3rd March 2010

The draft national curriculum would set some young children up for failure, Queensland University of Technology experts said today.

They said the draft curriculum, with its emphasis on formal learning, would also put pressure on children, teachers and families and was out of step with the Federal Government's own framework for early learning.

QUT Education Faculty Professor Susan Grieshaber, an expert in early years education, said the national draft curriculum was out of step with the Federal Government's own play-based learning framework for children aged 0-5, introduced last year.

"The national K-12 curriculum is supposed to align with the new play-based Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009), the curriculum for children from 0-5 years," Professor Grieshaber said.

"The requirements of the K-12 curriculum for Queensland preparatory children regarding counting, punctuation, recognising sight words, writing simple sentences etcetera show a lack of alignment with the new play-based 0-5 years national curriculum.

"Unless there are changes, the K-12 curriculum will place increased pressure on children who are unable to achieve these expectations, as well as teachers and families."

QUT Associate Professor Felicity McArdle, of the Education Faculty's School of Early Childhood, said not all children would be able to meet the expectations of the draft national curriculum for the early years of schooling.

She said the result for some would be anxiety and a sense of failure from a very early age.

"As every parent knows, from the time their babies are very young, it is useful to have some idea of the range of expectations for their children's abilities and capacities,'' Professor McArdle said.

"But, for very young children, there are any number of factors that mean this range is necessarily only a broad indicator. For example, the age at which children first walk, talk, and develop independence can differ widely.

"If children take their time in learning to walk and talk, parents are rarely concerned, having every confidence that they will meet these milestones, building on their strengths and abilities.

"So, too, in the earliest years of schooling, it is important for the children's sense of themselves, and their parents' confidence in their children, that we start from a strengths based approach, and build on what the children bring with them, not highlight their deficits or failures.

"To narrow these early years of schooling to a set of expectations that early educators will tell you, from their experience, that not all children will meet, will only cause anxiety and a sense of failure from a very early age.

"All early years educators, like all parents, want to ensure success for all children, but pushing down a set of academic expectations is not the best way to ensure this happens.

"Young children will build on their existing capacities when they maintain a healthy sense of self and their natural curiosity and drive to learn, if they are provided with a rich, play-based curriculum that starts with strengths, and leaves room for the range of differences in very young children."

Media contact: QUT media officer Elizabeth Allen on 07 3138 4494 or e1.allen@qut.edu.au

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