In this article, Brianna McKee contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into the national curriculum, conducted as part of the IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program. The Foundations of Western Civilisation Program was established in 2011 to defend and extend Australians’ understanding of the influential, historical role of the West in establishing many of the liberties enjoyed by members of our society.
Comedy writer Robert Orben is credited with saying, ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.’ It is a phrase the federal government appears to want to put to the test.
This is despite handing down a Budget earlier this month which shows government spending is set to reach its highest level since 1993.
It was surprising to find education funding did not share in the rivers of taxpayers’ gold, given it was a fairly traditional Labor Budget. Treasurer Jim Chalmers did not even mention schools or universities in his Budget speech.
The little funding for education announced in the Budget papers was laser-focused on forcing the issues of race and gender onto students in a manner that almost put the cross-curriculum priorities in the National Curriculum to shame.
Perhaps the activists consider the long march through our educational institutions and our national curriculum complete…
As postmodern ideologies infiltrated the National Curriculum, Australia experienced a two-decade-long decline in education standards. A trend that is continuing, according to the OECD’s latest report.
Worse still, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows the average 15-year-old is more than a year behind students 10 years ago in reading, science, and maths. Today, Singapore, Poland, and Canada are among the many countries whose students are ahead of Australian 15-year-olds in these three key areas.
What is abundantly clear is that our education sector is failing young Australians.
A rare, glaring admission of the dire state of things was this Budget’s provision of $436 million for a foundation skills program to improve adults’ literacy, numeracy, and digital skills.
So, after 12 years of the National Curriculum, schools have been unable to inculcate the basics into a sizable number of their students. Any responsible government would recognise this as a profoundly significant problem and seek to address it forthwith.
According to the IPA’s research report, De-Educating Australia: How the National Curriculum is Failing Australian Children, students are being taught to view the world through a postmodern lens that recognises no objective fact.
This year’s Federal Budget has an obvious political slant, directing funding at minority groups while failing to address the broader problems in the Australian education system.
Independent schools are the losers, with funding expected to fall as inflation outstrips government support over the next financial year. Not surprisingly, the National Curriculum was the winner, with funding for ‘progressive’ priorities like Indigenous education and gender equity while infinitely more important outcomes like literacy and numeracy are ignored.
Funding for Indigenous education highlights the federal government’s focus on race as a key issue. The Budget sets aside $14.1 million to place educators in 60 primary schools to teach First Nation languages and provide greater cultural understanding. The problem with this decision is that it takes time and funds away from teaching the English language and the foundational skills students need.
Last year, the Federal Education Department’s performance measures showed that 11.2 per cent of Year 3 students failed to meet the minimum standard in national literacy tests.
Gender equity is another priority, with $20 million going toward teaching students about sexual consent and respectful relationships. Here the state takes on the role of the parent while once again failing to deliver core outcomes: literacy and numeracy. Programs like The Good Society, Respectful Relationships, Safe Schools, and Consent training promote a politicised narrative about gender and sexuality that disregards the views of many parents.
Gender equality and women’s participation in male-dominated sectors is another area underpinned by major funding. Women have been placed at the core of a $3.7 billion agreement between the states and territories to fund vocational education and skills training over the next five years. This feeds into the narrative that any disparity in the number of men and women working in a particular field is due to discrimination rather than choice.
The Labor government should stop and consider if women even want roles in male-dominated fields before they spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars on such programs.
The failure of leaders to understand key educational data and act accordingly is deeply concerning. While the $10 million set aside for phonics-based reading instruction for teachers is a step in the right direction, it is undercut by activities that clutter the curriculum.
This year’s budget fails our children while propping up a radical political agenda focused on gender equity and indigenous studies. It’s an education Budget for the Canberra bubble and inner-city elites, to the joy of left-wing activists and lobbyists.
But it is far removed from reality and the pressing needs of Australian students who after more than a decade of the National Curriculum still cannot keep pace when it comes to the basic skills of reading, writing, and understanding maths.