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Posts Tagged ‘national curriculum’

  1. If only Education was like West Wing: what I learned by studying Advanced Pedagogy at uni (M.Ed)

    19 October 2013 by shartley

    I love the television show West Wing.  The fictional government was ethically sound and tried to unite the country by attending the needs of the marginalised, the poor and the society as a whole.  If only we had a government like that.

    Education has become inextricably linked to economic ideals and this has a large impact on curriculum and pedagogy.  One area where this is evident is in the “choice, competition and performance” promoted by politicians (Buchanan 2011, p.68) and I’m guilty of shopping for schools for my own son currently, as one of the financially advantaged who can do so.  Another example of economic prominence in education is how students are continually viewed as a labour resource with a desire for individual success rather than as participants in a community.  As Wyn (2009) claims, “Education must accommodate individual and social goals” (p.43).

    I am an advocate for the type of pedagogical change Kalantzis and Cope (2012) promote for schools with their concept of “learning design” that examines “the big questions” (p.84) in an environment of “energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86).  Thooman et al (2011) found it is important to connect to students and create positive collaborative experiences, “education should provide students with opportunities to work on realistic and situated activities” (p.356) which supports my motto of ‘keeping it real’.  National curriculum and its General Capabilities (ACARA 2011) provide a strong prospect to shift teaching from an industrial learning model to a student-centred thinking model which is the position we’re taking at my school.  Next year as national curriculum is introduced, I am helping teachers to implement our REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning) Program to Year 7, a student-centred concept, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team.

    There is an extraordinary amount of political rhetoric surrounding ICT in schools as revealed by Jordan (2011), some of which I readily accept as universal truths, such as how ICT drives change, but the main point where I am in agreement with Jordan is her criticism of students as being described as “digitally savvy” (p.245).  The nature and implications of ICT in education are changing rapidly and nobody is able to keep abreast of it all.  Further pressure on teachers come in the form of charismatic speakers on the education circuit such as Sir Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra criticising the current methods of teaching and promoting their own pedagogical agenda.

    This rhetoric and economic overdrive affects teachers immensely.  I thus have an ongoing concern about how a pedagogical paradigm shift is integrated into schools.  Too often structural change is forced onto teachers instead of in consultation and students are neglected altogether (McGregor 2011, p.15), making them both feel powerless.  O’Sullivan (2007) demonstrated how teachers are tied to their role emotionally, more than to their professional pride in intelligence and ability (p.9).  Thoonan et al (2011) acknowledged the role teacher self-efficacy had in motivating students. An analysis of teaching standards by Connell (2009) revealed the absence of recognition of the sheer energy required to teach, “Energy, movement, expression and fatigue all matter” (p.220).  Teachers need to be supported and be involved in the change process for it to be successful.

    Education needs to be like West Wing where idealism is implemented for the individuals who constitute the education community and the good of society as a whole.

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Connell, R (2009) ‘Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism’, Critical Studies in Education, 50.3, 213-229.

    Jordan, K. (2011). Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy. Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 417-431.

    Kalantzis, M and Cope, B (2012) ‘New learning: A charter for change in education’, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, 83-94.

    McGregor, G. (2011). Engaging Gen Y in schooling: the need for an egalitarian ethos of education. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 19(1), 1-20.

    O’Sullivan, K (2007) ‘Unmasking the Professional Identities of English Teachers’, International Journal of Educational Practice and Theory, 29(1), 6–5.

    Thoonen, E, Sleegers, P, Peetsma, T and Oort, F. (2011). Can Teachers Motivate Students to Learn? Educational Studies, 37(3), 345-360

    Wyn, J. (2009). Touching the Future: Building Skills for Life and Work. Australian Education Review, 55, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne.


  2. The PPP Policy Proposal

    28 May 2011 by shartley

    final exam

    The PPP Policy Proposal: A proposal to improve HSC assessment by introducing externally marked Projects, Portfolios or Performances for all subjects

    For my very last subject in my Masters of Arts (Writing and Literature) I chose to break away from the creative writing courses (fiction and non-fiction) and study Public Policy Analysis.  I teach Economics and thought it would be relevant in that regard.  There is much about the course I haven’t liked but the assessments themselves have been thought provoking.  My last assignment (ever?) is to write a 3000 word policy proposal in a prescribed format.  After some discussion on Twitter I settled on reducing the reliance on exams for HSC assessment, partly due to inspiration provided by @cpaterso.  I have now completed The PPP Policy Proposal (pdf file – don’t want to fuss with style conversion from Word to Blog).  Enjoy!


    (1) There is a little political hyperbole within this policy proposal

    (2) It is within the constraints of a university assignment.  Eg Convenor wanted only one paragraph in the Evaluation section and limited to 3000 words in total (I took this to mean not including the Reference List and Appendices)

  3. Wedging the Window Open (an essay for uni)

    15 April 2011 by shartley

    ‘Policy windows open infrequently, and do not stay open long. Despite their rarity, the major changes in public policy result from the appearances of these opportunities‘ John Kingdon

    Policy windows are not dichotomous. There are degrees to which opportunities become available. The emphasis placed on windows of opportunities in agenda setting belies all the other factors at play. Some of these factors are reflected in the punctuated equilibrium model (Jones and Baumgartner 2005) and the advocacy coalition framework advocated by Sabatier (Parsons 1995, pp.194-203). Further in the background are the social and economic contexts in which agenda setting is made (Considine 2005). The development of a national curriculum for all Australian schools is just one more step in an incremental process (Lindblom 1959) of the federalism of education and illustrates how policy setting is subjected to all of these theories. Often the window of opportunity is not open for long but at times it can be gradually wedged further open until it is permanently stuck in place. Changes in federal education policy kept disrupting the status quo in the various states little by little, so that now a major reform like national curriculum is achievable.

    Kingdon uses the analogy of space as providing launch opportunities to demonstrate how windows provide opportunities in political systems (1995, p.166). He sees the window only opening when three strands come together. For a policy to be chosen from the “policy primeval soup” (p.123), it depends what is floating on top when the other two strands align, the problem strand and the political strand. A problem has to be noticed, become prevalent and at the same time be a change in the political landscape, such as a transfer of personnel in power (p.174). Some would see the writing of a national curriculum as meeting these three criteria, particularly with a change from the Howard Government to the Rudd Government in December 2007.

    National curriculum has repeatedly been floated as policy but Kingdon’s supporters would see it failing due to the window being closed. Instead it just needed further opening. The perceived problem with separate state curriculums are mainly geographic and economic. A national curriculum will allow greater mobility for students and teachers across Australia and economically the education process will be streamlined and opportunities with greater economies of scale (Reid 2005). There really hasn’t been an event to bring the problem to light other than politicians making grand announcements about how necessary it is to have a national curriculum. There’s a bigger picture to the story that other theorists can explain better than via an over simplified three stream window of opportunity.

    It is easy to apply Kingdon’s window of opportunity theory to the Building Education Reform when Prime Minister Rudd pledged $16.2 billion to fund buildings in school in the 2009 Budget (Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2011). There had been much said over the years about inadequate buildings for schools (Milburn and Green 2005) so Kingdon’s first stream, the problem, had existed for some time. However, due to the expensive nature of such infrastructure it was overlooked as a prime concern for the federal policy agenda. Then Kingdon’s third stream came into play, the Global Financial Crisis under Keynesian theory required a large spending program by the federal government, an answer looking for a problem and thus a policy was born.

    However, when it comes to developing a national curriculum a window of opportunity is less obvious. This is partly because the changes have been incremental, as so often it is when it comes to budgetary decisions (Jones & Baumgartner, 2005, p325). Federal government provides nine per cent of public school government funding (with the states providing the other 91 per cent) but a higher percentage to private schools (Hinz 2010). At first school funding was organised on an ‘ad hoc’ basis with projects such as Commonwealth Science Laboratories (1964) and Commonwealth Libraries (1968) (Lingard 2000, p.25). Under Whitlam the funding arrangement became more formalised with general funding instead of distinct projects (Lingard 2000, pp.25-26).

    The 1980s saw an increasing move towards federalism of education due to Labor seeking a platform for its social justice agenda in conjunction with the pressure of globalisation (Lingard & Porter 1997,pp.15-18). These social and economic changes are the key to “policy interventions” (Considine 2005). In a summation of the academic writers of the time, McCollow and Graham said “since the mid-1980s, education policy has been increasingly seen as a part of the agenda for micro-economic reform, designed to make Australia’s economy more internationally competitive” (1997, p.61). This capitalist approach signifies a shift of power from a pluralist approach on a consultative committee basis within each state, where government was assumed to be making neutral decisions, to a situation of Lukes’ third dimension of power where the ideas of globalisation and capitalism were dictating the policy agenda for education at the federal level (Dudley & Vidovich 1995, p.25). This was in effect reducing the power of the states over their own education policies, particularly when federal policies were tied to funding.

    According to Fenna (2005, pp.130-131), one of the more famous pluralists, Lindblom, conceded that the pluralist process favoured the power of business in a capitalist society and thus narrowed the gap between pluralism and Marxism. Perhaps it was also a case that as the world became more globalised the federal government was seeking ways to reassert its authority which fits the structuralist approach Hancock (2008, p.4) describes as the statist view.

    Dror (1964, p.154) argued forLindblom’s incrumentalism theory to work that present policy must be mainly satisfactory, the existing problems must be ongoing and the means for solving the problem readily available. This is beautifully applied to development in federal education policy. Education is fundamentally on firm ground as a desired public good. A continuous issue with education, however, is the insatiable desire to achieve better outcomes by all participants in the policy process. The states have individually developed different systems in their striving for better outcomes, within budgetary constraints, and there lies a secondary ongoing problem, the incongruous systems. Federalism has been consistently touted as a solution for both of these problems and more.

    Dror (1964, p.154) went on to say that “Changes in knowledge-technological and behavioral-put at the disposal of policy makers new means of action, which, unless ignored, lead to radically new policies”. This is evident in the Digital Education Revolution policy where some of the states in conjunction with the federal government are introducing a 1:1 laptop program to public schools (NSW Government Education and Training 2011). The technology enabled government to make a radical change in the education process, not like the small shifts to which Lindblom refers in his incrementalism theory.

    The incremental changes towards more federal involvement in education policy was aided by disruptions to what would otherwise be a fairly stable policy, particularly regarding national curriculum. This falls under the punctuated equilibrium model proposed by Baumgartner and Jones in 1993 where change can come about once policy is disrupted (Parsons 1995, pp.203-206). Jones and Baumgartner (2005, p.325) themselves declared incrementalism to be “the foundation of punctuated equilibrium”. Every time prominent politicians – Fraser, Dawkins, Nelson, Bishop, Rudd, Gillard (Lingard 2000, Reid 2005, Hinz 2010) – promoted national curriculum as being desirable it disrupted the status quo regarding the states’ hold on school curriculum. It was only when Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister with a Labor Government that national curriculum actually began to be written. This fits Kingdon’s window of opportunity due to change of federal government and friendly state governments: “A problem is recognized, a solution is developed and available in the policy community, a political change makes it the right time for policy change, and potential constraints are not severe” (Kingdon 1995, p.165).

    Yet a better fit than Kingdon’s window are the two forces Baumgartner and Jones declare to be underpinning the punctuated equilibrium model, policy image and the institutions involved (Parsons 1995, pp.203-204). Media outlets generally reported support of Rudd’s to national curriculum comparing his pluralist approach to the policy as opposed to the Howard government’s plan to impose national curriculum (AAP 2007). Government language carefully promotes giving power to the people in its propaganda regarding policy change in education, thereby promoting a pluralist view. For instance, “MySchool has provided parents, teachers and the community with nationally consistent robust information about how schools are faring, where they are doing well and areas that need improvement” (Gillard, J & Crean, S, 2010). In doing so they ironically fit Colebatch’s (2006) authoritative choice (p.5) and social construction (p.7). By promoting national curriculum as being for the community it allows voters to feel safe in our education system.

    The most important institution involved in the federalism of education had been hatched decades earlier through the development of a state and federal collaborative body, the Australian Education Council (AEC), which later became Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (Lingard et al 1995). It was therefore no great shift from collaborating on research and national testing to national curriculum. Now in addition to MCEETYA the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has been established via legislation at the end of 2008 (Australian Government Com Law 2008) and the Board in May 2009 (ACARA 2009) to administer national curriculum and take over some of MCEETYA’s responsibilities such as national testing.

    The advocacy coalition framework (ACF), promoted by Paul Sabatier, places policy in the context of values and beliefs, “the ACF explicitly identifies beliefs as the causal driver
    for political behavior” (Weible et al 2009, p.122). It has already been said that the Labor Government of the 1980s were looking at education as a social justice agenda but also holding an increasing corporatism view and statist view of federal government dominating the states. John Howard as Prime Minister wielded his personal ideology on education policy as seen, for example, in his linking funding to flying the Australian flag at schools (Clark, A 2006). In fact, one of the factors that brought national curriculum back on the agenda during Howard’s reign was his objection to the way history was being taught in schools (Grattan, M & Green, S 2006).

    The ACF framework can be applied to the education policy changes in the 1980s. The stable parameters involve the education system itself, the external system is the increasing globalisation of the world and the prevalence of economic rationalism and the constraints mainly being the states resisting federal government stepping on their turf. It is only in 2007 that the long-term opportunity arose due to bipartisan support in federal parliament for a national curriculum.

    Considine’s article, Analysing the Policy Context (2005), neatly provides background for these incremental steps gradually opening the policy window to allow national curriculum to fly in. The social and economic conditions were favourable, there were historical alignments with Labor in power federally and in most states and the established relationship of the federal government funding of education linked to various actions providing the policy instrument. The collaborative group, MCEETYA had been developing policy for some time and were able to act as a source of integration until ACARA was founded.

    Motivated by a desire for dominance over the states and economic rationalism aiming to reduce the costs of multiple education systems over the last 30-40 years, the federal government has sought to take power over education in Australia. The current development of national curriculum by ACARA is a major step in the federalism of education. This has been enabled by the alignment of political parties in power and a generally bipartisan approach and the wielding of big players in the political domain. The institutions (AEC, MEETYA, ACARA) established in the wake of a political upheaval by these politicians brought together the various stakeholders to work towards a common goal. Overall, it is the beliefs and values underpinning education policy that support a national approach. All parents want is what’s best for their children and national curriculum brings together nationalistic pride and individualistic aspirational goals. The states have provided many obstacles to date and quite probably will in the future. However, federal government policy will dominate in the end, enabled by all the incremental changes over the years as power was chipped away in return for funding.

    Reference List

    AAP 2007, ‘Rudd proposes national school curriculum’, The Age, 28 February 2007, retrieved 9 April 2011, <>.

    ACARA 2009, ‘About us’, retrieved 12 April 2011, <> .

    Australian Government ComLaw 2008, ‘Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act 2008’, retrieved 12 April 2011, <>.

    Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2011, ‘Nation Building Economic stimulus Plan: Building the Education Revolution’, retrieved 12 April 2011, <>.

    Colebatch, HK 2006, ‘Thinking about policy: finding the best way’, paper presented to the GovNet International Conference, Australian National University, Canberra, 29 November – 1 December, pp.1-17, retrieved 12 April 2011, <> .

    Considine, M 2005, ‘Analysing the policy context’, Making public policy: institutions, actors, strategies, Polity, Cambridge, UK, pp.26-50.

    Clark, A 2006, ‘Flying the flag for mainstream Australia’, Griffith Review, No.11, pp.107-112.

    Dror, Y 1964, ‘Muddling Through, “Science” or “Inertia”?’ Public Administration Review, Vol.24, No.3, pp.153-157, retrieved 2 April 2011, JSTOR database.

    Dudley J & Vidovich L 1995, The Politics of Education: Commonwealth Schools Policy 1973-1995, The Australian Council for Research, Melbourne.

    Fenna, A 2004, Australian Public Policy, 2nd edition, Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest.

    Gillard, J & Crean, S 2010, Gillard Government gives power to parents and principals, Australian Labor, retrieved 14 April 2011, <> .

    Grattan, M & Green, s 2006, ‘PM claims victory in culture wars – AUSTRALIA DAY 2006 • Call for new approach on teaching history’, The Age, 26 January 2006, retrieved 12 April 2011, Newsbank database.

    Hancock, L 2008, ‘Power, interests and agenda-setting’, unpublished, in possession of author, Melbourne.

    Hinz, B 2010, Australian federalism and school funding: Exploring the nexus in Victoria’s devolution reforms, Australian Political Science Association Annual Conference, Melbourne 26 – 29 September 2010, retrieved 10 April 2011, .

    Jones, BD & Baumgartner, FR 2005, ‘A model of choice for public policy‘, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, vol.15, no.3, pp.325-352, retrieved 10 April 2011, Expanded Academic ASAP database.

    Lindblom, CE 1959, ‘The Science of “Muddling Through”’, Public Administration Review, Vol.19, No.2, pp.79-88, retrieved 2 April 2011, JSTOR database.

    Lindblom, CE 1979, ‘Still muddling, not yet through’, Public Administration Review, Vol.39, No.6, pp.517-526, retrieved 10 April, 2011, EBSCO database.

    Lingard, B 2000, ‘Federalism in Schooling Since the Karmel Report (1973), Schools in
    Australia: From Modernist Hope to Postmodernist Performativity’, Australian Educational Researcher, Vol.27, No.2, pp.25-61, retrieved 9 April 2011, APA-FT database.

    Lingard, B & Porter, P 1997, ‘Australian schooling: The state of national developments’, in B Lingard & P Porter (eds), A National Approach to Schooling in Australia?: Essays on the development of national policies in schools education, The Australian College of Education, Canberra, pp.1-25.

    Lingard, B, Porter, P, Bartlett, L & Knight, J 1995, ‘Federal/State Mediations in the Australian National Education Agenda: From the AEC to MCEETYA 1987-1993’, Australian Journal of Education, Vol.39, No.1, pp.41-66, retrieved 9 April 2011, APA-FT database.

    McCollow, J & Graham, J 1997, ‘Not quite the national curriculum: Accommodation and resistance to curriculum change’, in B Lingard & P Porter (eds), A National Approach to Schooling in Australia?: Essays on the development of national policies in schools education, The Australian College of Education, Canberra, pp.1-25.

    Milburn, C & Green, S 2005, ‘A state of decay’, The Age, 10 October 2005, retrieved 12 April 2011, <>.

    NSW Government Education and Training 2011, ‘Digital Education Revolution – NSW’, retrieved 12 April 2011, <> .

    Parsons, W 2995, ‘Networks, streams, advocacy coalitions and punctuated equilibrium’, Public policy: an introduction to the theory and practice of policy analysis, Edward Elgar, Aldershot, UK, pp.184-207.

    Reid, A 2005, ‘Rethinking National Curriculum Collaboration: Towards an Australian Curriculum’, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, retrieved 2 April 2011, <>.

    Weible CM, Sebatier, PA & McQueen, K 2009, ‘Themes and Variations: Taking Stock of the Advocacy Coalition Framework’, The Policy Studies Journal, Vol.37, No.1, pp.121-140, retrieved 9 April 2011, Expanded Academic ASAP database.

    Special thanks to Bronwyn Hinz (@BronwynHinz) and Maralyn Parker (@MaralynParker) for conversing with me on this topic on Twitter.

    This essay received a Distinction (73/100).

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