GERM is an acronym for the giant scato-meme that testucators [vis-a-vis educators] have helped to spread around the world with considerable albeit predictable success. It stands for Global Education Reform Movement. It is a movement that has altered the well-established schooling status of countries from child-focussed-learning to one that relies solely on high stakes testing. It is a movement that started off in a New York school district and, supported by the resources of big-ticket publishing companies, established modes of testucation in a number of western countries.
Australia was a push-over. Australia can now claim to be the GERM capital of the world. This reform movement, powered by extreme political muscle corralled principals, teachers, parents and pupils early in the piece to believe in the power of measurement. All are now well-conditioned to the pressures of GERM-inspired NAPLAN testing and are anticipating its conversion to on-line operations. NAPLAN, a testing device that pretends to assess literacy and numeracy levels, is standardised testing on steroids. Sadly it is unreliable and invalid for ‘improvement’ purposes. That doesn’t matter. Australian schools were told to put up and shut up. We put up with it. We must.
Like Thomas the Tank Engine, we compliantly obey our financially fat corporation-based political controllers of learning through fear-based measurement without question.
After five years, NAPLAN is failing badly in what it was supposed to do; and the political solution to this is to increase the effort - a not unusual political reaction. More clout. More money Pasi Sahlberg of Finland first used the word GERM in a non-pejorative way to compare the differences between his country’s reform movement of many years ago that used non-testing, learning principles to guide its young people with those countries, like Australia, that have more recently adopted the heavy-handed measurement reform mode. Finland’s system operates on cultural equity, teacher respect and curriculum freedom; ours and other GERM countries the direct opposite. Australian schooling now enlarges social differences, degrades the teaching profession and follows hard-core curriculum guidelines.
All authorities seem to be possessed by the occasional international PISA tests for 15 years olds, conducted by the OECD, for opinion and judgement about their schooling, despite the frailties of that mode of judgement. Finland treats PISA casually because it cannot see any benefit in national blanket testing and it does not want PISA results to control its live curriculum as it does to GERM countries rigid ones.
NAPLAN adherents, advocates, supporters and operators cannot explain how our ‘students’ under-perform so profoundly, compared with Finland’s pupils at 15 years of age.
How come? Australian children attend school for up to four years longer than do Finnish children by 15 years of age! There is a two-year difference in starting ages and another two in hours spent at school itself. During this extra time, Australian pupils spend the equivalent of one full year on intense [4yrs x 10 weeks at the beginning of each year] hands-on, heads-down test practice - and we still can’t ‘measure-up’! What is going on? Child-oriented learning-based educators [non-testucators] can tell the politicians why. But then, with their usual fervour for knowledge of what happens in the classroom, Australian politicians take no notice of those who know what they are talking about. They prefer to talk in numbers – NAPLAN-speak. This has been the pattern of political rhetoric for the past half-decade.
These unfortunate policy-makers believe that there are votes in supporting NAPLAN, promoting choice, shaming teachers, advocating heavy guidelines and spruiking test scores.
No other authority, even New York whose model we adopted, can be as proud as Australia for its attention to GERM ideals. We are faithful supporters and our schools are well controlled...not as productive in learning terms as they should be...going downhill in NAPLAN terms ...but, well controlled. The Klein-Gillard duo continues to claim ownership.
Credit for Australia’s ascendance to gold-level standard in GERM principles must go to its forms of control.