Curriculum revamp

10-Mar-2010

Curriculum revamp

THE draft Australian Curriculum attempts to move beyond, rather than entrench, a ‘black armband’ view of history, according to Aboriginal educator Chris Sarra.
He says it has scope to improve Australians’ knowledge and understanding of Indigenous histories, cultures and perspectives without feeling threatened, guilty, betrayed or sorry.
Mr Sarra, who runs the Queensland University of Technology’s Stronger Smarter Institute, was commenting on the draft curriculum for students from Kindergarten to Year 10 in the subjects of English, maths, science and history.
Unveiled by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Education Minister Julia Gillard last Monday, the draft will now be subjected to a three-month period of public comment and ‘roadtested’ by 150 schools across Australia.
Public comment
Developed by the independent Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for rollout in Australian schools next year, the curriculum aims to teach students from all school systems in all states and territories the same knowledge, skills and understanding.
But the draft met with early criticism from the Federal Opposition, which said it
over-emphasised Indigenous culture and had been ‘skewed to a black armband view of Australian history’.
“We have a seemingly over-emphasis on Indigenous culture and history and almost an entire blotting out of our British traditions and British heritage,” said Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne.
“I am deeply concerned that Australian students will be taught a particular black armband view of our history without any counterbalancing.
“The national curriculum is unbalanced, it won’t give young Australians confidence about their future because it doesn’t teach them the .. balanced truth about their past.”
Mr Pyne said the draft curriculum had 118 references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture but none to the Westminster parliamentary system or the Magna Carta, on which Australia’s laws were based.
“There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t teach both sides of Australia’s history,” he said, declaring that a Coalition government would scrap the national curriculum and start again if it deemed it necessary.
Ms Gillard said before the draft curriculum launch that she thought it ‘got the balance right’.
‘Balance right’
“Teaching the history of Australia requires us to teach the history of the first Australians, our Indigenous peoples,” she said on 27 February, as rumblings about the history curriculum began to emerge. “This is not a black armband view of history.”
And Professor Stuart Maclntyre, who oversaw the history stream of the draft curriculum in consultation with Indigenous and other experts, directly rejected Mr Pyne’s assertions.
“I think anybody who looks at the curriculum online will have great difficulty in finding any armbands,” Prof Maclntyre said.
“One of the ways we (avoid this), of course, is to set the peopling of Australia, both by the original inhabitants and then by European settlers, in a comparative perspective.”
Chris Sarra said that, if read correctly, the national curriculum seemed  determined to move beyond ‘romantic white notions of Australian history’.
“Fortunately it also seems determined to move beyond black armband views of history,” he said.
“It may surprise some to realise that many Aboriginal people will be pleased about this shift beyond such representations of Aboriginal history.
We have always been a historically proud and robust group of people who have simply asked other Australians to know and understand the truth about us and our history, not to feel sorry for us.
“The new curriculum directions has some scope to enable such knowledge and understanding, without the need for other Australians to feel threatened, guilty, betrayed or sorry.”
Significant
ACARA Chairperson Prof Barry McGaw said the release of the draft was a significant event in Australian history, and urged parents, business and industry, academic organisations and the whole community to comment on the draft.
The Australian Education Union (AEU) expressed disappointment at the level of consultation to date with teachers, and said the new curriculum would require money for teaching materials and the professional development of teachers.
The Australian Special Education Principals Association (ASEPA) said students with special needs, who made up five per cent of the Australian school population, were ‘invisible’ in the draft curriculum content and urged schools and teachers with special needs students to closely scrutinise the documents and provide feedback.
A draft English, mathematics, science and history curriculum for Years 11-12 will be released for consultation later this year.
The second phase of the curriculum will include languages, geography and the arts. To view the draft Australian Curriculum, visit the consultation website www.australiancurriculum.edu.au


What the curriculum contains
The national curriculum seeks to ensure that ‘all young Australians have the opportunity to learn about, acknowledge and respect the history and culture of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders’.
Most references to Indigenous perspectives are contained in the history and science drafts.
The science draft references Indigenous understandings of the natural environment. Of the 237 draft content descriptions in science, there are 10 that refer to Indigenous perspectives – on average, one per year.
The history draft covers Indigenous history prior to European settlement and proposes that both Indigenous and settler views of the arrival of Europeans be investigated. This involves 39 of the 234 draft content descriptions in history.
Some examples:
Grade Three students will learn ‘the ways of life, beliefs and practices of traditional owners of country’; reasons for celebrating or commemorating events of national significance, including Australia Day, Anzac Day, Sorry Day; and the meaning and significance of emblems and symbols of the nation including the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
Grade Four students will be taught the significance of the Dreaming and the contribution of Indigenous Australian to the nation.
Grade Nine students will  explore the consequences of contact, intended and unintended, between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Europeans in Australia.
Grade 10 students will learn the civil rights struggles of Indigenous Australians with reference to government policies (including protection, assimilation, integration, reconciliation and self- determination), the 1967 Referendum, the Mabo decision and the Apology to the Stolen Generations.

Source: Koori Mail

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