been in debt for over 100 years.
      To not invest in education will see our long-term standard of living decline against the rest of the world, which would actually be the government failing in its duty.

      Commenter
      Econorat
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 12:34PM
    • When Pyne suggests that this is "not a diversion" I am compelled to consider that the sole purposes of this review.
      The idea of a "firm mandate" is laughable.
      The rest of the article was poorly written, (at best) largely meaningless rhetoric.

      Commenter
      frank
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 1:30PM
    • No politics at work here, you must be kidding. It is all about your politics Christopher (the Christie era has arrive in Australia). You wern't trying to punish states that signed up for Gonski nor did you ever collude with LNP states prior to the election to refuse to sign on to Gonski even though is would disadvantage them. I can see the review recommendations now:

      A) Need to place greater emphasis on Judeo Christian values.
      B) Need to give Menzies greater place in history for shaping Australia's future.
      C) No proof small class sizes work, therfore need to increase class sizes in public system and reduce teaching numbers.
      D) Teachers to blame for most ills, retraining camps required.
      E) Community schools need to be encouraged, public schools need to be discouraged or sold off to community groups.

      I was listening to you on QA Christopher and I just couldn't believe anyone would put you in charge of an education system. You have no vision just an ideological axe to grind.

      Commenter
      Bruce
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 1:50PM
    • asdf, your right, education is a state issue but it was the ALP under Rudd and Gillard governments that centralised it to Canberra under the title "national curriculum"

      Commenter
      Abloke
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      January 20, 2014, 4:09PM

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