Sunday, 1 December 2013

Wrong question

Gonski may have been asked to answer the wrong question.

He seems to have answered this question:
"How can the Commonwealth and state governments change their school funding arrangements to ensure better outcomes across the board for students?"

Framing the issues like this comes with three implicit assumptions. 

  1. The first is that there is something wrong with Australian schools. 
  2. The second assumption is that whatever ails Australian schools can be fixed by changing the funding arrangements. Can it?
  3. The third assumption is that more money needs to be spent on Australian schools. Does it?

Here, I suggest is the question that should be addressed:
"How can we deliver the best possible education to each and every child in Australia regardless of geography and socioeconomic status?"

Framing the question in this way means:

  • There are no implied assumptions about existing institutional arrangements. Maybe schools in their present form will be part of the mix; or maybe we shall have to experiment with radically different ways of delivering education
  • There is no implication that we need more money. Maybe we do. Maybe we can deliver better education with less money. Maybe too much money is part of the problem.

Upper House Inquiry

The Legislative Council Inquiry into Education should be just about finished.

 While it has been interesting to some degree to see the culture in education manifest in the evidence of senior bureaucrats, their differences, their attitudes, their knowledge and their understanding of what the Debelle Royal Commission was actually investigating, can we really expect significant new information on top of what has already been made public through five other reviews in the past 12 months of the Education Department.

We know that Detective Chief Inspector, has been appointed as the Director of the newly formed Incident Management Division. And we have heard many teachers are wailing that ANOTHER policeman has been appointed to a top education job But it was really a no brainer that if you want someone with investigative, prosecutorial, evidence gathering and analysis skills, it is going to be either a lawyer or a policemen. In the case of Trevor Lovegrove we have both.

And then there was the farce of the Australian Education Union presenting itself to the Inquiry. No one can be quite sure what they had to offer but they managed to get themselves all tongue tied and tangled over what they did or didn't know about the sex abuse case which sparked the Debelle Inquiry, when they did or didn't know it and what they should or should not have done.

But you know, what seems to be missing from all this theatre in education at the moment, is any focus on children, their learning and their genuine safety.

Nothing about the quality of teaching, the competence of school principals, discipline in the classroom. the endemic problem of bullying, let alone student achievement.

I still hear from parents greatly concerned that schools seem not to be bothered with cyber bullying, that bullying at school is ignored or played down, and that there are still debates about when to get the police involved.

What is happening these days that would start to restore confidence the community should have in the public education system?

What has happened to the eleven education officers disciplined as a result of Debelle's findings.

I have been watching these developments carefully and have had some lengthy meetings with new Education Chief Executive Tony Harrison.