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Gonski 2.0 responses – academics speak

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It’s been out for a few days now and the punditry has weighed in on the ideas that Gonski has forwarded. Predictably, there’s a range of responses varying from the very positive to the very negative.

Some of Gonski’s ideas are immediately doable while others will require wholesale shifts in the way we’ve been addressing education, when and if they will ever be implemented remains to be seen.

The personalisation of learning, tracking individual progress with data and the introduction of tools to assist have been seen generally as a good thing. They remain ideas at this point and will need a lot of work and funding to be set in place.

Dr Glenn Savage, a senior lecturer in education policy at the University of Western Australia (UWA), says the report is “quite radical in parts.”

“If implemented it would see monumental shifts in curriculum, assessment and reporting in Australian schools. However, there is much water to pass under the bridge (particularly in a political sense) before any of the recommendations come to fruition,” he said.

Prof Linda Graham, an expert in inclusive education at Queensland University of Technology, who made a submission to the initial review, welcomes the personalisation of education.

"We also need to question whether Australia needs another grand plan to overhaul curriculum, especially given major reforms over the past decade have had no impact on improving student achievement".

“For too long, Australian students have been shoehorned into a one-size-fits-all system that – in reality – fits few. It results in students who learn differently to the pack being left behind with the gap growing with each year. These students will suffer most in an automated future but at a cost to us all.

“There is an exciting potential for personalisation and differentiated teaching to enable students to learn at the pace that best suits them. For this to occur, we need to improve teachers’ knowledge of learning differences and provide them with more time to work with individuals. An app will help; however, the focus should not simply be on what students need to learn next but how they learn and what adjustments are necessary to support their learning,” Graham said.

The move away from year level progression is seen to be a good thing in the rural setting as schools there often operate multi-year level classes because of student numbers.

Dr Philip Roberts, Associate Professor in Curriculum Inquiry and Rural Education at the University of Canberra said, “A persistent criticism of the curriculum has been its lack of inclusion of non-metropolitan perspectives and that often what is valued lacks relevance to rural, regional and remote communities. Changing the focus will help teachers make the curriculum more relevant to their students”.

Dr Thomas Britz, a researcher in mathematics at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, thinks that elements of the report will be difficult to implement.

He applauds the Report's intention to "equip every student to be a creative, connected and engaged learner.”

“It is, however, concerning that no recommendations are given on how to achieve this priority. Creativity requires basic competence and fluency, so I am particularly concerned to see Recommendation 6 recommend that ‘core [literacy and numeracy] foundations are developed by all children by the age of eight.’”

“Reading, writing, basic arithmetic, fractions, and other core skills cannot feasibly be taught to all students by age of eight,” said Britz.

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