Life Education ‘Back to basics’ key to NSW curriculum shake-up

‘Back to basics’ key to NSW curriculum shake-up

nsw school curriculum
The new syllabus will focus more on fundamentals such as maths, science and English. Photo: Getty
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The NSW government plans to take a “back to basics” approach under a new school curriculum due to come into full effect by 2024.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday announced the government’s response to a review of the state’s education system led by Professor Geoff Masters.

Professor Masters’ review recommended the removal of subjects such as “lifestyle studies”, “wearable art” and “puppetry” and streamlining crowded syllabuses.

Ms Berejiklian said there were three parts to the government’s response to the review – de-cluttering the school curriculum to prioritise mathematics, science and English, the deepening of knowledge in those fields and the modernisation of pathways for year 12 students as they considered tertiary education or full-time work.

This would include pre-qualification in year 11 and 12 for university or TAFE courses and an “untimed syllabus” to ensure struggling students are not left behind on course material.

This could mean students in the same classroom studying different things.

“I want NSW to have the highest education standards in the world,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We have a long way to go in making sure our students can compete with the best in the world and that’s exactly what we need to do – we know that in the next decade, the competition will be [there] in getting those jobs, getting those advanced manufacturing jobs.

“We want NSW to be the capital of those industries.”

The government changes would begin to be implemented from 2021, when subjects considered unnecessary will be removed from the senior-school curriculum.

In 2022, new English and maths curricula will be implemented for kindergarten, year one and year two, followed in 2023 by years three to 10, and in 2024 by year 11 and 12 syllabuses.

Ms Berejiklian said subjects “have kept creeping in” in the past 30 years that are superfluous and the changes would reduce paperwork and red tape for NSW teachers.

Professor Masters’ study found 98 per cent of teachers “believed excess syllabus content was leading to diminished educational outcomes for students”.

“For parents, knowing there is a clear focus on making sure their children, our students, are the best they can be, our education system in NSW can be one of the best of the world … it’s really exciting,” NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said.

“We need to cut the number of those extra courses that really don’t contribute to anything post-school while still finding ways to make sure students can be creative.”

There are about 1.2 million students at 3100 NSW schools from kindergarten to year 12.

The NSW Teachers Federation has welcomed the government’s “unhurried approach” on reforming the school curriculum.

It said the proposals would be embraced if resourcing was adequate.

“Teachers, as educational experts, continue to be best-placed in understanding the learning and curriculum needs of their students,” senior vice-president Amber Flohm said.

“The profession will continue to develop the literacy and numeracy skills of their students, as they always have.

“The dynamics of a classroom, with up to 30 students, means additional individualised support can only be realised when accompanied by additional resources.”

Peak business lobby group Business NSW also welcomed the government’s plans, saying in a statement they had alleviated business concerns about job readiness.