23 SES 01 C, Curriculum Policy
Parallel Paper Session
This paper highlights a number of themes common to educational reform efforts over the past decade, such as reinforcing lifelong learning, broadening access to post-compulsory education and training, and improved quality of educational provision, and attempts to show how policy developments and associated processes in England, Australia and New Zealand addressing these themes have led to outcomes with potential implications for European countries embarked on similar reforms. In particular, some of the perceived inadequacies for lifelong learning and quality provision of curriculum, assessment and certification identified by policy makers in or around 2000 are examined and how these have been addressed over the past ten to twelve years.
With curriculum, issues of content/coverage and specification are highlighted, as well as entitlement, relevance and quality of provision. With regard to assessment, as part of a drive to monitor student learning and institutional performance, issues concerning changes in the amount, timing and focus of testing, the increased use of formative assessment and publication of student achievement data are addressed. With certification, in order to encourage more students to stay longer in education and training and to gain qualifications, new ways of recognising student achievement have been introduced either through using national qualifications frameworks to better establish linkages between different levels of qualifications, or through a broader range of pathways blending vocational and academic education and training in different ways (Raffe, 2009).
In England, Australia and New Zealand, describing core learning outcomes more explicitly has been a consistent feature for over ten years, though periodic reviews have led to changes in how learners’ knowledge and understanding are assessed and recognised. Mechanisms used to introduce and maintain the educational reforms are also identified. For example, where the broad direction of reforms was settled around ten years ago, policy makers have instituted reviews or national consultations in order to change direction (e.g., by modifying curriculum load or formal testing). New agencies have often been established to implement some of the reforms, or to monitor and improve the quality of provision. Government officials have modified existing programmes or implemented new ones to reflect shifts in government policy. At the same time, some educators have resisted the reforms, though the pattern across the three countries is not consistent. This can partly be explained by the history of each country, existing structures and local constitutional variations (e.g., in state based systems the pressures are different to countries with a single polity).
The theoretical framework applied to assist analysis of the reforms is based on a model first developed in The Switchmen of History, which takes into account how educational policy actors such as ministers, education agencies, education providers, the teaching profession and academics/researchers behave, by using six dimensions or themes to frame the discussion. These are: the continuum of academic and vocational education; performance standards; choices or pathways; the degree of state control over providers; the degree of state control over qualifications; and participation (Philips, 1998).
Philips, David (1998) The switchmen of history: the development of a unitary qualifications framework. Unpublished PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Raffe, David (2009) The Action Plan, Scotland and the making of the modern educational world: the first quarter century. Scottish Educational Review, 41(1), pp 22-35.
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