The De education Of Australian Students

Dear Reader,

Thank you for the strong feedback we received about Class Action’s new curriculum unit on Captain James Cook.

I want to share this response from a Class Action subscriber which best summarised the mood of many:

It has been almost worth enduring the convulsions, distortions, lies of Australia’s National Curriculum particularly in the fields of History and Civics in the past 20? 30? or more years to have come up now, at the start of 2023 — with something like this. A Curriculum that is Good and Right and True — through and through.

Class Action: what a major contribution to our country.

I am also delighted to share that the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria (HTAV) has now approved all of Class Action’s curriculum units, and will be promoting them to history teachers across the state. This is a big step towards Class Action’s goal of promoting balanced and academically rigorous curriculum materials in Australian classrooms. I am also in discussion with similar associations in New South Wales and Queensland for approval of Class Action’s curriculum units. [View all of Class Action’s curriculum materials here.]

This would not be possible without your support. Thank you for making Class Action possible.

This latest update is a bit long but I have so much to share.

First up, I have a new IPA research report to share with you – authored by the IPA’s Dr Bella d’Abrera and me – which audits the National Curriculum to find out how often the themes of critical race theory and radical green ideology crop up in it (news alert: too many times). Next, I share how Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has changed its system of reporting NAPLAN results – we will now know even less about how students are faring. Finally, I report on how another ideological bureaucracy, Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), wants to take ‘values’ out of ‘values-based education’.

De Educating Australia

Last month, the IPA released a significant research report authored by the IPA’s Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program Dr Bella d’Abrera and myself, De educating Australia: How the National Curriculum is Failing Australian Children. [Download here]

De-educating Australia: How The National Curriculum Is Failing Australian Children

The research paper is a comprehensive audit and a review of the behemoth document that is version 9 of the National Curriculum. The IPA is the only organisation in Australia, as far as I know, to meticulously probe all 185 documents that together form the National Curriculum (version 9) and investigate its contents for educational integrity and ideological bias.

Here’s the crux of what Bella and I found. No matter what subject our children study – English, Maths, Geography, Physical Education, Science, Arts or Dance – they will receive the same two messages ad nauseum. The first is that Australia is an irredeemably racist country, founded in white supremacy and oppression which permeates society at all levels. And the second, that we stand at the cusp of a climate catastrophe and only their activism can save the planet. Often these themes are conveniently fused together by presenting Indigenous cultures as inherently more superior for the planet than Western Civilisation.

This sleight of hand is achieved through the cross-curriculum priorities of ‘Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Histories and Cultures’ and ‘Sustainability’ which mandate that these themes be embedded across different subjects in every year level from Foundation to Year 10.

In our research, we went through the requirements for each subject area for each year level to dig out how these themes are peppered across the National Curriculum. We have them listed verbatim for parents and teachers to read and make up their minds on whether the National Curriculum amounts to objective education or systematic indoctrination.

Bella and my research also shows how the National Curriculum elevates global citizenship above national citizenship. In effect, Australian students are being told to think of themselves as global leaders who should take on the responsibility of people worldwide, even as they fall behind the rest of the world in academic achievement. The authors of the National Curriculum don’t lack audacity!

What gets lost in all this indoctrination is academic integrity – the idea that we are meant to give our children the tools to study and understand the world and then set them free to question and explore, not turn them in foot soldiers for progressive social agendas.

I would recommend you read Bella’s article in The Spectator Australia [Read here] and / or watch her discuss our research findings on Outsiders on Sky News Australia. [Watch here]

Parents in the dark as NAPLAN results are dumbed down

NAPLAN assessments took place in March this year – earlier than usual, to help inform teaching and learning programs for the rest of the year. This is a good thing. However, when results are released, parents and teachers will be less informed about how their children performed than in the past. National results will be incomparable to previous years, and students most in need of support will not benefit as a result.

Previously, the academic achievement of students was identified along an incremental ladder of ten bands. The lowest band fell below the National Minimum Standard. This has now been reduced to four – ‘Exceeding’, ‘Strong’, ‘Developing’, and ‘Needs Additional Support’.

According to ACARA’s Chief Executive, David de Carvalho, here’s why ACARA is doing it: ‘One of the issues with the previous national minimum standard was that parents and carers could think that if their child was at that level, then ‘everything is OK’. But it wasn’t.’ [Read here]

I am glad that ACARA is finally ‘fessing up to the fact that those who had fallen below the National Minimum Standard were functionally illiterate or innumerate – in effect, National Minimum Standard was no kind of standard at all. As I had revealed in my email to you in December, according to 2022 NAPLAN results, over a quarter of Year 9 boys are either below the National Minimum Standard in reading, or are just meeting it. [Read here]

But instead of further honing down on why this is so, how we can address it, and most importantly – what can be done to support these one-in-four Australian boys who are failing – the ACARA has gone into defensive mode and upended its entire reporting mechanism. Here’s why this is a problem.

The justification given by authorities that the replacement of ten benchmarks to four will provide parents and teachers with better information and will lead to better action on underachievement doesn’t stand to reason. Providing parents and teachers with less information will not lead to better results.

This new system is completely independent of the previous system – so the results can no longer be compared to any previous results since NAPLAN started in 2008. In effect, we are starting to collect records from point zero. Yet, we know that in 2022, the results of NAPLAN showed that quarter of all Year 9 boys were just at or below the National Minimum Standard. How will they be tracked going forward? Which category do they fall in? Are they ‘Developing’ or do they fall in ‘Needs Additional Support’? Where is the line in the sand drawn for a student being considered at the bare minimum compared to a student who is ‘competent’?

Essentially, ACARA has admitted that too many Australian students are absolutely failing. But instead of putting its energies in finding out why and addressing the problem (like reading the IPA’s recent research report on the National Curriculum), it is trying to wordsmith to hide what is really occurring.

We don’t need NAPLAN to tell us that the academic achievements of Australian students are declining fast. The most recent international assessments by the OECD Programme of International Student Assessment show that an average Australian 15-year-old is more than a year behind where 15-year-olds stood twenty years ago. [Read here]

Parents’ right to faith-based education at risk

Over the last five years, student enrolment in independent schools has increased by 12.5 per cent and Catholic enrolments by 3.9 per cent.

In short, one in three parents are declining the free and secular public school offering to send their children to an independent institution, which best suits their beliefs, values and aspirations. They are willing to make a make a significant financial sacrifice to have their children receive a values-based education.

Current anti-discrimination laws provide some exemptions for these faith-based schools to prioritise the employment of staff and enrolment of students, who share their values. But the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is having none of it. It is proposing changes to the Commonwealth anti-discrimination law that applies to religious schools and other educational institutions which will take away this right from faith-based schools. [Read here]

The proposed changes amount to a targeted attack on citizens of faith, on faith-based schools and on the right of Australians to freely associate. Removing the said exemptions will:

Homogenise the private school environment with that of the government sector.

Remove or severely restrict the ability of faith-based schools to act in accordance with their values.

Strip parents of their right to immerse their child in an environment consistent with their values.

Undermine our society’s rich multiculturalism and diversity.

How is a values-based school meant to deliver a values-based education, if it cannot employ staff or enrol children who agree with those values and commit to promote them in the first place?

The ALRC is ok with political parties and ‘Pride’ centres having the right to employ staff who adhere and promote their values and policies. These organisations enjoy the legal protection of the fundamental right to employ and associate with ‘like-people’. But ALRC is not ok with faith-based schools having the same right. If that is not ‘discrimination’, I am not sure what is.

As I wrote in an opinion piece published in The Epoch Times:

If we are truly committed to the buzzwords of our time, ‘inclusion and diversity’, the independence of religious schools must be acknowledged and protected.

To deny them the right to employ in accordance with their values while extending this right to political parties or a ‘Pride’ centre exposes the ‘progressive’ element of our society for what it is – hypocritical, intolerant, and extremist. [Read here]

Right To Faith-Based Education Sacrificed At The Altar Of Progressivism

Let Teachers Teach

Before I finish, I want to share another of my articles published in The Spectator Australia, in which I bring together the many strands that are contributing towards the failure of our education system –lack of discipline in schools, political indoctrination, and unsustainable demands around administration and documentation that are preventing Australian teachers from doing their job. Here’s an extract:

One particularly shocking feature of the failing nature of our education system is the level of violence within our schools, and particularly, the abuse experienced by teachers. Last year, 80.5 per cent of principals in the ACT reported physical violence or threats from students. The figure was 75.5 per cent in the Northern Territory, 57.2 per cent in Western Australia, 55.9 per cent in Tasmania, and nearly 33 percent in Victoria. No other workplace would tolerate such a collapse in employee occupational health and safety. [Read here]

Right To Faith-Based Education Sacrificed At The Altar Of Progressivism

In conclusion…

You know I finish my monthly updates to you with a quote. This one is inspired by the ALRC’s discriminatory practices that target religious schools’ and institutions’ ability to enjoy the freedom of association afforded to other groups in our community:

You can’t pick and choose which types of freedom you want to defend. You must defend all of it or be against all of it.

Just in case you have recently signed up to receive updates from me, all my previous emails are logged on the Class Action website. [Read here]

Best regards


Colleen Harkin

National Manager, Class Action Program and Research Fellow