The Coalition has made it very clear that their sole focus in government is to give investors, both foreign and domestic, more disposable income. In the absence of any evidence, we are asked to believe that foregoing this revenue will provide jobs and growth which will fund schools, hospitals and welfare.
Sounds easy. Make rich people richer and prosperity for all will follow. “It’s a good investment” insist Malcolm and Scott.
Cut red tape, cut regulations, fast track approvals, limit court appeals, open up free trade, import temporary labour, and allow corporations to sue us if future legislation affects their profits.
Except, with interest rates so low and wages and demand stagnant, the tax concessions for property investment and superannuation make them far more attractive, skewing investment away from business and infrastructure.
It is the elderly who are getting wealthier as young people go backwards.
We all know that regardless of the spin from the business mouthpieces.
But what is particularly galling is, as they throw money at big business, the Coalition has jumped on the NAPLAN results to justify cuts to education funding.
It is indisputable that investing in education brings very high economic and social rewards. It is also important to spend the money wisely. Which is why listening to Coalition thoughts on education is so excruciating.
Firstly they say Gonski hasn’t worked because just giving them more money with no goals is wasteful. Which is somewhat surprising because it was Abbott and Pyne in December 2013 who cut the requirement that states meet benchmarks to receive their funding.
In announcing the new agreements on Monday, Mr Abbott said the Government would “dismantle” the regulations and red tape associated with Labor’s deal as it does not want to “run public schools out of Canberra”.
“I suspect that New South Wales and Victoria will be happy to lose the Canberra command and control elements of those deals but certainly the financial arrangements for the next four years will be absolutely adhered to,” he said.
It will shelve Labor’s ideas of imposing management plans for states’ schools systems, setting up Canberra-based inspectors and gathering extra data in Canberra.
The Coalition wants states to employ specific pedagogical techniques like explicit instruction, regardless of its appropriateness for individual students and despite the very recent and expensive experiment by Noel Pearson in Aurukun showing it doesn’t work.
“Instead of spending $30 million on a US-based product like direct instruction, in Aurukun we could spend just $150,000 on a curriculum writer specialist teacher who could sit down with the people of Aurukun and write a high expectation kind of curriculum program for every year level,” said Indigenous educator Dr Chris Sarra.
“[A program] that’s accepted and embraced and gets the people of Aurukun excited, gets the children excited and engaged, and enables them to have a very strong and positive sense of cultural identity, while at the same time nurtures a sense of excellence so they can thrive in a modern society.”
Over the last three years, every time a Coalition MP or hired hand speaks about education, they say ‘phonics’. It’s become their go to word. Sure phonics is important but it is just one aspect of learning to read as explained by the English Teachers Association of NSW.
The “reading war” is, in reality, one between those who advocate a “phonics only” approach and those who advocate phonics as part of a larger, more inclusive system. Classroom teachers, on the whole, tend to be represented in the more inclusive system, while “phonics only” advocates tend to be academics in the field of psychometrics who are most comfortable with systems that appear neatly sequenced and measurable.
The most important aspect of reading is understanding. Without understanding, reading is, literally, useless.
Another term we hear bandied about is STEM. The Coalition has ‘targets’ for numbers of STEM teachers though if it is like their ‘targets’ for female representation they are unlikely to be met. Labor’s policy provides 25,000 scholarships to encourage STEM graduates into teaching but that would cost money so it is doubtful the Coalition would agree.
More parental involvement is another favourite, completely neglecting the fact that, in many disadvantaged homes, the parents do not have the time, resources or skills to offer help.
A dear friend of mine is the principal of a tough high school in the western suburbs of Sydney. She is ropable.
After years developing a National Curriculum, the Coalition chooses to change it before it is even implemented. Perhaps they don’t understand the work that went into developing it and the programs and resources to implement it.
She is being asked to become a business manager, spending all her time on financial management rather than teacher development and student outcomes.
Head office is employing bureaucrats rather than educators who are interfering in school management in areas they do not understand.
A teacher has many responsibilities to those entrusted to their care. First and foremost is for the child to feel safe and valued. Self-esteem and confidence to try are crucial to learning. A teacher should encourage curiosity and a love for learning. They should allow creativity and reward initiative. They should facilitate group co-operation and problem solving. They should foster an environment of respect. They should cater the learning experience to individual needs and teach the skills required for children to learn more.
Teaching is so much more than ticks and crosses.
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