Education system reaches ‘tipping point’

Gonski review told teachers and curriculum standards need improvement (Bigstock)

Australian students have suffered as a result of a “dumbed down” curriculum and culture of “low expectations”, the latest Gonski education review has been told, reports The Australian.

Education advocates, including the Catholic Education Commission NSW, Education Standards Institute, NSW Secondary Principals Council and the independent Schools Council of Australia, have called for a renewed focus on building teacher capacity and evidence-based teaching practices.

They have also urged a return to a “high-quality” curriculum based on core skills, including literacy and numeracy, and investment in behavioural management programs, pointing out that children will not learn in an undisciplined environment.

Dubbed “Gonski 2.0”, the federal government’s Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools has been urged to resist the temptation to search for a so-called “magic bullet”, lamenting a long history of “good ideas” foisted upon the sector with minimal results.

International testing shows Australian students have fallen below the OECD average in terms of reading, maths and science. Locally, NAPLAN results reveal literacy and numeracy standards have flatlined.

Education Standards Institute director Kevin Donnelly warned the review panel that the nation’s education system had reached a “tipping point” and unless there was a “root and branch renewal” of schools’ management, as well as teacher education and associated curriculum and pedagogy, standards would continue to fall.

“Compared to stronger performing overseas education systems, Australian schools have suffered as a result of adopting a less rigorous, academically-based curriculum,” Dr Donnelly said.

“Classroom interaction and practice also suffer as a result of adopting innovations like child-centred learning, inquiry-based and discovery learning, open classrooms and constructivism.

“While all have their place, unless greater focus is given to explicit teaching and a curriculum that focuses on teaching deep knowledge, skills and understanding, standards and outcomes will not improve.”

Several submitters lamented the so-called crowded curriculum as well as an increasing expectations on schools to undertake an expanded role in society, such as healthcare and welfare, that can distract from their core business.

Catholic Education Commission NSW, which represents 591 Catholic schools across the state, believes school funding could significantly improve student learning if it were used to develop teachers and principals as “instructional leaders”, a process that involves goal-setting, monitoring lesson plans and evaluating teachers to promote student learning.


Gonski 2.0 gives ‘dumbed down’ curriculums a D-minus (The Australian)


Catholic Education Commission NSW Gonski 2 Submission (CECNSW)

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