Education Minister Christopher Pyne has indicated he wants the national school curriculum to have a greater focus on the benefits of Western civilisation, prompting warnings any changes could result in another "culture war".
He has asked two critics of the current curriculum - former teacher and ex-Liberal Party staffer Kevin Donnelly, and University of Queensland Professor Ken Wiltshire - to review what is taught in Australian schools.
"I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the national curriculum [review], suffice to say there has been criticism of the national curriculum over a lengthy period of time," Mr Pyne told reporters in Adelaide.
"What I want the curriculum to be is a robust and worthwhile document that embraces knowledge and doesn't try and be all things to all people.
"I also want the curriculum to celebrate Australia, and for students, when they have finished school, to know where we've come from as a nation."
Teachers' union warns against 'politicisation' of curriculum
The Australian Education Union (AEU), which represents teachers, believes many of the minister's concerns are unfounded, and has warned that the review could put classrooms back on the political battlefield.
"We don't want to see a return to the culture wars," AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos told ABC NewsRadio.
"We certainly don't want to see the politicisation of the national curriculum."
He says the national curriculum is already overseen by an independent body, which includes representatives of every state and territory education minister, as well as the private school sector.
"Prior to the implementation of any curriculum development, it is signed off by every single state and territory minister - and that includes Coalition ministers," Mr Gavrielatos said.
Experts tasked with review have been strident critics of present curriculum
- Curriculum was approved by federal, state and territory education ministers in December 2010.
- Content was finalised in 2011.
- Governs teaching in schools all the way up to year 12.
- But the curriculum is yet to be adopted in New South Wales and Victoria.
- Other states, including South Australia and Queensland, have adopted staged implementation.
- The curriculum currently covers English, maths, science, geography and history.
- Examples and more information can be found on the curriculum's website.
The Coalition made a curriculum review one of its election promises, saying the school teaching material had become too politicised under Labor.
It argued at the time that the curriculum required students to learn about the day-to-day activities of the trade union movement, while making no explicit references to conservative achievements in politics.
Both of the men tasked with reviewing the curriculum have previously expressed concern at what is being taught in the nation's schools.
In July last year Professor Wiltshire wrote that the content of the curriculum was "poor and patchy", adding that it "has been condemned by experts in just about every discipline, and there are no apparent values serving as its foundation".
When the curriculum was being developed in 2011, Dr Donnelly wrote: "Every subject in the proposed national curriculum has to embrace Indigenous, environmental and Asian perspectives and aspects of the compulsory history curriculum read more like a cultural-left manifesto than a balanced and rational view of history as a discipline."
Pyne insists review will be 'balanced and fair'
Mr Pyne acknowledges that not everyone will be pleased with his choice of who will review the curriculum, but insists it will be "objective and fair".
"It's not possible to appoint anybody to review the national curriculum who doesn't have a view on education," Mr Pyne said.
"The important point is to appoint people who are going to bring an intelligent and considered approach to the review, and both Kevin and Ken have a long history and experience in education."
Dr Donnelly, the former chief of staff of then Liberal Party Minister Kevin Andrews, says he wants to look at successful education systems overseas - particularly in Asia - to try to improve Australia's schools.
He says the review will consult widely, with the aim of developing a "teacher-friendly" curriculum that is the world's best.
But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is concerned about the Coalition's intentions.
"What I would say to Mr Abbott is - please keep your hands off the school books of Australian children," he said.
"Please stop trying to put your version of politics in to the school books. Children's education should be above politics."
The Greens says Mr Pyne's review has nothing to do with standards but is rather motivated by "pure ideology".
"He [Mr Pyne] wants to take us back to the 1950s," acting Greens Leader Richard Di Natale told reporters in Melbourne.
"How on earth do you address allegations of bias, with implementing people who are former members of the Liberal Party to try to address bias?"