ONE outcome of the Wiltshire review of the state's curriculum was establishment of the Queensland School Curriculum Council, given the task of preparing syllabuses to support what was intended to become a national curriculum for Australia.
However, the good intentions of Professor Ken Wiltshire to support and promote the study of established disciplines in our schools were hijacked.
Those appointed to create the SOSE syllabus were determined to interpret the Key Learning Area called Studies of Society and Environment as a new integrated social studies subject and virtually refused to listen to any opposition. It was not until former education director-general Frank Peach allegedly ordered the QSCC to prepare separate optional syllabuses in history and geography that any progress was made, and even then, the council came back with syllabuses based, not on the logic of the respective disciplines but on their own generic learning outcomes.
What is actually happening in schools? The first thing to remember is that the syllabus is mandatory only for state schools. The private and Catholic systems set their own syllabuses and work programmes. The second is that in Years 9 and 10, even the state schools have the option of teaching separate history and geography, albeit as defined by the discipline-averse QSCC team that wrote them.
In recent weeks, I have visited a number of schools with well qualified geography teachers. In variably these teachers felt that their professionalism was under threat from the trend toward integration and were anxiously trying to maintain some semblance of academic rigour in history and geography. As one senior teacher in a school that has adopted the SOSE model told me recently:
"I am a good geography teacher but an indifferent history teacher. We are doing our best to keep standards up, but it is a losing battle." The head of geography at an eminent private school referred dismissively to the "social slop" of the syllabus and said "our students and their parents expect us to teach established subjects well".
Perhaps we should be taking a serious look at our curricula before too much damage is done to our children's education, our state education system, our credibility as a destination for overseas students and our economic competitiveness in this increasingly globalised world.
Here are 10 good reasons why the current SOSE syllabus in Queensland is not in the interests of the students, the teachers or the Queensland community.
WHAT are concerned parents to do? The first thing is for Parent and Citizen groups to ensure that schools offer both history and geography taught by specialists.
Ask the principal if the more able senior students could be entered for the International Baccalaureate or the Advanced Extension Awards of the UK Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to be offered in Queensland next year and, if so, what preparation lower down the school would be offered.