Friday, October 06, 2006

Centralised educational curricula for schools?

I am as frustrated as Education Minister Julie Bishop is with the quality of high school curricula in Australia. But as previously argued I do not favour centralising curriculum determination as she again advocates today.

There is value in retaining competition between curricula. While we may rage short-term when we uncover Marxist or feminist interpretations of Shakespeare inflicted on school students and feel despair at the pathetic adherence of social scientists to long-discredited (and superseded) Marxist paradigms for thinking about economics and society, the best way of dealing with such stupidity is via the public debate not by seeking to correct a corrupted system with a centralised solution.

In my own area of concern, economics, I see how poor syllabus design leads to an under-appreciation of the role of markets, to deficient business-relevant skills, to pervasive left-wing biases favouring interventions rather than freedom and to confusion rather than learning in the economics area. The VCE economics syllabus emphasises incoherent macroeconomics and discussion of practical policy issues without basic microeconomic analysis. This syllabus is partly responsible for the decline in economics enrolments in schools and universities in Victoria. It is a tragedy fostered by unthinking university advisors on school curriculum committees.

But in the longer-term rationality will surface through competition in the market for ideas. How I would detest a uniform national curriculum prepared in any discipline area under the guidance of a populist nit like Jenny Macklin. I think Julie Bishop is one of the better Education Ministers we have had in recent years, but, sorry, there are too many daft things going on in the universities today to allow me to place my trust in any centrally designed curriculum design procedure.


Jan said...

Good post Harry, agree 100% with both the concerns and the solution (I guess Yobbo will be pleased to see you criticise 'left-wing biases favouring interventions rather than freedom'). As a demonstration, in my first year Macro teaching evaluations one student thought I was very 'right wing' biased since we have not covered all of the material on Keynesian economics. In our lecture/online discussions the VAST majority of students strongly support minimum wages, unemployment benefits, generous welfare etc - you name it. What is worse, they cannot think of reasons why these may be bad policies which suggests something about the treatment they are getting at school.

hc said...

Its pathetic I agree. Ask the academic representatives that administer the VCE economics syllabus why there is so much emphasis on Keynes and so little on basic supply-demand analysis.

It is left-wing indocrtination but, worse than that, leaves students without the equipment to understand a market economy. And I think noo-one these days outside perhaps North Korea denies the basic role of markets. It is no longer a debating issue.