This report of the NSW Curriculum Review is based on a series of public consultations across NSW in 2018, more than 60 meetings with stakeholder groups, over 2000 online submissions, and in excess of 700 responses to reform directions identified in an Interim Report in 2019. The Review also studied recent curriculum reform initiatives in a number of other countries and reviewed evidence from cross-disciplinary research into human learning and the conditions that promote successful learning.
A strong and consistent message has been that change is required; the current curriculum arrangements are not the arrangements that will best serve children and young people of NSW into the future. Between 86 and 96 per cent of those responding online to the Interim Report’s proposed reform directions expressed their support for significant change.
The Review has identified several key concerns that must be addressed in any new curriculum. First, the crowded nature of the current curriculum, including the amount of content some syllabuses expect teachers to cover, is not conducive to teaching in depth or helping students see the relevance of what they are learning.
Second, the frequent separation of knowledge and skills, theory and application, and academic and vocational learning in the current curriculum, and the associated undervaluing of skills, do little to support students’ understandings of how knowledge can be put to use or their development of skills in applying knowledge.
Third, the timed nature of syllabuses that specify not only what should be taught, but also when it should be taught and how long should be spent teaching it, means some students are being required to move to the next year-level syllabus before mastering the content of the prior syllabus and so are falling increasingly behind in their learning over time. Other students are being required to mark time rather than advance to the more challenging material for which they are ready. Teachers require a more flexible curriculum to ensure every student is provided with well-targeted stretch challenges and so makes excellent ongoing progress.