Adelaide bishop slams curriculum "commissars"

Warning that moves to promote a centralised national curriculum for schools risk enshrining "faddism" and placing decision making in the hands of Canberra "boffins", Adelaide Bishop Greg O'Kelly has called for schools to be consulted about any changes.

Bishop O'Kelly's warning comes as Australian education ministers, under the auspices of the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, meet this week in to consider a proposal for implementing a national curriculum.

Eureka Street reports that Bishop O'Kelly says that debate on the national curriculum might be better-informed if school principals' opinions were to be requested.

Noting that the current debate arose from legitimate concerns about Western Australian schools, Bishop O'Kelly said that "one bad apple does not mean the whole case is to be thrown out".

"In this instance the case is the richness of the diversity of curriculum offerings through the nine systems we have in the Australian States and Territories," he said.

According to Bishop O'Kelly, debate is also muddied by confusion over terminology.

"The headlines often say 'National Curriculum' when in fact the proposal is about a measurement device for National Standards," he says.

He also questions the standing of various participants in the debate.

"The head of one of the larger Catholic education sectors in Australia was quoted recently as saying that 'Catholic schools have for a long supported the idea of a more nationally focused curriculum'.

"As a School Head, I never knew that, and nor did any of my erstwhile colleagues," he insisted.

"As far as I am aware, the schools have never been asked such a question, so how can it be said that Catholic schools support a national curriculum?"

"Proponents for national curriculum speak of the 'curriculum commissars', 'social engineering', and the 'curriculum crimes' that have been inflicted on students in some of the states where standards seem to have dropped," Bishop O'Kelly continues.

"In those cases, the damage was restricted for a relatively short term to a small group of the population, and the reaction of an intelligent public reversed the failings. Imagine if those 'curriculum commissars' were transferred to the national scene, where their power would go well beyond the borders of one State.

"What is to prevent 'curriculum crimes' being perpetrated by a 'boffin in Canberra', as the South Australian Education Minister describes them. Being national, across all sectors, the damage would be greater," he concluded.

Debate confuses national curriculum with national standards (Eureka Street, 6/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Greg O'Kelly (Catholic Hierarchy)
Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs

10 Apr 2007

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