Lindfield Learning Village

Why the curriculum should be based on students’ readiness, not their age

Geoff MastersAustralian Council for Educational Research February 18, 2021 

I handed down the final report of a two-year review of the New South Wales school curriculum in June 2020. One of the review’s key recommendations was to introduce what I called “untimed syllabuses”. This is where students who need more time for their learning are given it, and those ready to move on to the next stage are able to do so.

The NSW government has agreed to trial this recommendation over the coming years.

I made this recommendation in response to a problem teachers had identified. They explained the current curriculum lacks flexibility. It expects every student of the same age to learn the same things at the same time. This sounds fair, and it might be if all students began the school year ready for the year’s curriculum.

In reality, as the Gonski report observed, evidence from testing programs shows the most advanced students in each year of school are about five to six years ahead of the least advanced students. Instead of beginning on the same starting line, students begin each school year widely spread on the running track.