Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review of the Australian Curriculum - Initial Response

The School Music Action Group (sMAG) welcomes the Final Report of the Review of the Australian Curriculum and offers this initial response:

  sMAG applauds the Final Report of the Review of the Australian Curriculum, and welcomes the recommendations for change and curriculum simplification particularly around The Arts.

  sMAG has long recognized that the expectation for generalist primary teachers to deliver 5 Art forms in any depth was too ambitious.  Five Arts subjects amalgamated into one stream both devalues each of the separate strains, and overcrowds the primary school curriculum. The call for a simplification of the curriculum with 2 mandatory Arts - Music and Visual Arts - will permit a greater depth of learning in the primary school.  

  sMAG believes Music needs to be a standalone compulsory subject in both the Australian and Victorian curricula. Music curriculum delivered as a core Performing Arts subject in primary schools can allow for extra curricula activities in Drama and Dance to be supported.

• sMAG welcomes the call for a robust Australian Curriculum in Music, that encourages aural and notional literacy, as well as the exploration of historical works from all World cultures as these additions will balance the current focus on music making and ATSI music, as well as address the concerns around repetition in the cross curriculum priorities.

  sMAG welcomes the call for re-structuring of The Arts curriculum by specialists, strengthened with clear national standardized assessment benchmarks, and with a greater balance between making and responding.

  sMAG welcomes and supports a recognition that teachers of The Arts need to have specialised under graduate training to advanced levels. We also welcome and support the recommendation to fund ongoing PD for music specialists, particularly around ATSI musical inheritances.

  sMAG welcomes the recommendation that The Arts curriculum should be available to all students throughout all the years of schooling. However, to commence formal Music curriculum in Year 3 is not adequate.  F- 2 Music curriculum needs to be delivered as a part of the F- Year 8 core sequential program, delivered by expertly trained Music specialists, because the research clearly informs us that the benefits across literacy, numeracy, socialization, spacial awareness and neurological growth is optimized in the early years of human development. 

  sMAG agrees to some extent that 'The content of each of The Arts forms needs to be restructured and re-sequenced along the lines suggested by the subject matter specialists. The documents need be expressed in clearer language .'  The current hyperlinks in the document for music provide a positive foundation to this end, which can be celebrated.  Various State and Territory Curriculum Authorities have produced good work in this area.  Taking the best of each and placing it in an Australian curriculum may be one way forward.

Considering we now have two government reports released within 12 months of each other, both calling for improvement in both Music curriculum (National) and Music delivery (Victorian), sMAG calls upon all governments to respond comprehensively with a view to implementing, strengthening and funding all the recommendations.

Final Report Recommendations in The Arts are quoted below:
          The arts curriculum should be available to all students throughout all the years of schooling. The learning area should be formally introduced at Year 3 but provide a rich source of resource material for Foundation to Year 2, the Foundation years.
          The core content of all five strands should be reduced and a considerable portion of the current core be included in school-based curriculum and activities, thus augmenting the rich arts programs which most schools are already conducting.
          Two of the arts strands should be mandatory and we recommend music and visual arts. The other three strands would be elective subjects and schools would choose which to offer according to their resources and wishes of the parents and nature of the school context. Media arts should become a separate standalone subject and substantially reduced in content.
          Elements of the current arts curriculum should also be integrated into other learning areas such as English, health and physical education, history and technologies.
          The content of each of the arts forms needs to be restructured and re-sequenced along the lines suggested by the subject matter specialists. The documents need be expressed in clearer language .The balance between ‘making’ and ‘responding’ in each of the strands needs to be revisited involving consultation with arts teachers.
          The considerable resourcing costs associated with delivering the arts curriculum need greater consideration, and professional development for teachers is needed as the years progress. It needs to be acknowledged that arts specialists will be needed at the advanced levels. 
 An analysis needs to be undertaken to identify the extent to which the cross-curriculum priorities have produced repetition of content in these strands, and the extent to which they have skewed the content of all the strands, particularly away from Western and other cultures. The cross-curriculum priorities should be integrated, but only where appropriate, and their presence more clearly indicated. 

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