Photo by Artem Podrez
“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”
Education has an important social, industrial, and democratic purpose. The overt political influence on pedagogy in pre-schools through to tertiary education systems is changing the work of schools. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) states that:
“Education plays a critical role in shaping the lives of young Australians and contributing to a democratic, equitable and just society that is prosperous, cohesive, and culturally diverse.”
The most recent review of the Australian Curriculum was undertaken in 2020/2021. The ‘History and Cultural Wars’ are yet to resolved. The OECD reference reform of education and training systems as improving ‘human capital’.
The policy and associated political statement on education (and every other social welfare area such as health and the justice systems) is a focus on the individual. Students are now seen as a unit of productivity. Children enter school and are assigned a Unique Student Identifier (USI) and every teacher and school leader who has completed a First Aid course after 2012 has a USI.
The USI is the individual identifier held for life, recording educational achievement and progress.
The introduction of high-stakes testing has increased the requirement to collect, analyse and draft school improvement plans. Key Performance Measures are applied across educational jurisdictions. NAPLAN has moved online; school leaders and teachers are required to track student achievement. School performance is measured against an expectation of continuous school movement. Data collection has become the metric that informs external validation, school assessment, and the measure of value that teachers add to student performance.
The 2021 independent inquiry ‘Valuing the teaching profession’ concluded that “all aspects of the work of teachers has grown in volume and complexity”. Healthy work and life balances are significantly disrupted as the workload of school leaders and teachers has become more challenging.
The recent floods, fires and pandemic have challenged our communities. School leaders and teachers adapted learning to maintain the connection between school and home. Reports that new teachers leave teaching within the first 5 years are alarming. Excessive workload demands, compliance measures and endless data entry are everyday facets of teaching and leading a school.
Recent announcements and incentive schemes including increased salary, locality allowances, favourable transfer options, fast track employment to leadership positions, are demonstrative of a real challenge that society is facing.
Everyone can remember a teacher. How did that teacher make learning good for you? I am so fortunate and honoured to work in schools with amazing teachers and school leaders.
Teaching is so much more than data entry. Political leaders and policy makers need to remember this and effect the systemic changes to improve the quality of learning experiences, and our society.