The 'Australian' Curriculum

numeracy leaders teachers Oct 18, 2023

In my work in the Numeracy Teachers Academy and as a Numeracy Consultant I have the privilege of  working with schools and teachers from across Australia (and beyond). I find it absolutely fascinating learning about the similarities and differences across education systems within our states and territories.

For the most part there are more similarities than differences.

For example, almost every teacher I meet finds it really challenging to teach Numeracy and often feels more confident teaching Literacy than Numeracy. Added to this, in almost every school, Literacy is afforded more time, money and focus than Numeracy (it is my mission is to help change this!).

As a general rule, across Australia there is much 'room for improvement' in our teaching of Numeracy.

One huge difference that really baffles me is Australia’s use of so many different curriculums.

Australia is a large country in terms of area. In fact it is the 6th  largest country in terms of area. Yet in terms of population we are quite small. We are the 55th country in terms of population with just over 26 million residents.

One if my favourite images is this one which I found on a postcard many years ago whilst on holiday (when else do you ever have time or the inclination to look at postcards than on a holiday?). I often use the image (below) as a prompt for discussions in Year 5/6 maths classrooms and explore area/proportion/multiplicative comparison.

 We talk about countries in this image like Ireland and estimate how many time larger Australia is compared to the 'Emerald Isle'. We discuss scale, population, measurement and direction. It is a great investigation! I digress...back to the purpose of the blog... 

One thing to note about Australia’s education system is that under the Commonwealth Constitution it is the primary responsibility of the state and territory governments. This document explains the ins and outs in more detail, but basically the federal government provides funding for education, but the state and territory governments make the education based decisions.

While I can see how this provides state and territory governments the autonomy to make decisions based on their context, for the most part, there are not huge differences between our states and territories. In fact I would argue there are often more differences within states than between states. For example, regional and rural Victoria would have more in common with regional areas in NSW or SA than they would with metropolitan Melbourne (there are, of course, exceptions to this).

This brings me to my gripe with the idea of an ‘Australian’ Curriculum.

Last year ACARA released Version 9.0 of the Mathematics Curriculum. There was a great deal of research, work, consultation and thought that went into creating this document. According to this document  "ACARA is an independent statutory authority and a corporate Commonwealth entity that manages funding in accordance with its Charter. Its funding is approved by the Education Council, which has endorsed a 50% contribution by the Commonwealth and 50% contributions by state and territory governments."

Yet the roll out of version 9.0 has been handled differently in every State/Territory.

I have been doing some research to try to get my head around exactly where each State/Territory sits in terms of the curriculum and this is what I have found. Note: this seems to be still changing.

From the 8 states and territories there are only 4 (3 of which are the smallest in population) that are actually using Version 9.0. Those that are using it, are implementing it at various points over the next 3 years.

If you know me, you will appreciate that one of my biggest 'bug bears' in education is wasting time reinventing the wheel.

At the end of the day, no curriculum is perfect.

But at least if it is consistent across the country we can all work together to create resources and support each other without having to decipher different curriculum codes and play 'spot the difference' between each document.

Having different curriculums limits the sharing that can occur between our States and Territories and leads to little 'islands' within our country's education system.

We have so much knowledge, expertise and passion for quality Maths Education across our country. I think it is critical that we band together to collectively improve Numeracy

In my dream scenario I would love to see us all use the same curriculum to collectively work towards our shared goal... improving Numeracy outcomes for every child in our care. I realise this is not going to happen in the foreseeable future, but it is my hope that one day education will be less about politics and more about teachers and children!

Have a great week!


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