Sunday, 7 October 2007

Principals agree: cut out social subjects

PRIMARY school curriculums have too many subjects and schools are too underfunded to meet standard requirements for English, maths and science, a national study of principals has found.

The study underpins Australia's first primary school charter endorsed by principals who want the educational focus put back on literacy, numeracy and science.

However, a proposal to include stand-alone history in that list was yesterday replaced with a subject called Social Education, a mix of history, geography, and environmental and cultural studies.

The change raised concerns from the federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, who said history should be taught as a distinct subject.

The Federal Government funded research for the Australian Principals Association that found national standards were beyond the reach of many schools, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, unable to attract a high level of staff and private contributions from parents.

The association released a draft report in August, recommending that subjects that taught life and social skills, including manners, nutrition, drug education and financial literacy, be dropped from primary school curriculums.

The association's national president, Leonie Trimper, yesterday said her members had endorsed the draft charter, agreeing the curriculum had become cluttered with minor subjects.

"The curriculum is far too crowded and we know from our research that not all schools can do what is being asked of them," she said. "The social responsibilities being placed on primary schools are ever increasing, taking time and resources away from our core business."

Ms Bishop said that while she supported the charter's goal of reducing clutter in curriculum, "we must avoid at all costs the mistake that is Studies of Society and Environment, which became a mish-mash of subjects that lacked rigour in any of them".

"I would be concerned if the recommendation in the APPA Charter led to a watering down in the quality of teaching history and geography in primary schools," she said.

Ms Trimper said history had been replaced with social education because her members considered that history was "too narrow and conjured up the idea of rote learning".

"People wanted a new term and said it needed to be about geography and the environment and cultural understanding," she said.

The primary school charter received the support of 90 per cent of 1580 responses to an online survey, representing the views of 3500 principals.

The principals will now seek to have their document placed on the agenda for discussion at the next conference of state and federal education ministers.

The principals also expressed concerns about the enrolment of students with severe behavioural problems because of the lack of additional help for such students. The study of 30 primary schools around the country found that schools that enrolled severely disabled and emotionally disturbed students were in many cases inadequately resourced.

"Such students are frequently assigned to regular classrooms with aides who are employed for a fraction of the week. The school is expected to find the resources for the rest of the time," the study found.

1 comment:

Publik said...

I refer to the article by Anna Patty Education Editor October 2, 2007. I say that life and social skills, including manners, nutrition, drug education and financial literacy, should not be dropped from primary school curriculums. That would be a bad decision because that is what is going to prevent up to 5 per cent of people going to the jail, hospital or the morgue, in the end. The money saved by keeping 5 per cent of people out of trouble should be plenty and certainly more than enough to employ ‘more teachers’ specifically to focus on teaching social skills at school. If children don’t get these skills at school at the earliest intervention then they can’t pass those skills onto their own children. Up to three generations of parents in Australia today don’t have these skills to pass onto their children. That will never get any better until children get them to pass on. Why aren’t schools given extra teachers to teach these skills if there is money to be saved on emergency services, police, courts, jails and the victim industry? To argue that the curriculum is too crowded and because not all schools can do what is being asked of them to provide social responsibilities and that that is taking too much time works itself out in the end or even during classes by preventing things like bullying, domestic violence, drug dependence, youth suicide, leaving oneself vulnerable and provocation that all cause crime. Prevention is better than cure.