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A National Curriculum for Australia

© Beverley Paine, 27 Nov 07

A media statement issued by Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith on the 28th February 2007 outlined the newly elected government’s plans to set up a National Curriculum Board with the aim of developing a “rigorous, consistent and quality curriculum for all Australian students – from kindergarten to year 12” within three years.

A National Curriculum has long been sought largely to eliminate the problems that arise when students move between states.

According to the statement “the National Curriculum Board will bring together Australia’s best and brightest educationalists to ensure the best aspects of State and Territory curricula are available to all our children.” It would be wonderful to see some input from home educators, but I suspect that this education sector will be overlooked.

In reality, a National Curriculum is yet another move towards eliminating the sovereignty of the States. Nationalisation is probably an inevitable outcome of Federalism, it’s just taking a century or so to completely weasel the authority away from the States...

In the 1990s a National Curriculum was vociferously rejected, principally in the first instance by universities, and then by private schools and most senior high school staff. It was implemented fully in only one state (SA) and then abandoned. I can hear SA teachers groaning at the thought of learning yet another new curriculum (the fourth in just under two decades!)

The focus on Maths, Sciences, English and History will be met with considerable opposition from educators across Australia. It ignores placing any emphasis on the important role of The Arts in our cultural identity and day to day life. Inter-cultural studies - currently disguised as Studies in Society and Environment as well as Languages Other Than English - are not yet mentioned. And what about Geography?

In truth, it is impossible to carve up what a child needs to learn into distinct subject areas. The only reason any education system does so is purely for the purposes of tracking the educational progress of children en masse. Individualised education programs do not need to be divided into separate subjects and dished up piece-meal to students. A study of history naturally encompasses all other subjects, and if it doesn’t then the child isn’t receiving an optimal education.

Will the introduction of this National Curriculum simplify the existing curriculum frameworks - at the expense of an adequate education for Australian children? Teachers and teacher unions will not allow it. There are some heady battles ahead for the newly elected Australian government.

There is already a strong indication that home educators will be compelled to comply with the curriculum. For many this will have very little effect, and may even prove to be advantageous over current arrangements with state educational authorities. However, it will not embrace religious tolerance in the fullest sense, and will continue to teach content that many in the community, especially homeschooling community, find objectionable.

The debate over whether Australian schools teach Creation Science as well as, or in place of, Evolution Science, is one that was raised a couple of years ago and then buried. It’s a hot topic for debate elsewhere in the world and I’m sure it will surface again here. Many homeschoolers may find it impossible to comply with a curriculum that forces them to teach evolution. The ability to teach a curriculum that reflects family values and religious beliefs are among the many reasons home educators reject school based education.

Unschoolers and natural learners will also find much to be dismayed about with a compulsory National Curriculum. Children learn in their own way in their own time in an unschooling home and often the results are not visible or evidenced until the adolescent years when it can all come together with amazing totality. Although I found recording my children’s learning on a regular basis a useful planning aid, many families find the amount of specific detail required by educational authorities unnecessary and tedious to the point that it can interfere with the purpose of educating their children.

There is little doubt in my mind that the Labor Government will do it’s best to implement its election promises. There is a huge question mark hanging over their ability to do so. Once people begin to see the detail in this new push for a National Curriculum I foresee that the opposition will grow considerably.


"I am a homeschooler and an ardent supporter of a National Education
Curriculum.  Simply because we choose to unschool our children, it
does not mean that those children who are schooled should continue to
be disadvantaged by the mobility of their parents.  Good teachers
exist in schools, as bad teachers exist in homes.  To paint the
education system with the brush of all is substandard smacks of
Anonymous, 28/11/07


Thank you for you comment.

I agree with you wholeheartedly on the three points you make:

  • A National Curriculum is exactly what students and families transferring schools need, and it will be a blessing for teachers too.
  • Good teachers exist in schools and homeschools, and bad teachers exist in schools and homeschools.
  • I also support the provision of a National Curriculum and have done so since I left school myself over 30 years ago.

I have been an ardent supporter of schools, but like John Holt eventually gave up in despair at the 'touching up' jobs when real change is need. Home education will always be a compromise for me until it moves closer to true community based education. Lack of recognition and support from governments hinders this progress. Private and public education are universally recognised and funded, yet as a form of private education home education is not.

In my blog I express what I believe will be considerable opposition that the new government has to overcome in order to establish a National Curriculum within the given time frame of three years.

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine


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