New South Wales makes 'major shift' to school curriculum

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The new curriculum includes changes to maths and science

Australia's most populous state will focus on better preparing students for university and employment in a major overhaul of its school curriculum.

New South Wales on Tuesday unveiled changes to its high school syllabus for the first time in 18 years.

The new focus eschews "social context" teaching - which had drawn criticism - for more in-depth, critical thinking.

It comes after an international study in December showed Australia's maths and science ranking had tumbled.

The changes address recent criticism over a lack of rigour, said Tom Alegounarias, the head of the state's Education Standards Authority.

"We reviewed the whole [syllabus], we looked at what the community is demanding for now and in the future," Mr Alegounarias told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The major shift is towards greater depth, rigour, and mastery of content learning."

Recent criticism

One of Australia's leading scientists, quantum physicist Michelle Simmons, recently attacked what she called attempts to "feminise" the teaching of physics.

Prof Simmons said learning by essays rather than formulas, in an apparent attempt to interest more women the subject, was a mistake.

"There is a big cost in this type of thinking," she said in an address last month.

Education officials said these concerns had been addressed, with the new curriculum putting "more science in science" by focusing on its mathematical bases.

Maths will now include more statistics and algorithms, such as those used by internet search engines.

In English, texts will no longer be studied through themes like "journey" or "discovery" but examined for their individual merit.

In history, subjects such as the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution will be explored in depth, rather than focusing on a breadth of topics.

The new curriculum will be introduced from next year.

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