Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview with Stephen Cenatiempo

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: New draft national curriculum

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Now, we've talked about this a number of times, the new draft national curriculum for our schools. And one of the concerns that the Federal Education Minister, Alan Tudge, has is that the next generation might be unwilling to defend our country as schools are feeding students a negative view of Australia’s military history. Although a group of historians say that he's attacking this from the wrong angle.

He joins us now Alan Tudge, good morning.

ALAN TUDGE:

Good morning, Steve.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Alan, we've spoken about this before. The draft national curriculum was an absolute disaster. And quite rightly, you've gone back and said, rip this up and start again. You still seem to have difficulties actually getting something together that you think is appropriate.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, they've revised the curriculum - I haven't seen the new revision, but I've been briefed on it, and I think the first draft was an F. I give the new draft, a C, but students deserve an A plus. And I'm going to continue to push until we can get to a version of the curriculum which should be just that.

I've still got some concerns about what I’ve been briefed on. I think that some of the maths standards, for example, have come back to where they were. But given we've had such a decline in maths over the last 20 years, we actually need it to lift, not just maintain its existing position.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

But it's even the basics. Because you've said that the revised version of the curriculum, which includes a stronger focus on phonics and the introduction of multiplication tables, bringing it forward from Year 3– 4 to Year 3. I remember back to my schooling time, and this was just par for the course. When did we lose all of this?

ALAN TUDGE:

I think that's exactly right. So, at the moment it starts in Year 3, where you get taught the multiplication tables. In the draft which the Independent Curriculum Authority put out, they suggested that you shouldn't learn them until Year 4, when countries like Singapore and others start them in Year 2.

My argument is, if those countries can start them earlier, why shouldn't Australians, given that we've actually declined in our maths standards over all over the last 20 years. And so, we do need to be lifting it up again.

So, the revised draft has it back at Year 3, but hasn't actually taken us forward. That's why I say it’s a C, not an A plus and there's a number of other examples precisely like that. I mean my biggest concern with the overall draft curriculum that was put out earlier this year was in history. Because I think it just presents a really negative picture of Australia, and particularly since 1788, while Australia certainly is not perfect, I often say to people, you know, name another country in the world in all of human history, which is as wealthy, free, egalitarian and tolerant as Australia is today. This didn't come about from nothing.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

The point is, again, I think back to my own education - we learnt about the bad stuff, but we seem to be able to learn a balance of the positives of Western civilisation. And you've particularly pointed to the weakening of Christianity, and you quite rightly say, it's the most important influence on our modern development.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, well, that's exactly right. So again, if I go back to the draft revised curriculum which the Curriculum Authority put out, they almost removed the references to Christianity, from that draft except for references to the power the church, well, most of this is very negative connotation. Whereas the historian, such as Geoffrey Blainey, would say that it's the single most important influence on our modern development. Because you think where some of their core institutions originated, whether they be schools or hospitals or the welfare system or the influence on our values, I mean, often it actually did start with those Christian principles, and indeed the Christian church.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Now, on the flip side of that, we've got other historian suggesting that you're playing politics with Australian children. I would have thought that people like myself, and I imagine you, would suggest that playing politics with children has been part of the problem.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I just want to see kids learn a proper, accurate version of our history, where they recognise that today we live in, as I was saying before, I think one of the most, if not the most, wealthy, free, egalitarian and tolerant societies that has ever existed anywhere in all of human history. And I want them to understand the origins of that and how that came about, so that they will be defenders of our modern liberal democracy.

And I mean that word in the sense of participants in our democracy, wanting to improve it, being active citizens, taking responsibility in our society. Because I tell you, I look at the data - and this was really disturbing, actually, there was surveys done which said that 40 per cent of 20 to 29-year-olds didn't think that democracy was necessarily the preferable form of government.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Goodness me.

ALAN TUDGE:

I mean, what is going on there? I mean, anybody who understands this just has to look just a little bit to the north of Australia to understand there’s different systems of government going on, and I can tell you, they're not ones which you want to live under.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Let's talk nuts and bolts though. So, let's say, for instance, you send this draft back again, and you finally get it up to an A or an A plus, implementation then becomes the problem, doesn't it?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, that's right. I mean, in some respects, the national curriculum sets the overall framework, which then the states and territories have to implement. But it's quite prescriptive, the national curriculum, and I mean the first draft was 3,500 pages, which is completely unwieldy. The new draft, from what I understand, is about 1,500. But then it does flow down and does need to get implemented.

By and large, the states and territories, their curriculum documents are consistent with the national curriculum, and that's the whole basis of it. But then, of course, some teachers will do their own thing from time to time as well, sometimes in very negative ways, and sometimes in very positive ways.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Did you imagine that you have this much on your hands when you got tapped on the shoulder to take over education?

ALAN TUDGE:

It's such an important job, to be honest, Stephen, and I take it very seriously. And I want every kid to have the opportunity to achieve their absolute best, no matter where they start from and what their academic abilities might be. But equally, I want them to be great citizens, where they have a love of country and want to make contribution like previous generations have.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

I'm certainly, for one, glad we've got somebody that holds those views in the job. Alan Tudge, great to speak to you this morning.

ALAN TUDGE:

Many thanks.