Making a nationally relevant curriculum for 2021 and beyond

Our AsiaPac Education and Technology Lead, Greg O'Connor recently shared his thoughts on the issues we need to address to future proof education in Australia. And as we celebrate 200 years of Catholic Schools in Australia, we need to make sure we're taking the time to look to the future, as well as celebrating the legacy of Catholic Education. Originally appearing in Education Today in April 2021, you can read Greg's thoughts below.

The Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has flagged an impending review of the education sector, arguing that further reform is necessary to reverse declining academic outcomes and return the nation to the top of the global rankings by 2030.

As someone who has worked in the education sector for over thirty years, I know that there are a lot of factors at play. Here are some of the issues that we will need to address when reviewing our national curriculum.

Students and parents need more feedback

Both parents and students are expecting more and more feedback from their teachers. However, the problem is that teachers have limited hours in their day to devote to feedback in great detail. Thus, they are increasingly turning to technology to help meet this growing demand.

The ‘red pen’ approach with formative assessment has long taken up too much time, forcing many teachers to depend on summative assessments or pass/fail assessments, even though they may not believe this is the right approach for their students.

Hence, I am finding more teachers are leaning towards technology and tools such as WriQ, which helps cut down on the time spent marking work as well as reducing subjective judgment. These tools can also enable a greater marking consistency in writing across age levels by using rubrics. The automation element of these technological tools helps to generate score writing indicators such as grammar, spelling, vocabulary maturity and punctuation.

Assistive technology is like giving the student the option of a ramp or the stairs to reach a new floor. Although not every student would require the ramp, it should be available for those who do and accordingly, assistive technology tools should be implemented throughout our curriculums.

Over the past ten years, digital transformation is only growing faster, and the same must be applied to our education sector. Technology should be integrated into all Australian schools. Outside of school, we need to be equipping our students for the realities of the modern working society.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has accelerated the rush to online learning, and thus environment for swift and rapid innovation. Both principals and schools had to quickly test what did and did not work for teachers and students in completely foreign environments. Despite students returning to the classroom this year, we’re witnessing more schools moving towards a permanent hybrid model of teaching that places greater emphasis on technology.

Doing away with the final finite test

As an educator, I paid little to no attention when I was teaching large mathematical topics. My experience over several years interacting with a variety of grade-level students was that most adopted curriculums would take large topics and would funnel multiple maths learning objectives into large content areas.

However, I recognised that students need to be foundationally sound in their thought process and had to learn to acquire maths language and be good problem solvers. Increasingly, there is a growing body of evidence that teachers are seeking new methods to integrate the periodic assessment approach over a final, finite test into their classrooms.

Student-teacher relationships are key

It is also common for students, and even adults, to openly express a ‘hatred’, or undermine their proficiency in maths. We have a collective and prevalent distaste and indifference towards maths as a subject in this country and that’s a big problem that we need to address.

The reputation for maths and science being a difficult subject has been routinely stigmatised and continues to be perpetuated when younger students hear phrases such as “I am not good at maths” or “I hate maths”, from both their teachers and parents.

Fundamentally, the subject being taught to students is not the problem. Students will not learn before developing a good relationship with their instructor or teacher. Relationships should be the principal focus and the forefront of learning in classrooms.