The NSW government plans to take a “back to basics” approach under a new school curriculum due to come into full effect by 2024.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday announced the government’s response to a review of the state’s education system led by Professor Geoff Masters.
The review recommended the removal of subjects such as “Lifestyle Studies”, “Wearable Art” and “Puppetry” and the streamlining of crowded syllabuses.
Ms Berejiklian told reporters there were three planks to the government’s response to the review; the de-cluttering of the school curriculum to prioritise mathematics, science and English, the deepening of knowledge in those fields and the modernisation of pathways for year 12 students as they consider tertiary education or full-time work.
This would include pre-qualification in year 11 and 12 for university or TAFE courses and an “untimed syllabus” to ensure struggling students aren’t left behind on course material.
This could mean students in the same classroom studying different things.
“I want NSW to have the highest education standards in the world,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We have a long way to go in making sure our students can compete with the best in the world and that’s exactly what we need to do – we know that in the next decade, the competition will be (there) in getting those jobs, getting those advanced manufacturing jobs.”
The government changes would begin to be implemented from next year when subjects considered unnecessary are removed from the senior-school curriculum.
In 2022, new English and maths curricula will be implemented for kindergarten, year one and year two, followed in 2023 by years three to 10, and in 2024 by year 11 and 12 syllabuses.
Ms Berejiklian said superfluous subjects “have kept creeping in” during the past 30 years and the changes would reduce paperwork and red tape for teachers.
Prof Masters’ study found 98 per cent of teachers “believed excess syllabus content was leading to diminished educational outcomes for students”.
“For parents, knowing there is a clear focus on making sure their children, our students, are the best they can be, our education system in NSW can be one of the best of the world,” NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell told reporters.
“We need to cut the number of those extra courses that really don’t contribute to anything post-school while still findings ways to make sure students can be creative.”
There are about 1.2 million students at 3100 NSW schools from kindergarten to year 12.
The NSW Teachers Federation said in a statement it welcomed the government’s “unhurried approach” on reforming the school curriculum.
The government’s proposals would be embraced in so far as resourcing was adequate.
“Teachers, as educational experts, continue to be best-placed in understanding the learning and curriculum needs of their students,” senior vice-president Amber Flohm said.
“The dynamics of a classroom, with up to 30 students, means additional individualised support can only be realised when accompanied by additional resources.”
Association of Independent Schools of NSW chief executive Dr Geoff Newcombe says the reforms will allow schools and teachers more flexibility to respond to the learning needs of individual students.