Reviewing the Review
Recently the Abbott Government has commissioned a review of the National Curriculum – a curriculum that has not even been fully implemented yet – so perhaps a review was a little premature given that the nature of a review normally occurs after one has conducted an activity but I digress.
As a part of this review there has been a recommendation that there be less focus upon the “general capabilities” of “personal and social capabilities, critical and creative thinking, and ethical and cultural understanding” and with a greater focus upon you guessed it ……literacy and numeracy!!!!
Let’s face it the reviewers are always on a “good thing” with literacy and numeracy – who would, in their right mind, disagree with the idea that we need to be able to read, write, add and subtract. Certainly not me. But that’s not the real game we play when we do a review is it? It’s how we prioritise in order to get to the outcome of “ acceptable levels” of literacy and numeracy. Often this comes in the form of “what gets cut?”
I’m being provocative here. But will a world of more literate and numerate people with less personal and social capability and critical and creative thought, and less ethical and cultural understanding, be a better one?
There is a business maxim that goes- What gets focus gets done. What gets measured gets done well.
If schools are to become places that value highly literate and numerate students at the expense of “ personal and social capability, critical and creative thought, and ethical and cultural understanding “ then we will [for better or worse] end up with the corresponding output.
If I were to ask you to recall what your greatest “stuff ups” have been would you say that they were caused by a lack of personal and social capability, a lack of critical and creative thinking, or a lack of numeracy? If I were to ask you if the greatest conflicts that are occurring in Australia right now are based on a lack of literacy or a lack of ethical and cultural understanding what would your answer be?
I am certainly not denying the importance of literacy and numeracy. They are absolutely critical for our children’s success in all fields but so too are these capabilities that our current educational experts are saying we need less focus on. It does not need to be an either /or situation. The real question is not how we trade these things off against each other but how we succeed in giving children and young people all of these capabilities.
I would argue there has never been a time when a focus on personal and social capabilities, critical and creative thinking and ethical and cultural understanding have been more important.
There has never been a time where these skills have been more important to our world and there has certainly never been a time where they have been more important to our children.