Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview with Leon Byner - 5AA

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: Draft National Curriculum concerns

LEON BYNER:

Now, earlier this morning, I had the opportunity of talking with a bloke who has a lot to say about education and youth affairs, and he is concerned that the next generation is going to be unwilling to defend Australia in war because of the current curricula. I'm talking about Alan Tudge. This is what he had to say.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I think that is right, and I think that the reason why the draft national curriculum, which was put out by the Independent Curriculum Authority earlier this year, presents a quite negative view of Australia and its history, rather than presenting a view which is accurate, which is balanced and reflects the fact that Australia today is actually, probably the most wealthy, liberal, egalitarian and tolerant society that's ever existed in all of humankind, anywhere in the world. And the kids should actually properly understand that and appreciate and value that.

LEON BYNER:

But that's what the parents expect. The parents generally expect that when they send their children to school, the values they carry from the home will be inculcated and explained at the school. Clearly, that's not happening.

ALAN TUDGE:

I think that is also correct. I would like to see curriculum writers across the country reflect the values and aspirations of everyday parents at home, rather than necessarily their own particular values, which, as you say, if you're consulting the education academics, they tend to have a particularly left wing view of the world. And that often means a negative view of Australia, unfortunately. I don't think that parents agree with that. I think most everyday parents do believe that Australia is a magnificent country and we have an incredible amount to be proud of. Yes, we've got our flaws and they should be taught, absolutely, particularly the treatment of Aboriginal people in the past. But by and large, we've been a tremendously successful country that we should be very proud of.

LEON BYNER:

It seems to me that we obsess about a lot of the social politics out there. But in doing so, Australia has fallen from the top group of educated countries to the middle of the pack over the last couple of decades, with countries like Poland and Estonia beating us. Why have we allowed this to happen?

ALAN TUDGE:

That's a very good question. I mean, this has been my key concern with education, is that over the last 20 years our standards have declined, despite the fact that we've put a massive amount more funding into the schooling system. And I think, at least one of the major reasons for that is that some of the teaching practices utilised in classrooms over the last 20 years were based more on ideology, not evidence. Because we had these fads which were introduced, such as teaching kids to read by trying to identify the whole word and just guess it, rather than sounding out the letters and decoding the words. We had teachers having enquiry-based methodologies, which basically means that kids are trying to learn for themselves rather than teacher directed instruction, which is what certainly I went through and no doubt you would have gone through in school.

LEON BYNER:

Why are we fighting about this stuff, when surely, you've got to know the basics?

ALAN TUDGE:

We shouldn’t be, Leon. It frustrates me to be honest.

LEON BYNER:

Yeah.

ALAN TUDGE:

Because it's not only just common sense that, of course, a teacher directing the classroom gets better results than kids investigating for themselves. But the evidence is so clear on this as well in terms of the research which has been done. And that research has been done for 20 years. I mean, the research on how you teach reading, there was a national reading inquiry in the United States, there was one in the United Kingdom, there was one in Australia way back in 2004 - all said the same thing, that kids need to be able to decode the alphabet in order to properly read. I mean, parents all know this but it hasn't been systemically taught in our schools because these new fads were introduced in education faculties, which were then imparted onto the teachers. It's why I'm so dark on many of these education faculties quite often you know, very responsible for some of the decline in our standards.

LEON BYNER:

Well, the great historian Geoffrey Blainey has basically said that it shouldn't come at the expense of teaching of classical Western civilisations and how we came to be a free, liberal democracy. We seem to feign that and go for more social, politically-integrated stuff. And frankly, the parents and indeed the children, don't think like that. That is a minority view. Most Australians don't think like that.

ALAN TUDGE:

I think that's right. I think most Australians are incredibly proud of their country, and that includes new Australians, that includes Australians who are fifth generation. And you know, there's a reason that Australia is a magnet for millions of people to want to come here. There's a reason for that, and it's not because we’re this terrible, shocking country, which sometimes the, the left activist present it as.

LEON BYNER:

That’s Alan Tudge, who has some very strong thoughts. Federal Minister for Education and Youth giving his view.