Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne will overturn Labor’s changes to the national curriculum

Rosie Russell

Earlier this year Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced a nationwide curriculum review focusing on streamlining the education system and promising to bring the current curriculum to a world class standard.

Aiming to put the interests of students first, Pyne appointed business professor Ken Wiltshire and former teacher Dr Kevin Donnelly to lead the review.

“The review will evaluate the robustness, independence and balance of the Australian Curriculum by looking at both the development process and content,” Pyne says.

While the Abbott government is seeking to make the curriculum less ‘political’ and restore the focus of education to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the current curriculum devised by Labor prioritised indigenous culture, sustainability and Asia.

However, reports from the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment show Australia has slipped down the rankings and is now out of the top ten countries for reading, maths and science, falling behind nations like Poland and Vietnam.

Pyne believes Australia’s education system in its current form is not meeting the most basic needs of students, particularly those who move onto university.

“I think the fact that universities are teaching maths and English remedial courses is a symptom of an education system that isn’t meeting the needs of students who go on to university, and that’s something the reviewers will be taking a close look at,” Pyne says.

However, federal Shadow Minister for Education, Kate Ellis, does not support the review and believes the solution to Australia’s drop in international education rankings is due to flaws in the school funding model.

“What Christopher Pyne is seeking to do, is make a ridiculous and a partisan announcement to draw attention away from the main issue facing Australia’s schools,” Ellis says, “and that is that this Government broke their promise to introduce the new school funding model.”

Ellis has urged the Abbott government to listen to the advice given from the Gonski review.

“What Christopher Pyne has claimed today, is that in six months, two individuals can do a better job of coming up with a national curriculum, than in five years, academic experts all around Australia working collaboratively achieved,” Ellis says.

Pyne has also come under fire following Dr Donnelly’s public announcement that religious education should have a greater presence in schools.

“I’m not saying we should preach to everyone, but I would argue that the great religions of the world – whether it’s Islam, whether it’s Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism – they should be taught over the compulsory years of school,” Donnelly says.

However, President of the Atheist Foundation, Michael Boyd, is uneasy about what results the review will put forward.

“We are a bit concerned with some of the comments that were made by Christopher Pyne and Kevin Donnelly in relation to their beliefs that somehow religion should be a part of the curriculum,” Boyd says.

“We think that special religious instruction classes should be abolished. We take the view that there’s really no place for special religious instruction in schools because it isolates those students who don’t attend the particular religious instruction which is offered.”

The final report from Professor Wiltshire and Dr Donnelly is due to be delivered to the Minister of Education by July 31 this year.