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The Forum > Article Comments > Federalism, languages and the national curriculum > Comments

Federalism, languages and the national curriculum : Comments

By Grant Wyeth, published 23/4/2012

A national education policy is not in the interests of states nor, therefore, the Commonwealth

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Were the author a teacher or other education professional, his argument might have offered more substance and detail. Especially, he might have offered something more convincing than

" ... Education needs to maintain both its relevance and flexibility in an increasingly changing world, something it will struggle to do through two layers of bureaucracy. Centralised policies cannot properly cater for local requirements, either trade or culturally based. As the market is struggles to provide a universal acceptable standard of education, Federalism also provides a competition mechanism between states that is essential to fuel education innovation. With each state trying to create the best skills for investment and to generate wealth, they will be keeping each other on their toes."

I agree with his complaint that Australia does not require students to be fluent in any language other than English, but I wonder how competition between federalist states, in response to corporate demands, can possibly support an educational remedy for monolingualism.

Departments of education (dinosaurs with the brains of jellyfish) do not move from state to state, but people do. Hence the argument for a national curriculum, a framework whose prescriptions can be optimally resolved to allow teachers to respond individually and collectively to local and individual needs, thus assuring that their students have the best opportunity to live productive lives and, if they wish, to seek their fortunes elsewhere in Australia and the world.

Strong support (if not state and federal requirements) for multilingual education would aid toward this goal, as would strong support for Australian teachers of language and other subjects, subjects which aren't so obviously coupled to regional trade alliances with various foreign governments.

As the article stands, it seems limited to an argument for more multilingualism and less government. I can't see any association of language teachers finding much pith herein.
Posted by Sir Vivor, Monday, 23 April 2012 11:49:54 AM
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This seems to be yet another fatuous argument for the current highly flawed status quo, selective privilege, or five speed education outcomes? Of course we need a national curriculum, with a highly mobile multi-skilled workforce. A national curriculum will finally at long last enable genuine benchmarking and consequent best practise outcomes; as will more autonomous schools and Principles.
We could do a lot worse than largely emulate the Norwegian system, which seems to have a national curriculum, along with have much higher completion rates and tertiary training outcomes. Rhrosty.
Posted by Rhrosty, Monday, 23 April 2012 12:28:33 PM
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A thoughtful, trying-to-be-helpful article. There is much food for thought in this piece. As a practising, but semi-retired, teacher I have more time these days to reflect on education, and life, in general.
I don't recall in any of the numerous, voluminous documents published about the National Curriculum that there was any prescription of only one language which could be taught in Australian schools. The idea, as I understand it, was that the National Curriculum would specify certain guideposts of content that had to have been covered by a certain time in each child's journey through school and that the different states, regions, or 'systems' would construct teaching programmes which delivered those content guideposts in an appropriate fashion to those students in their charge.
I also understand that at first, the organisers would try to bring every state 'on-board' and that any narrowing of curriculum would occur, by agreement of all concerned, at some time in the future.

I agree that a National Curriculum is necessary for Australia’s continued growth. It is possible to have too much centralism: it is equally possible to have too little. This is the situation we have had for the last many years where there were squabbles between the states over how much time was spent on the individual subjects in each year of schooling. It is a matter of calculable fact that Queensland students spend 40 to 45 percent of the time on Science than their New South Wales counterparts do.
Posted by Brian of Buderim, Monday, 23 April 2012 4:30:41 PM
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*In Finland students learn two languages as well as their mother tongue, so why can't we?*

Because we are unlike Europe, so you are comparing apples and oranges.

In Europe you can travel a couple of hundred km and three different
languages are spoken, so people will learn what they use, unlike

Let those students with an aptitude for languages learn them, but
please don't put kids off school completely by trying to thump
another language into them, when there is no good reason. Our
education system can't even get the basics right, let alone wander
off in these other directions which some people dream up.
Posted by Yabby, Monday, 23 April 2012 6:59:28 PM
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I think Brian of Buderim summed it up nicely when he described the article as a "thoughtful, trying-to-be-helpful" one. Sadly, I don't think it offers much help.

I, too, was puzzled by the languages distraction. The Australian Curriculum as it stands doesn't appear to mandate any languages at all - but it will, when the LOTE curriculum is rolled out, ensure that those languages are taught with some consistency across all jurisdictions. In theory, anyway. I am also puzzled that the author fell into the regular trap of assuming that Queenslanders and Western Australians would do well learning Mandarin, simply because the resources mined in those states end up in China. What good will Mandarin do down a mineshaft? It's not like they drop down a hole, grab a bagful of minerals and then pop up to the surface and look for the nearest Chinese buyer. Where are the head offices of these companies? It is the employees in those offices who need to have a grasp on Mandarin.

I'm not in love with the Australian Curriculum, especially as it has been rolled out in Queensland. To me, it is still educating for the 20th Century rather than the 21st. It has tokenistic references to Asia and to ATSI cultures, a brief mention of ICT competence, but otherwise it's the same old curriculum (in my area [English] anyway). But I do see the virtue of breaking those state barriers so that the mobile kids of the 21st Century don't have to go through the same repetition/missing stuff that I did as my family constantly crossed state boundaries in the 20th. If it is uniformly high-quality, then why should each state invent its own wheel?
Posted by Otokonoko, Tuesday, 24 April 2012 10:26:14 PM
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