From the President: A new way or more of the same?
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 4, 1 June 2018, p4
Does “Growth Through Achievement” (Gonski 2.0) represent a new way for education or another invention of the establishment to be done to teachers rather than developed with teachers.
The sole responsibility of government for the framework within which our education system operates has long been ignored in the debate over the success of schools in realising the potential of the young people we teach. This ownership and its inevitable consequences are often conveniently overlooked when debate ensues about the achievement of the goals for education of our young people.
The importance of government interventions in education, and the impact of partisan politics therein, are particularly clear in the lived experience of successful education systems around the world and in the outcomes of the second Gonski review.
What you will not hear now is a shopping list of programs implemented in Finland or Canada that should be copied to ensure success for Australian students. Instead, it is the characteristics of development of education policy in those systems that bring about success. Elimination of disparate political and ideological imperatives from education debate is core. For example, some Scandinavian countries have managed to hand the construction of education systems and policy to educators and consumers (students, parents and community) and empowered them with trust and respect to make the necessary decisions to deliver quality education. The removal of political interference has captured, albeit fleetingly, the potential of the altruism of teachers and principals working with students and parents as partners in education.
The second imperative is the oft quoted need for education to focus on the needs of children, a reality that is then rapidly sacrificed to political and economic expediency. Canada has experienced a resurgence of progressive governments, and with it a genuine transfer of power to focus the education system on young people rather than on data to be misused by government and media to perpetuate the constructed narrative about the failing education system. A clear illustration of the change in approach is the ascendency of the student voice in education systems, developed into a sophisticated model that genuinely acknowledges the role of students in designing their own education experience and which embraces the partnerships model beyond the traditional teacher/parent paradigm.
The temporary nature of these changes, and the speed with which political interference has been reasserted, is staggering. The fact that this has led to declining outcomes is a sure sign of the foolhardiness of decision making that ignores empirical evidence in favour of ideology.
Contrast this with the outcomes of the second Gonski Report. Recommendations for a complete rewrite of the National Curriculum when we are just five years into the introduction of the current agreed model are at the top of the list. Stakeholders provided extensive input into the original National Curriculum prior to its finalisation. The agreed curriculum as a final product does not represent the aspirations of the teaching profession. This is the consequence of the fact that the curriculum is owned by the Federal Minister for Education in conjunction with state ministers, it is administered by a group that is not representative of the teaching profession, it is subject to regular, often unfathomable, changes, and it does not provide a flexible, modern framework for delivery of a twenty-first century education.
Is it any wonder that teachers and principals have no faith that the recommendations of Gonski 2.0 represent a new way forward for education? We should be concerned that, once again, massive change will be imposed on the teaching profession and students and that the finger of blame for the failings of this latest policy framework will point to those with the least influence in its creation.
If the education system as we know it is to change for the better, we must collectively assert our moral professional authority to take control of the education system and reinforce this with our industrial capacity to deliver.