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NSW gives Technologies curriculum a 'D'

Board of Studies says current draft is not a basis for a quality curriculum

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The New South Wales Board of studies has strongly criticised Australia's proposed national curriculum for Technologies, saying that in its current form it “does not represent a curriculum structure that provides the basis for a quality Technologies curriculum.”

The criticism came in response to questions from The Register on the most recent draft of the curriculum, the Shape of Australian Curriculum, Technologies (PDF) paper released in August. The Reg has sought comment from State education ministers about the document. New South Wales referred our questions to its Board of Studies, the body that sets curriculum in the State.

The Board responded, through a spokesperson, that while “... stakeholders supported the overarching ideas, rationale and broad description” in the Shape document, “the Shape paper does not effectively distinguish between learning in the Cross Curriculum priority area of ICT, and the more specialised Technologies curriculum.”

The Board of Studies was also critical of the Shape document's suggestion that year 11 and 12 students may not have the chance to study software development as a distinct subject. The spokesperson articulated New South Wales' preferred approach as follows:

Feedback indicated that for the senior years, the development of a single subject may not provide opportunities for investigation of the diversity of this learning area with appropriate breadth and depth. Respondents supported that the current NSW approach of a range of more specialised syllabuses that provides appropriate choice for students as they move towards post-school tertiary studies, training and/or employment.

Queensland has also been critical of the Shape paper, with its response to the draft (PDF).

The Sunshine State says the proposed split into Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies streams “lacks justification and appears to be an artificial separation.”

It also says “The description of Digital technologies seems to be focused on computing and digital information, but this is not encapsulated by the name 'Digital technologies',” and also takes exception with the proposal that “in Foundation (F)1 to Year 8, Design and technologies and Digital technologies are 'strands', and in Years 9–12, 'subjects'. This proposed structure lacks justification, and the distinction between a strand and subject is unclear.”

Queensland's response unloads on the shape paper in other ways, stating: “A significant issue with the draft shape paper is its structure and repetitiveness. Many sections repeat information included in other sections. Much of the important information, such as the overarching idea 'Engaging in creating preferred futures', is hidden in the middle of the paper. As a consequence, the draft shape paper is too long. By comparison, the longest of the English, Mathematics, Science and History shape papers was 16 pages. Some specific examples below serve to illustrate this issue. “

Another criticism concerns the language used in the Shape paper, which Queensland's reviewers say “... is often unclear and, throughout the document, language is used inconsistently or imprecisely.” Lay people may struggle to understand it, the review says, because:

The draft shape paper presumes that readers have a common understanding of many of the terms used. The draft shape paper has a glossary, but many of the terms in the paper are not included in it. Those that are, are ill-defined or are defined in a way that is inconsistent with how they are used in the draft shape paper. The following specific examples illustrate this general issue.

Separate definitions are given for 'information and digital information'. 'Information' is only defined with respect to Design and technologies. Yet, information clearly is a significant aspect of Digital technologies. 'Digital information' is defined tautologically (digital information is 'information that is stored digitally') and then only in terms of the structures and processes involved in storing, transferring and transforming it.

The Shapes paper informed the first draft of the national Technologies curriculum, which is currently being written. Due for release in early 2013, the first draft will be the subject of a further round of consultation among State Education Departments and other stakeholders.

The Register intends to monitor that process closely, as the national curriculum is surely an important part of ensuring Australia has the skilled IT people it will need! ®

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