Education in 2012: more than just three Rs

The 2012 school year has been heralded in by much change: situation normal you might well say. What distinguishes this year is that we face compounding and substantial educational, political, social and economic changes.

It is against this backdrop that the new leadership of the QTU, in close consultation with its 44,000 members, must now develop the agenda for our Union for the next three years.

In demanding times, the issues of Rights and responsibilities gain added importance. Rights can act as our shield from excesses, while responsibilities are more often used by those around us to ramp up demands.

The Union is well placed to meet these challenging times. However, success can only be assured through the continued Engagement of all members with the goals of our Union in pursuit of the shared aspirations of our profession.

While it is often spoken about, a genuine focus on the Students we teach as our primary care and concern must continue to be embedded in all that we do. Political and social imperatives are more fleeting than the full span of years of formal education undertaken by students. Our role as teachers is to filter these influences through the lens of prioritising the welfare of students.

We stand at the threshold of a new era for Public Education. The Gillard government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise public education as the principal education provider in this nation, reversing the slide into residualisation that was brought about by years of neglect and the shifting of government funding away from public schools and TAFE. As part of our commitment to promoting and protecting public education, we must maintain pressure on governments to implement a fair funding system.

Our lives as state school teachers are dominated by the policies and procedures determined by our employer, the state government. Most profound among these is, of course, Curriculum. Australian curriculum and Curriculum into the Classroom both represent significant changes, following an extensive transition period.

Teachers are not now nor have they ever been solely responsible for the education of our younger generations. Teachers are important partners with parents and the community in the life-long task of developing and supporting active, informed and responsible citizens. It is the act of teaching that defines our profession – not how we are perceived by those few observers who seem to spend as much time working to drag down our profession as we do trying to build it up.

There is no simple answer to these challenges. What we can and must do is meet them head on. We can do that together by maximising our political influence, maintaining our Union’s voice as the principal representative of teachers and principals in public education, and building your capacity to assert your professional and industrial rights.

Teachers must demand RESPECT. Teachers deserve RESPECT. Teachers – worth it.

Kevin Bates

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 1, 17 February 2012, p7