We hold the answers

This week I have been sent a newspaper article and a blog post, both of which resonated strongly with me and probably shows me that people know me well.

The first came as a tweet “@medg56 RT @Kenjaneth13: A 10 year old who sees the world as it is and envisions the way it should be tinyurl.com/la2l644 .. A young @melcashen….” To be honest I wish I was like this when I was 10 but my interest in politics has only come over the last couple of years.

Please take the time to read the post and even leave a comment.  After reading it I noticed I had tears streaming down my face.  Like Maggie, I have an interest in politics. An interest that started through the frustration of not being able to make a difference in education.  I decided I needed to know more about policy to understand what was happening in our education system so am completing my Master of Education Policy International.  I am hopeful that the more I understand, the more voice I will have to fight for education and the more people (politicians) will listen. Like Maggie I have the same why questions.

Maggie is obviously a special young lady who sees the world not only as it is but as it should be. This is the stuff we dream of teaching but instead there is a focus on tests rather than “potential, creativity and kindness.”

Another article was sent to me today by a colleague and definitely rings true. Last week saw the Education Columnist at the Daily Telegraph, Maralyn Parker, use the opportunity of her last day to share some advice with her readers.  Advice I also advocate.

Everything about your profession is politicised. Your classrooms, the facilities and resources available to you, the number and type of students you teach, what you teach, how you are taught to be teachers, what you are paid, the level of support given to you – all of these things are governed by highly politicised processes.” Her advice to this – be political.  And she is right!

We need to talk about politics, we need to talk to politicians.  We need to understand what is happening and ask questions.  We need to be educating our communities about what is happening.  No longer can we think we can’t make a difference.  It is time to make a difference, whether it is taking Maralyn’s advice and joining a union or a professional organisation, responding to discussion paper or even understanding what is happening through reading white papers such as the recent Victorian Government Action Paper. Talk about it at lunch time, in staff meetings and online. We hold the answers.

2615548443_9d1ea02dacImage: ‘In My Place

I agree with Maralyn that we are at such a pivotal time in Australian Education.  Our new Education Minister is set to make a lot of changes to national curriculum, autonomy in schools and privatising HECS debts as a start. Now more than ever we need to focus on politics. Education depends on it.

And I don’t think it is fair to leave it to Maggie to ask the tough questions.

Great Schools

Last week I attended the Better Schools forum. Better Schools is mantra the Federal Government is using for its new campaign to improve the quality of education and equity of education throughout Australia.

Firstly, I have an issue with the title, Better Schools, implying that our schools are in major need of improving. Unfortunately it seems at the moment that our Government lacks the confidence in our education system, a side effect of over analysing data I am sure!  As we continue to pick our education system to pieces and compare it to ‘top tier education countries’ we lose sight of the important role our teachers have and the wonderful job they do.

That aside, the forum has been a great opportunity to ask questions of our Minister of Education, even if it is lacking conviction. (A much better consultation would see Mr Garrett, the Minister for School Education, asking the questions and educators, parents and students answering them) The forum does allow our Government to show their preparedness to act on behalf of all of the stakeholders of education.

The forum was held in Canberra but was shown online and you could submit questions through twitter, email and the website. I had several questions and they certainly weren’t unique. I hope that those involved in Better Schools took this as a sign of the areas we believe needs more clarifying. Many questions stemmed from the Gonski report, while others were focussed to the Parliamentary Secretary for School Education, Jacinta Collins, who spoke about education and disabilities. Mine were more focussed on the lack of teacher empowerment and an over emphasis of assessing learning outcomes such as NAPLAN.

My questions:

  • For many years now educators have been disempowered in teaching.  Does the Government believe it is important to empower teachers to do the job they have been employed to do? To trust educators that they know learning and teaching? To promote innovation in education? Does the Government think it is important to trust teachers and how will they ensure this is supported?
  • How can we have reform of Education without input from those at the coal face? How will the Government use the grass roots teachers to inform policy?
  • What do you personally believe a quality teacher does?
  • The title ‘Better schools’ implies our schools are not very good and need improving.  How will the Government build the respect and image of educators?
  • How will Better Schools support innovation in education in a system which is heavily reliant on compliance?

I had one questions answered, “What does ‘Educational Outcomes’actually mean?” To be honest I already knew the answer. But it was reiterated for me by Mr Garrett who explained outcomes as …. results. How students perform. Yes, how well students have performed in their ATAR, NAPLAN and reports from tests.

You can see the whole Better Schools Forum here or if you would like to see Mr Garrett’s response to my question skip to 48.25

The only problem is that I don’t believe there is a teacher out there who believes this is education. This is not what we work tirelessly and whole heartedly to achieve. Yes, of course it is part of it, don’t get me wrong. But it is so much more.

Educational outcomes are about preparing our students for the future. Building on curiosity and creativity to embed life long learning. Educational outcomes prepare our students to be collaborators, confident and reflective of their actions. It is teaching students to know themselves, be accepting of others and appreciate uniqueness. It is building skills in problem solving, using technology and connecting locally and globally.

Yes, it is what students learn but it is also about so much more.