From the President - Education: one path to changing the rules

As in many processes in the natural world, imbalance does not last forever. Countervailing forces rise to restore equilibrium and sustained excesses almost always have catastrophic consequences.

People around the world are again waking up to the abuses of power that have been perpetrated for the past many decades. For example, women are demanding safety in the home and workplace and calling out men who harass and exploit them. Workers are challenging the theft of wages, the denial of basic safety at work and the frustration of collectivism. Children are speaking out against the people and institutions that fail in their duty to protect them from sexual predators and other forms of harm.

In Australia, the trade union movement has been catapulted into this paradigm shift through the bold call to change the rules. Union action has exposed a litany of cases that are underpinned by exploitation of workers within a context of record high profits, record low wages growth and critical imbalance in legal systems regulating work.

Workers from diverse backgrounds have been denied lawful wages and entitlements, suffered injury or death in the workplace and are subject to intimidation and harassment. For each case brought to public attention, there appear to be many more remaining in the shadows. The system is broken when the vulnerable can be exploited with little fear of retribution for the perpetrators.

As educators, we are strongly motivated by the desire to make a difference in the lives of our students. We strive to do our bit to ensure that each child is given the maximum opportunity to succeed. We cannot and should not be blind to the calls for change going on around us, and we have a role in preparing students for a changed world.

This is not a call for some new program to be taught in our schools. It is not a demand for a new suite of professional development to empower teachers and school leaders to identify and combat injustice. We can make a real contribution to our community’s role in raising children by being allowed to get on and do our job as teachers and school leaders.

This pathway to change lies in skills for the 21st century learner, including critical thinking and creativity. Our current curriculum embraces these skills, and in the right context teachers can deliver for students. The catch is the denial of time.

The global trend, especially in certain developed economies, is towards burdening teachers with useless work connected to data collection and standardised testing. This insidious impost robs teachers and school leaders of the precious time necessary to focus on the teaching of the full curriculum and denies students access to critical skills, with the result of a diminution of their life outcomes. This is a reality created by neo-liberal policy makers embedded in the same paradigm that promotes “trickle-down” economics and self-regulation in the private sector.

Our Union’s focus on workload and wellbeing, professional issues that impact on all teachers and principals, will continue throughout 2018. Our goal of freeing teachers from the general policy malaise will directly benefit personal wellbeing and deliver much needed time to refocus classroom practice on the issues that will genuinely build student capability to succeed in a changing world. Teachers hold one of the keys to changing the rules, and education can unlock student potential.

Welcome back to the new school year and best wishes for ongoing success in your work.

Kevin Bates                                                                                                                      President

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 1, 9 February 2018, p7