1989-2014: Curriculum - some things change... while others don't (part 2)

While reviewing curriculum issues over the past 25 years, I noted that while the names involved in 125 years of QTU curriculum campaigning might have changed (SEMP, MACOS, external exams, reporting on student’s progress, BOSSS, teacher qualifications), the issues don’t.

The same issues appear regularly over the years under different guises. A good example of that in the recent past is the national debate over the introduction of the national curriculum post 2007. The debate proceeded strongly on political lines, while the real day-to-day issues associated with implementation were left up to teachers and schools.

Unfortunately, as had often been the case over the previous 100 years, the funding or direction necessary to implement such initiatives never matched the political rhetoric.

Writing my President’s column in the Queensland Teachers’ Journal during 2009, I made the point that “the national curriculum may be one of the most significant aspects of the Education Revolution (the original mantra of the Rudd government), but unless it is developed on educational considerations rather than political timelines, the mantra will fail”.

Given that the comment was made about a proposed and ill-considered roll-out of some aspects of the national curriculum in 2011 and considering where we are with the same proposals in 2014, the saddest part about my comments is that they were proven to be true. That’s clearly not the fault of the professionals in the classrooms or the QTU representing its members in the various curriculum forums.

On a positive note, however, I feel that the re-introduction of the prep year into Queensland schools during the early 2000s was the most significant educational and curriculum reform of the past 25 years.

In the late 50s and early 60s, the Queensland Parliament took the shameful decision to discontinue the prep year of schooling to reduce budget expenditure. While pre-school facilities were later added in some schools, it wasn’t universal, and long-standing QTU policy was for both pre and prep years to be made available to all students.

Capably led by the then Vice-President (and later QTU President) Julie-Ann McCullough and the Women’s Officer, Leah Mertens, late last century the QTU developed a strong campaign calling on the government to better develop early childhood facilities for Queensland students.

To her credit, in the early 2000s the then Education Minister (and later Premier) Anna Bligh took a proposal to cabinet to re-introduce the prep year of schooling. While the ultimate outcome didn’t please everybody, as many resourcing issues were left unanswered, the cabinet’s decision was welcome, and has since proved to be extremely beneficial for all Queensland students.

One could go on about a range of specific curriculum issues which have dominated the media in recent years – NAPLAN, My School, the dreaded ICT pedagogical licence, and even reporting standards – but one issue in particular continues to be of concern: teacher representation by the Union on various curriculum bodies. Governments forget that the most democratic and representative voice for Queensland teachers on educational and professional issues are the two unions representing teachers in Queensland – the QTU and the IEUA-QNT – and that’s the way it should remain.

Steve Ryan
Former QTU President, Life Member

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p43

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Past QTU campaigns