Below is a draft of the Australian history curriculum that the government has refused to release.
Insiders have told Crikey that reports that the Prime Minister took a personal interest in the draft curriculum, overrode Education Minister Julie Bishop’s office (who by all accounts were satisfied with the draft) and pushed for a review, are correct. Members of the review panel requested by the Prime Minister include Geoffrey Blainey and Gerard Henderson.
This is an earlier consultation draft (as leaked to The Australian, but not published) and Crikey understands there have been minor amendments made since, but the overall content has remained intact — read the full draft here.
Crikey has been told by informed sources that the main thrust of the curriculum that came out of last year’s History summit and the subsequent draft consultation centered around the teaching of milestones and encouraging student questions. It was widely believed that the milestones and questions approach provided for a more traditional teaching of history (milestones/narrative) but with a question component to ensure that children were offered an opportunity for deeper analysis.
There are strong suggestions that the Prime Minister’s main objection to the draft curriculum was the inclusion of the ”question” component.
This falls in line with some recent off-the-cuff remarks that the Prime Minister made at the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian history presentation on the 20 June. Mr Howard gave a prepared speech at the start of proceedings, but after lunch, when he stood up to announce the winner of the prize, Mr Howard raised eyebrows amongst the audience of historians and museum staff when he stated that history should only be about teaching ”just what happened”.
Back in August of last year, the Prime Minister made similar comments, but with a clarification, as reported by ABC News:
“How you can just teach issues and study moods in history rather than comprehend and teach the narrative has always escaped me,” Mr Howard said.
But he says he is not trying to influence what is taught.
“I want to make it very clear that we are not seeking some kind of official version of Australian history,” he said.
“We’re not seeking some sort of nostalgic return to a particular version of Australian history.”
If so, why the need for a review?
After a detailed History Summit on the 17 August last year, followed by a working party on 31 October and a comprehensive drafting process that began in February with the drafting of an initial program of study in consultation with the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), Education Minister Julie Bishop’s office and over 90 written submissions, an initial consultation draft was circulated to all Summiteers (the draft linked above).
Why has yet another panel been appointed to review this highly detailed, and uncontentious, process?
Crikey understands that Professor Tony Taylor, head of the National Centre for History Education and author of the curriculum draft, discussed the consultation draft with education department officials and curriculum agency officials in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT.
Crikey understands that from the vast array of feedback, not one consultant raised concerns with the core Australian history included, or the marriage of narrative and questions. Comments were generally supportive, with a few minor reservations expressed regarding terminology (eg “settlers” instead of “pioneers”). There were some reservations about it being content heavy and some minor issues regarding pedagogy.
The submissions and subsequent series of drafts, (numbers reaching into double figures) was developed with DEST’s collaboration at all times, and with occasional contributions from the Minister’s office. A final document was drafted in mid-April and sent to DEST who accepted it and forwarded it to Julie Bishop’s office in around late April.
Crikey understands that the Prime Ministers’ office did not step in to the draft consultation process until mid June but that summiteers suspected dissatisfaction from the top when the working party meeting was stonewalled for two months after the summit last year.