From the President: Reflections on Asia-Pacific education

The recent Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Education International addressed the lofty goal of charting the response of education unions to the United Nations' plan to transform our world through sustainable development.

The Asia-Pacific region represents a very broad range of education systems, from world leading to emerging. Conference participants identified significant shared challenges for action:

  • resourcing of education systems
  • delivering a quality education for the whole child, rather than narrow curriculum driven by testing
  • the obsession with data
  • ensuring education is founded in principles of gender equality
  • attacks on trade union rights and lack of engagement with trade unions by governments
  • ensuring access to education for all, with emphasis on engagement of female students, children with a disability and pre-school age children
  • impact of natural and human-created disasters on communities and education
  • employment conditions for educators and education support workers
  • deficits in facilities and infrastructure
  • growth of competitive teacher evaluation systems, especially those based on standardised test outcomes of students
  • employment of more female teachers
  • quality teacher training
  • safety of teachers and students
  • broadening education to address global citizenship challenges, noting the importance of language, culture and identity
  • competition from commercial, for-profit education providers for scarce resources
  • government corruption
  • political instability
  • community awareness of the Education 2030 agenda
  • lack of action by governments to deliver on their commitments in the United Nations to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the UNESCO Education 2030 Agenda.

The nature of these challenges clearly varied from nation to nation. Australia is among a small group of privileged communities in our region which enjoys significant advantages in education in spite of them.

One coalescing feature emerging from this broad discussion was workload. Educators and education support workers from every nation represented, from across the spectrum of education sectors from early childhood to TAFE and universities, proffered workload as a dominant factor in limiting educational outcomes for students and negatively impacting on the wellbeing of teachers, as a direct consequence of failed government policies on resourcing, recruitment and fundamentals of education such as curriculum.

Captured in complaints of needing to do more with less and the common theme of government and community expectations of education, particularly schools, being the solution for numerous social ills almost to the exclusion of core curriculum, excessive workload is a shared experience.

This phenomenon has been canvassed previously in the pages of this Journal in reports from other national and international interactions. It is nonetheless instructive to reflect on the shared struggle of educators and our unions with what now appears to be a universal issue, especially with workload and wellbeing our focus in Queensland throughout November.

As we explore these issues and develop solutions, we can do so in the knowledge that others in our profession are on a shared journey. We will contribute to and benefit from the international focus of the profession on creating a response that will let teachers teach.

Kevin Bates                                                                                                                  President

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 8, 3 November 2017, p7