Extract from book in Weekend Australian..
8th November 2009

Extract from book in Weekend Australian.

SAT 07 NOV 2009
Oversight must stop short of overreach

Schooling is the test of a society's belief in itself

WHILE there is much to celebrate and to support about Australia's education system, there is much that still needs to be done to strengthen schools and to ensure all young Australians have the enriching and rigorous educational experience they deserve.
One way forward, epitomised by Kevin Rudd's education revolution, is to increase government control over schools, for example, by forcing schools to accept the government's policies and programs by linking implementation to continued funding.
Rudd's agenda is also very much about micro-management and defining educational success in terms of measurable outcomes.
The danger in imposing a centralised, one-size-fits-all approach is that if the politicians, bureaucrats and so-called education experts get it wrong, then all schools will suffer.
Much of the ALP's educational agenda is based on the need to increase productivity, make Australia more globally competitive and to prepare citizens for an ever-changing, information and communications technology-rich and uncertain world.
Such a view of education is narrow and utilitarian.
What's ignored is that education, especially subjects such as music, literature and the arts, should be valued in its own right and that there is much about learning that is not immediately relevant or of practical use.
The British experience under Tony Blair and the US experience of the No Child Left Behind Act illustrate the dangers of reducing education to what can be measured and of imposing too much testing and accountability on teachers and students.
It's ironic that as Education Minister Julia Gillard is enforcing more testing and accountability on the nation's schools, in Britain the government has scrapped national testing for 14-year-olds and the 2009 Rose report, which evaluated the primary school curriculum, concludes that too much testing narrows the curriculum and is educationally counter-productive.
An added concern about Rudd's education revolution, illustrated by documents such as the Melbourne Declaration on the Education Goals for Young Australians by education ministers last year and the Council of Australian Governments' National Education Agreement, is that the Labor government wants to use schools to implement its cultural-left political and social agenda.
According to the Prime Minister and Gillard, Australian society is marked by social inequality and disadvantage.
The school system unfairly reinforces social class and privilege and more needs to be done to help disadvantaged students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Ignored, compared with most other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, is that Australia has a strong record in promoting social mobility and that our education system, based on the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment results, is high equity.
Also ignored is the evidence that educational success or failure is not simply caused by a student's socioeconomic background.
As expected of the cultural-Left, much of the ALP-inspired approach to curriculum is based on the premise that celebrating diversity and difference and having a futures orientation is more important than acknowledging what we hold in common and what we owe the past.
No amount of talk about embracing diversity and difference can disguise the fact a commitment to tolerance, civility and mutual obligation arises from certain beliefs and values, and particular social, cultural and political institutions.
The reason Australia is a peaceful, stable democracy, where people's rights are protected and defended, is because of political and legal institutions that we have inherited primarily from Britain.
[Although Australia is] geographically a part of the Asia-Pacific region, the reality is that [the country's] development must be placed in the context of our Judeo-Christian heritage and the rise of Western civilisation.
There is an alternative to Rudd's education revolution.
Instead of government and bureaucrats controlling schools, they should have the freedom and flexibility to manage themselves.
All schools, government and non-government, should have the power to hire, fire and reward staff, to manage their own budgets, to set their own curriculum and to best meet the needs and aspirations of their communities.
While a certain amount of oversight is necessary, in areas such as health and safety, financial probity and minimum curriculum standards, schools should be self-regulating.
It is also vital that school choice is supported and that more parents are given the financial means to choose between schools.
At their best, subjects such as literature, history and geography are not about forcing on students the latest politically correct view about multiculturalism, the environment, gender issues and the class war
Instead, they inculcate a critical awareness and the ability to discriminate and to recognise the truth.
Edited extract from Australia's Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars, by Kevin Donnelly, published by Connor Court, $29.95.
Column:  Inquirer
Section:  REVIEW


Responses to this Post

sue says:

Would like to know if you cover what the education department does for kids with disabilities?  In particular, Aspergers Syndrome.  My son cannot be educated in the mainstream setting and because his IQ is too high he can't be educated by the special needs schools provided by the government.  Instead we were lucky to find a small independent school that caters for children like mine but we pay a lot of money for that privilege. Our only other option is homeschool.  I don't understand how the government's Shine promotion states that every Victorian child deserves to have an education when it is a blatant lie.  What does the government do to help kids who are highly intelligent but don't fit inside the square?  Absolutely nothing.  Oh hang on - they give me $50 a week as carer's allowance to compensate for the fact that I can't work because I have to be on call for my son 24/7.  And we've still got to try and work out what we will be doing for his secondary education.

Apologies for the rant - but I think it is an area that the government needs to look more into and support mainstream schools with more.  The teachers and principal and his last mainstream school had absolutely no clues on how to handle my son and they were considered to be an integration school.  And it's not just me - one has only to do a search on the internet and find a lot of frustrated parents.

There is no mention in your blog of kids with disabilities so I can only assume that Kevin Rudd is not addressing this?  If that is the case I feel so sad for these families.




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8th November 2009

Extract from book in Weekend Australian.SAT 07 NOV 2009Oversight must stop short of overreach By KEVIN DONNELLY Schooling is the test of a society's belief in itselfWHILE there is much to celebrate an...
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