1989-2014: Curriculum - some things change... while others don't (part 1)

Curriculum change has been a constant companion of Queensland teachers in the past 25 years, as has the range of factors impacting on what is taught and how.

From student performance standards, reading recovery, digital pedagogies, the year 2 net, QCATs (Queensland common assessment tasks), NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) to the productive pedagogies, New Basics, digital pedagogies, 5 day literacy training and, most recently, pedagogical frameworks, the competing demands on teacher time continue to multiply.

Implementation of the Australian Curriculum has seen an intensification of teacher workload, particularly in 2012, when English, maths and science were implemented simultaneously. State school teachers were provided with the C2C (Curriculum to Classroom) materials, including detailed lesson plans and resources, which proved controversial as the use of the materials was referred to as mandatory. This quickly changed when teachers expressed concern.

The national scene has had an ongoing impact on state education, with the Hobart Declaration of Schooling (1989), the Adelaide Declaration on the National Goals for Schooling for the 21st Century (1999) and the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) setting agendas around schooling at all levels.

A greater focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and perspectives arose from a range of initiatives, including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy launched in 1989 and the more recent EATSIPS (Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools) and the Close the Gap campaign.

A review of senior assessment, reporting and tertiary entrance processes continues throughout the first half of 2014, following the 2013 parliamentary inquiry into assessment methods used in senior mathematics, chemistry and physics. The spotlight on senior will continue, with Queensland adopting and integrating the senior secondary Australian Curriculum as the ministerially-agreed and common base for development of state and territory senior secondary courses. This follows the replacement of the Senior Certificate with the Queensland Certificate of Education in 2004-2005.

The introduction of the prep year in 2007 and the planning underway for the shift of year 7 to high school, including a renewed focus on the middle years through the introduction of the junior secondary phase of learning from 2015, are examples of large scale structural changes that have required intensive curriculum planning by our members. The QTU was also an active voice in the development of the Teaching and Learning Audits, changes to reporting of student achievement and a range of other initiatives.

One of the growth areas and success stories of the last 25 years has been vocational education and training (VET) in the senior secondary sector. The early to mid-1990s saw a series of national landmark reports that ultimately established a regulated national training system of competency-based vocational qualifications. From the mid-90s, Queensland secondary schools began to incorporate VET into their senior curricula. By the turn of the century, VET was well established in secondary schools, with a range of qualifications – predominantly at the Certificate I and II level – across industry areas such as engineering, construction, furnishing, hospitality, business and information technology. Queensland schools also led the way with the introduction of school-based apprenticeships and traineeships. It was remarkable that VET was adopted so successfully, given that teachers and schools had to establish and implement quality systems that complied at audit with the same standards as those demanded of registered training organisations, including TAFE and private colleges. Today, the senior school curriculum in Queensland has been transformed and the success that is the VET in schools system is evidenced by the number of vocational qualifications issued in 2012: more than 20,000 Certificate Is, 19,000 Certificate IIs, 7,000 Certificate IIIs and 500 Certificate IVs.

Following earlier changes to the Board of Secondary School Studies in 1989 and the Queensland Curriculum Council in 1996, on 1 July 2002, the Queensland School Curriculum Council (QSCC), the Board of Senior School Secondary Studies (BSSSS) and the Tertiary Entrance Procedures Authority (TEPA) merged to become the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA). Legislation currently before the parliament suggests changes to the functions and governance of the QSA, and it is expected that a new body, the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) will replace the QSA from 1 July, 2014.

Sam Pidgeon

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p42

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