22 Mar 2023

Fully prescribed curriculum not the answer to problems in education - expert

6:19 pm on 22 March 2023

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The school curriculum is not fit for purpose and too many students are being let down by the education system, a former teacher and education research expert says.

The National Party says it will rewrite the school curriculum if is elected, with the aim of ensuring every child has basic skills in reading, writing, maths and science.

"What want to do with the curriculum is rather than it being presented in three-year bands, it's actually very definitive as to what knowledge needs to be taught in any given year," National leader Christopher Luxon said.

Former teacher and Education Hub founder Nina Hood said while she firmly believed there was core content that needed to be taught, she was not convinced by a lock-step approach.

Education Hub is a charity that aims to bridge research and education.

Hood told Checkpoint far too many New Zealand children were being let down by the education system.

"This is a systemic problem and when you have an issue on this scale, we don't blame the children, we blame the system and we blame what's happening to lead us to this point.

How well does she think New Zealand was doing academically?

"I'm pretty concerned with where we're at," she said.

The curriculum played a role in leading to unequal learning opportunities for many children, she said.

"At the moment we have a curriculum that does not have a lot of content in it.

"So that means that it's up to individual schools, up to individual teachers to determine the content that they're going to teach beyond very broad prescriptions in each of our curriculum areas."

This means what child was taught in one school could be different to what another was taught in a different school.

"The result of this is that some children come out of our education system knowing a huge amount, having build up a broad range in skills and competencies but not all students have had access to that knowledge and to that skill development."

Hood did not think the whole curriculum should be prescribed.

New Zealand was currently going through a curriculum refresh which was looking to address some of the challenges, she said.

The government was reviewing the curriculum with a literacy and maths strategy being developed over the next couple years.

"I guess the National Party is suggesting it's not going far enough, at the moment we haven't actually seen enough of what the refresh is telling us to do to make what I would say is an informed decision on that."

While she thought the curriculum needed to be looked at, she was not necessarily convinced doing exactly what National proposed was needed.

Learning was not linear, she said.

"I do worry about the idea of being really prescriptive at an individual year basis."

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