Cover of April 2022 Journal  AEU SA Journal: April 2022: Contents

It’s time for authentic curriculum

In pursuing a world-class education system so closely tied to NAPLAN results, the DfE is unfairly impacting poor and disadvantaged students and schools, according to a new Flinders University report.

Report authors Dr Andrew Bills and Nigel Howard say, “It’s time to rethink the world-class aspiration that is currently based on narrow NAPLAN growth metrics and instead pursue a high equity inclusive education system”.

The report – It’s Time to Reflect – was published prior to the State election and called for schools to be given back the authority to create and deliver more authentic curriculum through culturally responsive pedagogies that enable all young people to thrive in learning and life, rather than a diminished agenda that measures schooling success according to results on a standardised test.

“Over the last 30 years we’ve seen a number of policy changes by the Education Department that have significantly impacted the professional work of principals and teachers and their authority to shape their schools according to student and community needs,” says Dr Bills from Flinders University’s College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

“Enamoured with a system presented to them by global consultants McKinsey, which proposed education couldn’t simply be left to teachers, the Department set about creating a World Class system controlled by bureaucrats enamoured with the McKinsey formulaic recipe.

“World Class works against schooling innovation, most felt by teachers and leaders in disadvantaged schools who are working in shackles when making the necessary schooling adjustments
to help their students to learn.”

The report found that the Education Department is unwittingly incentivising school exclusion because low NAPLAN performing students figure as problematic for principal career aspirations in the World Class policy agenda.

The authors have called for South Australia’s World Class educational aspiration to be reconfigured, making 10 recommendations including calling for schools to be given back the authority to approach schooling for the betterment of their students and communities, that local problems need local solutions, and returning systemic trust to teachers and educational leaders.

“It is time to rethink ‘World Class’ as an aspiration to become a high equity education system rather than just a NAPLAN growth system,” says Dr Bills.

“Our research has shown that Catholic and independent schools have the freedom and authority to be leaders in change. We need to give this same freedom back to our public school leaders and teachers as well.

“Given the gap between the educational outcomes of students from high- and low-socioeconomic backgrounds continues to increase, change is needed and is now more urgent than ever.” 

‘It’s Time to Reflect: What is the cost of the South Australian Education Department’s pursuit of becoming a “World Class” Education System by 2028?’ is available here.