Revamped HSC maths syllabuses to be delayed

Students will not be taught the new advanced HSC maths courses until 2019, after teachers and academics were highly critical of the draft syllabuses and warned they should be delayed rather than rushed in.

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA), formerly the Board of Studies, released new HSC syllabuses for English, history, science and some maths courses in February as part of the first major overhaul of the HSC in 20 years.

But NESA did not release syllabuses for the three higher-level maths courses because they were still being finalised.

Several prominent mathematicians and teachers had criticised the draft higher level maths syllabuses, and warned that the standards authority risked its credibility because the initial drafts were littered with poor mathematical language.

It is understood NESA had been trying to finalise the drafts over the school holidays but there were still concerns with them so the board took the decision to delay the introduction of the calculus-based subjects for another year.

A spokeswoman for NESA said the maths syllabuses would be delayed to ensure they "are of the highest quality, and schools have time to develop effective programs for teaching the syllabuses".

"The decision follows extensive consultation with teachers, schools, universities and the community to review the calculus-based HSC maths syllabuses," the spokeswoman said.

"Most recently this has included targeted consultation with experts from schools, sectors, and universities to strengthen the draft syllabuses, which are currently being reviewed by independent experts."

As part of the overhaul to the HSC syllabuses, NESA said it would create a common marking scale for maths to discourage bright students from studying lower-level maths in order to boost their marks.

As part of the changes, the current general maths will be called standard maths and there will also be a life skills maths course. The mathematics course will be known as advanced maths.

The NESA spokeswoman said the standard syllabus would still be introduced next year but there would be no common scaling with the advanced course until 2020.

Head of SCEGGS Darlinghurst Jenny Allum and the Mathematical Association of NSW had urged NESA to delay the syllabuses for a year.

Ms Allum, a former manager of curriculum at the Board of Studies, said it was important that the review of the syllabuses was not simply a "proof-reading exercise" and more clarity was needed.

In response to drafts, the Mathematical Association of NSW said "after carefully reviewing" all the syllabus-related documents on the NESA website, it could not "confirm whether a number of the recommendations made in the first public consultation were fully or partially adopted."

"This is mainly due to the lack of the availability of support, assessment and examination materials which play a critical role in the interpretation and implementation of syllabus documents," the association said.

Education Minister Rob Stokes said: "The important thing here is to make sure that we get the maths syllabuses right, and NESA is taking the time necessary to ensure we maintain the high standards of our internationally-regarded HSC."

This story Revamped HSC maths syllabuses to be delayed first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.