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The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty First Century outlines a view about the significance of schooling for Australia and then goes on to suggest specific goals.
The Declaration is based on assumptions outlined in the Preamble, namely that:
- schooling is of importance to the nation as a whole;
- all young people have the capacity to learn;
- schools are merely part of environment from which young people learn;
- schooling provides a foundation for young people's development;
- government policies set the framework for schooling;
- common goals allow various levels of government and also government / non-government schools to cooperate in achieving common purposes;
- collaboration is needed to strengthen schools, promote teacher professionalism, develop curriculum and increase public confidence;
- national goals provide a basis for investments in schools that will enable young people to engage with an increasingly complex world, and contribute to Australia's social, cultural and economic development
The Declaration then presents goal related to (a) developing the talents and capacities of students (b) curriculum content and (c) social justice. In particular this involves:
- developing the ability of students in relation to: analysis and problem solving; confidence; moral / ethical / social judgment; informed citizenship; job skills; use of technologies; environmental responsibility; health; and leisure;
- high standards of knowledge / skills / understanding in eight key learning areas (arts; English; health / PE; LOTE; maths; science; society / environment; technology) as well as: attaining basic literacy / numeracy; and participation in vocational learning and enterprise education;
- socially just schooling in relation to: ensuring outcomes are not affected by discrimination or socio-economic background / geographic location; improving position of disadvantaged students; equitable access for indigenous students; student understanding of indigenous cultures and cultural diversity; and enabling education to Year 12 level for all.
The Declaration was adopted in April 1999 by the Ministerial Council on Education, Training and Youth Affairs, superceding the 1989 Hobart Declaration, and appears still to be the Council's position.
While the aspirations expressed are undoubtedly noble, there appear to be serious defects in this Declaration as the basis for schooling in Australia. In particular:
Likewise the assumption that governments 'set the public policies that foster the pursuit of excellence etc' is thus also inappropriate - because the role of governments is to endorse (not to determine) current best practices which have been the result of other's initiatives;
Post-modern assumptions are a serious over-reaction to defects in traditional epistemologies (ie theories about the nature of knowledge which exaggerated human abilities to acquire positive / empirical knowledge) - an over-reaction which has had serious adverse practical consequences (see comments in Competing Civilizations).
Post-modern assumptions are also reflected in the Declaration's approach to cultural issues where the practical consequences of differences in cultural assumptions (see Competing Civilizations) are entirely ignored. In particular:
The Declaration stresses the importance of curriculum development but needs to very clearly define how this is to be achieved - as the effect of post-modern assumptions seems to have undermined course quality in some cases.