So far, the educational issue that gets the most attention from the public and the political sectors is school funding – which schools receive more or less than other schools if we spend more or less than other countries and so on.
Unfortunately this means that other critical aspects of education are side by side. And the most important of these is the school program – which children will be taught at each stage of their school education.
Fortunately, the NSW government has begun a review of her curriculum, and the Victorian opposition plans to do the same if elected later this month. Other states and territories would do well to look at the same path and look carefully at their own.
Developing curricula is an act of balancing and involves compromises and compromises.
Children spend a limited number of hours in the classroom each year and there are many competitive requirements for this time: from basic literacy and numeracy skills to the general knowledge of the world and its history, health and physical activity, using technology and now so-called "general possibilities" such as cooperation and creativity.
A curriculum should also respond to the needs of school communities, as stated in the Halsey report on regional, rural and distance learning.
This balancing act becomes more and more problematic. There is strong support to add to an already full curriculum in important ways. Decisions must be made on what needs to be preserved and what to launch.
These decisions should be taken with expert advice, without resorting to superficial and dangerous proposals such as the "21st Century Pioneer Skills" Charles Fadel, who recently proposed relinquishing trigonometry and teaching "attention."
Care must be taken to ensure that the curriculum does not explicitly or explicitly define teaching methods. In theory, it determines the content students must learn and the skills they need to conquer, but does not state how these things should be taught.
The Australian curriculum says children need to start learning about rates in Year 4 but has nothing to say about whether they need to learn to sit in an office or play in a sandbox. Schools comment on which teaching strategies are most likely to be effective.
However, in fact, a curriculum can and often encourages some teaching practices. An example is the setting up of the second Gonski report on "enhancing the development of general opportunities and increasing their situation in the context of teaching, using learning outcomes to support clear and structured approaches to teaching, evaluation, "
There are two risks to this. One is that it will approve and issue the wrong idea that general possibilities are independent of the knowledge of facts and concepts. The other is that the proposed policies and practices in the Gonski report go beyond the existing database and therefore run the risk of wasting valuable time and resources – especially the time of teachers who already have a large administrative burden and of students whose education is at stake .
The general possibilities listed in the Australian curriculum – digital competences, critical and creative thinking, personal and social skills, intercultural understanding and moral comprehension – are of course valuable to the world of work and to life more broadly.
The crucial questions are whether they can be properly structured in learning progress and whether they can be taught and evaluated separately from content knowledge. The data currently available suggest that the answer to both questions is not.
Cognitive scientific research has shown that the development of creativity, critical thinking and communication depends on the power of a student's knowledge of a subject.
As explained by the highly respected assessment expert Dylan William: "For all the obvious similarities, critical thinking in history and critical thinking in mathematics are different and developed in different ways."
It seems that there is no general critical thinking skill – to think critically about something productively, you need some knowledge. You just have to spend five minutes in the social media to see the results of the violation of this principle.
Trainers and curriculum managers need to find a way to incorporate the development of important competences while also promoting the basic knowledge that children have to acquire during their school years to thrive in the years to come.
Dr. Jennifer Buckingham is a senior researcher at the Center for Independent Studies and co-author of What a review of Gonski 2 went wrong with Blaise Joseph.