One of the biggest items on the national education agenda in 2021 is a review of the Australian curriculum.

Australia’s Education Ministers have asked the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to “refine, update and declutter” the curriculum.

And now after undertaking an initial review involving hundreds of teachers, curriculum experts and academics across Australia, the review will soon be opened to public feedback.

ACARA’s CEO David de Carvalho said it was hoping to unveil a pared back and re-shaped curriculum that is well-organised and clear. It is also hoped that teachers will “find joy” when they see it.

Parent feedback encouraged

Mr de Carvalho told a schools summit in late February that he hoped parents would add their voice and opinions when the 10-week public consultation period opened in late April.

He said ACARA had recently undertaken research with parent focus groups and it showed the pandemic had given parents “new perspectives” on their children’s education.

“While experiences differed from school to school and family to family, the experiences of remote learning gave many parents a unique (and often frustrating) insight into the mechanics of schooling and education, with many finding a new appreciation for teachers and their skills and taking a greater interest in the curriculum and how their children’s progress is measured,” Mr de Carvalho said.

“Parents reported that pre-COVID, they generally relied on the information they got from conversations with teachers to determine how their child is progressing, but as a result of the pandemic, some parents now feel more empowered to bring their own observations of their child to those conversations.”

He said he expected parents’ “first-hand, up close” experience with the schooling system during 2020 would result in a greater level of parent interest in this year’s NAPLAN results, and hopefully involvement in the Curriculum review.

“We look forward to hearing views to help us improve the curriculum and ensure it is serving our children and young people, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to live fulfilling lives and to shape the future of Australia.”

An update on NAPLAN

NAPLAN – an annual “point-in-time” assessment for all Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 – will resume in May this year. 2020’s NAPLAN test was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

This year around 70 percent of schools will undertaken NAPLAN online, and in 2022 all testing will have transitioned from paper to online.

ACARA are also conducting a review of NAPLAN this year, and will report any recommendations for change to education ministers by mid 2021. Its analysis will take into account the findings of an independent review commissioned by the NSW, Victoria, Queensland and ACT governments released in 2020.

The ACARA chief said the key issues it was considering included:

• Are there alternative ways to achieve NAPLAN’s purpose as a point-in-time, objective measure of student progress as well as school and system performance?
• What is the best way for writing to be assessed?
• When – in terms of which year levels and which term – is the best time to run the tests?
• Should an additional domain be assessed? If so, which one?

“These are all important issues to consider, but we need to keep in mind that any proposals for change will entail trade-offs … and it is unlikely if ministers do agree to changes that all stakeholders will agree with all aspects of any new set of arrangements.

“There is one thing I think we all agree on when it comes to NAPLAN (and that is) it does not and cannot measure the overall quality of education provided in a schools. Ministers have bene very clear on this point.

“Ministers have also been very clear … that the overall purpose of our education system is to ensure our young people are confident and creative, life-long learners and active and informed members of the community.”

Find out More

Read the ACARA chief’s speech in full.

Read more about NAPLAN on the National Assessment Program website.

A special page for parents/carers on the website also provides more information.