Holistic or SBTs?

Holistic or SBT Curriculum?

By Phil Cullen

Kelvin Smythe leading educator from New Zealand, recently wrote a definitive article called “Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil. Please make sure that you read it….over and over.

All world teachers should read it carefully. He refers, in the text, to ‘national standards’, the New Zealand version of Standardised Blanket Testing [SBT], known as ‘NAPLAN’ in Australia; as ‘No Child Left Behind’ in the USA; and ‘Standards’ in the UK. His title fits any system that relies on testucation rather that education and, so, I have dared to substitute the word ‘NAPLAN’ for ‘national standards’ in my extract below… because I’m a proud Aussie primary school teacher. I’m proud to be, in Smythe terms, one of those “Teachers [who work] in the interests of children and professional integrity, committed to an open-minded consideration of educational issues.”

Those of us who worry about kids, suggests Smythe, “…will make no headway against the full propaganda weight of the politicians who deal in simplistic messages expressed in abstract nonsense, lies, distortions, non sequiturs and evasions…..Their words have flowed in a near impenetrable disengagement of arrogance-laden toxicity; their arguments dependent on a fantastically protected ignorance and an unrelentingly calculated slantedness.”


The object of this edition of The Treehorn Express is to highlight Kelvin Smythe’s explanation of a system, based on an holistic curriculum and a NAPLAN [Please excuse, K.S.] one.

It is so appropriate for Australian educators at present; as the general curriculum is under review.


“The holistic curriculum is about a combination of knowledges – teachers and academic; about the interaction of the affective and cognitive;

about teaching and learning being organised by broad aims [assisted by criteria that can be considered converted objectives];

about those broad aims being an expression of the essence of curriculum areas;

about a broadly-based curriculum encompassing the wide range of human experience;

about learning being meaningful, exploratory, and challenging [hence the attention to discovery learning and problem solving];

about learning being open to the transformational and sensitive to the immanent;

about learning being coherent and organic not fragmented and desultory;

about teachers having considerable individuality of response within the broad school aims;

about children having significant control over what and how they learn;

about evaluation practices being proportionate to that which is educationally important [to the holistic’]

about all learning being quality learning;

about attending to individual needs through a combination of class learning set up for individuality or response and one-to-one teaching;

about class and school practices, for instance, evaluation, and group learning being learning enhancing [hence the emphasis on observational evaluation and group learning being mainly mixed ability]; and

about protecting and enhancing the crucial bond and trust between classroom teacher and child.

What parent wouldn’t want this kind of education for their children?


The NAPLAN curriculum is about the measurable which does not fit with the affective; the holistic curriculum, in being expansive, fits it perfectly.

The NAPLAN curriculum is instrumental; the holistic curriculum is democratic and participatory.

The NAPLAN curriculum implies certainty and someone who knows; the holistic curriculum imples openness and collective exploration about what is known.

The NAPLAN curriculum , because it implies certainty and someone who knows, leads to a hermetic system based on fear and dependence.

the holistic curriculum, because it implies openness, leads to continuous exploration based on trust and independence.

The NAPLAN curriculum is hierarchical and standardising; the holistic curriculum is democratic and characterised by variety.

Because the NAPLAN curriculum is about hierarchy, certainty and standardising – this means no variance and it mean compulsion.

Because the holistic is about variety, about democracy and participatory relationships – the holistic means the freedom to be holistic not the requirement to be so.”

Read more from Kelvin Smythe : http://www.networkonnet.co.nz

Thank you, Kelvin Smythe. Let’s hope that your message sinks-in to those who tend to be indifferent to major curriculum issues.


Phil Cullen [….for kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

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