Schools in Australia are increasingly turning to a new, more advanced, science and maths curriculum as a way to boost learning and test children’s aptitude, despite growing concern about its effectiveness.
Schools in Western Australia are using the curriculum as part of a national assessment process to select students for the state’s first-grade mathematics and science courses.
A number of state-funded schools, including those in the Melbourne region, are using it as part, with the majority of the curriculum being taught by principals.
But some experts say it could be problematic.
ABC education reporter Paul Fagan interviewed academics, school principals and other stakeholders about the use of the maths and science curriculum in primary schools in Western Australian and Victoria.
Paul Fagan: Do you have any concerns about this curriculum?
Tim Kelly: It’s very well-intentioned.
But it’s very difficult for teachers to teach kids that this is a good place to learn math and science.
Fagan: So what is the problem?
Kelly: It can lead to students not understanding that they are getting a good education.
They are getting this new curriculum because they need to be taught that this curriculum is going to prepare them for a career in science or maths.
Fagan (archival): What is the best way to teach that?
Kelly: They should learn maths and they should be taught it in this way.
Fagen: How do you measure whether it’s a good thing or not?
Fahan: I think we’ve got to recognise that if we were to give a new curriculum to kids, it would be really difficult to do.
Kelly: Well, if it’s not well-suited for them to learn maths, then they won’t learn maths.
That’s really the point.
Faghan: What are the biggest concerns about the mathematics and sciences curriculum?
Kelly: I’ve had very little concern about it.
Fahan: What about the science curriculum?
Kelly: I have some concerns about it because of the fact that they do have some really hard, challenging subjects like the subject of the planets.
Kelly (archivally): Do they get that in the maths?
I don’t know if that’s a problem or not.
FAGAN: What’s your view on teaching the science in primary?
Kelly (archiving): Well, I think that it’s good, it’s got some really good things that kids will get from it, it will give them a real grounding in the sciences and maths.
The maths curriculum is being taught at some schools in the Sydney suburbs.
Melbourne’s Maths and Science Centre is one of the few primary schools that uses the curriculum, which is used across the country by more than a million students.
It is not compulsory, but parents can opt to do so.
Parents can choose to opt out of the mathematics or science curriculum if they want.
Schools are not required to teach the maths curriculum, but some principals and parents have been unhappy about it for years.
Advocates for more rigorous teaching of science and math have called for the government to create a national curriculum that covers more than just basic maths and physics.
In 2016, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged to bring the national curriculum into line with the best practices of the OECD, a global organisation of rich countries.
More than 100 of Australia’s principal principals and a number of other experts are backing the push for a national science and mathematics curriculum.