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Cane toad solutions don't work, especially not in education

By Phil Cullen - posted Monday, 16 August 2010

The displaced Australian system in vogue before 2008 could have been called a learnacy system, based on love for learning and for developing learning potential. It never got a chance. This new system is described by Klein as a "hard-data system." I suppose Gillard's term "modernising infrastructure" means the same. Both negative descriptors mean that what is done in schools is determined by what tests demand ... and test content is determined by someone beyond schools.

No one seems to be concerned, either, about the release of the Senate Inquiry report into Naplan. Started on May 13 and due to surface on August 13, it is now on ice because the elections have interfered with the holding of a public hearing. Of course. This inquiry has published all 272 submissions from organisations and individuals. A Google of "senate inquiry naplan" will reveal them.

The majority of those who bothered to submit suggestions, you will see, clearly dislike the testing and the use of the screwy information that tests provide. If the recommendations from the Senate are those that one anticipates, will the new government change its mind and, maybe, start from scratch with a home-grown learning-based regime?


Then, in the ruddy-blush of the election kafuffle, as if suddenly thought-of, more cane toads were released.

  1. The proposal that better teaching performers should receive more money [a blast from the past] hit the deeply-interested press. One is unsure of the salary cap that will be needed for each school; nor whether only teachers of the 3Rs will get it. The pay structure will be sufficient to attract marquee performers to teach at Winton, Wilcannia, Halls Creek and Oodnadatta won't it? It will require the wisdom and experience of Andrew Demetriou and David Gallop combined to work out how to be fair to all concerned, including the pupils. Who will be the better "spotters" for the talent ... subject-based itinerants, regional personnel, school dentists? Once sorted within each state system, it should be easy-pickings for the richer private school's recruitment efforts.
  2. Next, within the same week, came a brilliant suggestion straight from the Patel "manual of appointment". Dragged from the past along came a repeat "pressure-cooker" scheme for the training of teachers who have expertise in some non-teaching field. Such a scheme has caused a riot before, with Principals and Inspectors having to teach high schools subjects that they knew nothing about for a while, and every single recruit giving up teaching after a year or two.
  3. Then there was the proposal to disallow the playing of sport on week-ends for not turning up at school. Talk about a reward and punishment, fear-driven system! I"ve seen schools where a naughty child, not allowed in school in out-of-school time as a punishment, weep because it was such fun to "play" with learning material inside the room; and groans from kids when a Minister gave them a school holiday because they couldn't come to school for a day. Fair go, Julia and Simon. Try some Aussie thinking.

I do hope that no more sudden initiatives surface next week. I'm scared enough now.

I'm certainly voting informal in the Reps to play safe.

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About the Author

Phil Cullen is a teacher. His website is here: Primary Schooling.

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