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Report says NZ's school curriculum obsolete

Report says New Zealand's school curriculum obsolete

New Zealand's school curriculum is obsolete and inherently flawed and should be subjected to international benchmarking, according to a report by Melbourne-based education consultant Dr Kevin Donnelly to be published on Monday, 21 October, by the Education Forum.

The paper, A Review of New Zealand's School Curriculum: An International Perspective, compares New Zealand's curriculum against international 'best practice'. The report is timely given the decision by the Ministry of Education to undertake a stocktake of the New Zealand curriculum, which includes an invitation to experts outside New Zealand to prepare a critique of the current curriculum framework.

Dr Donnelly argues that the New Zealand curriculum and associated national curriculum statements have failed to achieve the Ministry's stated goal of raising the achievement levels of all students and ensuring that the quality of teaching and learning in New Zealand schools is of the highest international standard.

"While the intention has been to improve standards, there is no readily identifiable evidence that this has occurred," he said. Dr Donnelly says that while the New Zealand curriculum might have been in line with international practice in some countries during the 1980s and '90s, it is now out of date.

"The New Zealand model embodies a 'student-centred', 'outcomes-based' approach which has since been largely abandoned by equivalent education systems, such as those in Australia and the United States, in favour of a 'standards approach'," he said.

New Zealand's curriculum represents a diminished view of what students should learn, Dr Donnelly said. The English framework, for example, fails to properly teach the 'basics' such as grammar and a phonics approach to reading.

"One only needs to look at the number of remedial English and maths courses in New Zealand tertiary institutions to understand how low standards have fallen," he said.

Dr Donnelly said New Zealand's curriculum framework would benefit from an international comparative analysis similar to that undertaken by the Ministry of Education in Victoria, Australia, when developing its second edition of the Curriculum and Standards Framework.

Dr Donnelly is executive director of Education Strategies based in Melbourne. His doctoral thesis deals with developments in school curriculum over the last 25 years both in Australia and overseas. He has published over 180 articles in the daily media and professional journals, writes regularly for the Melbourne daily newspaper, Herald Sun, and often speaks on radio.

The report will be available from the Education Forum website (http:// on Monday, 21 October, 2002.

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