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Parliamentary committee slams NSW school curriculum review, calls for changes to system

October 01, 2021

Original Article:

A NSW parliamentary education committee has trashed an extensive review into the state’s education system and opted to hold its own assessment, a year after the original report prompted the government to overhaul the scheme.

The state government last year unveiled a plan for a completely new curriculum following a two-year review by Australian Council for Educational Research chief executive Professor Geoff Masters.

The review suggested fewer subjects and a new set of HSC subjects, to come into effect by 2024, influenced by Professor Masters’ final report.

But a year after the release of the final report, the Legislative Council’s Portfolio Committee No. 3, chaired by One Nation’s Mark Latham, slammed the ideas as “untested and unworkable”.

Professor Masters was last year highly critical of the syllabus and its “crowded nature”, and recommended the government implement fewer subjects and time restrictions on teachers delivering content.

But Mr Latham slammed the Professor’s account, calling it politically correct and “disconnected from the basics”.

“At no time did Professor Masters’ analyse the details of the existing NSW syllabuses or visit a NSW school during school hours,” he said.

“It’s hard to know how this can even be described as a curriculum review.

“It was more like a one-man tutorial in experimental syllabus theories, including untested, unworkable ideas.”

The committee published its own review of the curriculum, due to be tabled in parliament this week, and endorsed by Mr Latham and government members.

The committee’s report, published on Monday, found that the NSW school system had “lost sight of the commonsense reality” that high quality learning materials, especially textbooks, could improve learning outcomes.

The committee made 33 recommendations, including that the NSW government “adapt evidence-based approaches” when altering the curriculum.

It also recommended the government return to chronological teachings of history, mandate the study of civics and citizenship and teach classroom material “in a manner consistent with the values of parents”.

In the report’s foreword, Mr Latham said there was a growing trend in education for “neo-Marxist propaganda” that would “pollute the minds of students”.

He said commendable proposals were “virtually invisible” in Professor Masters’ report.

“It’s as if political correctness has taken hole, that he’s too worried about backwash from the Education Establishment to clearly state several reform propositions,” Mr Latham said.

“In many respects, this committee has done the detailed work the Masters review failed to do, with a deep dive into the NSW syllabuses and their shortcomings.”

Professor Masters told The Sydney Morning Herald his report reflected the aspirations and concerns of the community after months of consultation.

He said his evidence included international research, verbal and written input from the community, and a review of curriculum reform initiatives in Australia and overseas.

He defended his advocacy of untimed syllabus.

“The current curriculum expects all students to advance in lock-step, whether or not they are ready, which is often a recipe for ongoing student failure,” Professor Masters said.

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