Illustration: Matt Golding.
Victorian education experts are confused and concerned by a federal government plan to review the new Australian curriculum.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced on Friday that two outspoken critics of the curriculum - former teacher and Coalition adviser Kevin Donnelly and academic Ken Wiltshire - would lead the review, which is due to report back by midyear.
Mr Pyne said he was concerned about Australian students' declining results in international tests, and that there had been criticism of the national curriculum over a ''lengthy period of time''.
''The criticisms have ranged from it being overcrowded and heavily prescriptive and rigid, through to the necessity to have themes that form the national curriculum,'' Mr Pyne said.
The deputy dean of Monash University's education faculty, Deborah Corrigan, said the move appeared to be motivated by politics.
''It's definitely a political appointment, given that the curriculum that's been developed hasn't even been implemented yet,'' she said. ''There's nothing to indicate it warrants a review at this stage.''
Associate Professor Corrigan was a senior adviser for the national senior science curriculum that will soon be introduced. Another review could undermine teachers' confidence in the curriculum.
''Constant change just creates uncertainty around the quality of our education,'' she said.
Ingrid Purnell, Australian curriculum manager for the History Teachers' Association of Victoria, rejected suggestions the curriculum was biased - or that it failed to give appropriate weight to key moments in Australian history.
''I don't really see that there's an argument that it's skewed,'' she said. ''I'm surprised by that concern.'' Ms Purnell said the content had been developed and accepted by state and territory governments on both sides of politics.
''In that sense, it's bipartisan, and it has been enthusiastically accepted by history teachers throughout the country. There's just an overwhelmingly positive response to it,'' she said. ''It's certainly not a wishy-washy curriculum.''
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority's board chairman, Barry McGaw, said he welcomed the review. But he also said the authority had used a ''rigorous, national process'' that had produced a high-quality curriculum.
''The Australian curriculum is setting higher standards across the country, perhaps most notably in mathematics and science at the primary school level,'' he said.
Professor McGaw said the ACT began introducing the curriculum's first subjects in 2011. Five other jurisdictions followed, including Victoria in 2013. He said each learning area was developed by experts over two to three years.
State Education Minister Martin Dixon said Victoria was reviewing which parts of the national curriculum it could adopt and adapt to its students' needs.
''While we may use the Australian curriculum as a reference, we are not restricted to it, and we also undertake international benchmarking to ensure our curriculum is world class,'' he said.
In his blog Dr Donnelly has previously criticised history teaching in Australian schools.
''The fact that the only perspectives through which every subject, including history, must be taught are indigenous, Asian and environmental reveals an ideological slant,'' he wrote last year. But on Friday he said he would conduct a ''consultative'' review.
Meredith Peace, Victorian branch president of the Australian Education Union, said the review was an unnecessary return to the culture wars.
''For the first time in history, we have a national curriculum, and now Christopher Pyne - for political reasons - wants to open up the debate again. Teachers don't want this review. It will be incredibly disruptive.''