Fighting for Equity in Education

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Media Release: Call For Senate Inquiry into the National Curriculum

Monday January 13, 2014

Save Our Schools today called for a Senate inquiry into the national curriculum. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the inquiry established by the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, last week is clearly biased.

“If we are going to have a review of the national curriculum it should be seen to be independent and free of bias. The Government’s review is not independent. It is a partisan review.

“The panel of two appointed by the Minister are both critics of the national curriculum. They have pre-determined views that accord with the Minister’s, especially those of Dr. Donnelly who is a former chief of staff to the Liberal minister Kevin Andrews.

“For example, Dr. Donnelly says that the history curriculum “uncritically promotes diversity” and “undervalues Western civilisation and the significance of Judeo-Christian values to our institutions and way of life”. He says that it has a “cultural-left bias”, a view also held by Christopher Pyne. Clearly, Pyne and Donnelly see this review as a way of re-starting the “history wars” conducted by the Howard Government.

“Just last November, Dr. Donnelly claimed that “the cultural-left has taken the long march through the education system and enforced its biased, ideological world view on schools” and he called on the Abbott Government to do something about it. His appointment is the Government’s answer – it has invited Dr. Donnelly to do it himself.

“Immediately after being appointed, Dr. Donnelly continued to promote his views on the national curriculum. He told the ABC that Australian education has become too secular and he wants to see more religious education in schools, in particular, the Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum.

“Dr. Donnelly is entitled to his views, but such a partisan should not be appointed to do an independent review and he should not be entitled to promote his partisan views after being appointed. He has openly prejudiced the outcome of the review and many people will see no point in spending time preparing submissions. He should do the right thing and resign from the panel.

“Professor Wiltshire is also a vehement critic of the national curriculum. He has variously described it as a “failure”, “a policy bungle” and “botched”.”

“SOS is not opposed to a review, although we question the need after the very extensive consultations carried out at all stages of its development, involving teachers, parents, academics and state governments of different political persuasions. However, if there is to be a review it should be seen to be independent and not biased. At the very least, the review panel should be composed of people with a range of views about the national curriculum.

“Christopher Pyne said he wants a national curriculum “free of partisan bias”. This is obviously not his true intent, given his appointment of such a partisan review panel.

“The newly-appointed panel should be replaced by a new panel of curriculum experts and experienced educationalists with a range of views on the national curriculum. This would give parents, teachers and the broader community some confidence that the review is genuinely independent and objective. But, the Minister is clearly not interested in such a review.

“The next best thing is for the Senate to establish a review to run concurrently with the Government review. This would provide some balance. It should call for submissions from the public and call curriculum and education experts before it to give evidence. It should also call Professor Wiltshire and Dr. Donnelly before it to give their views on the national curriculum.

“SOS calls on ALP and Green Senators to establish a thorough and objective review of the national curriculum.”

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