Falling education standards prompts review


The national curriculum needs to be decluttered and simplified to help Australian students excel, the federal education minister says.

Dan Tehan has flagged a review of the curriculum, which could see revamped learning goals for Australian schoolchildren.

"What I'm hearing from teachers and principals is there is just too much on the curriculum, there is too much being asked of teachers to teach," Mr Tehan told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"What they want to see is a more simplified curriculum and that's why I'm calling for us to look at decluttering the Australian curriculum."

But a "total overhaul" is not required as the fundamentals are right, he says.

The minister concedes the review is in response to falling education standards, with the nation dropping in world rankings for reading, mathematics and science during the past 15 years.

Recent concerns flagged by Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel has prompted Mr Tehan to zero in on science and mathematics, to ensure they are being focused on.

"So we're setting up our young people if they want to go into careers as scientists or other areas in those STEM subjects," he said.

Mr Tehan outlined the review during a speech at an education conference in Canberra on Monday, ahead of a meeting with his state and territory counterparts on Friday.

The minister will also ask his counterparts to revamp the nation's declaration of education goals, which was first developed under the Gillard government in 2008.

The original declaration advocates for equity and excellence in education, and Mr Tehan hopes to broaden its scope to also focus on early, vocational and higher education.

"I want to hear from the students in the classroom, the teachers on the frontline, the parents supporting their school communities to succeed and the subject matter experts," he says.

The minister praised the NSW government's schools community charter as a model for clear and respectful communications between teachers and parents.

He's also pushing for teachers to be able to ban mobile phones in classrooms if they are distracting students.

Labor's education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says the government should reverse its $14 billion cut to public schools to help students master the basics.

"That's the only way to ensure every child gets the individual attention they need to excel in reading, writing, maths and science," Ms Plibersek told AAP on Monday.

"All we've had from the Liberals is cheap talk and harsh cuts. Meanwhile, Australian schoolkids are being left behind."

© AAP 2018

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