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Abbott v Rudd in the Education Debate

TONY ABBOTT: Leigh, I think the education debate, the school education debate shouldn’t be about funding, it should be about quality, and that’s what we’re on about. We’re on about higher-quality schools. We want to see better teachers, we want to see better teaching, we want to see more parental engagement, more community engagement.

7-30, August 15th 2013

Perhaps, it’s just that I’ve grown too cynical, but whenever politicians make statements like that I interpret them as code for, “We can cut education and it won’t make any difference, because it’s the teacher that makes all the difference.”

And yes, there’s no denying that a great teacher is better than an average teacher, and that an average teacher is better than a bad one. It’s just that frequently the person making the statement seems to then conclude that resources make no difference whatsoever, while arguing that any cuts to private schools would be devastating. While some people have the idea that technology is just for surfing the net or babysitting kids, the reality is that the best education isn’t some teacher holding students spellbound with sheer charisma, while he or she fills their empty heads with everything they’ll ever need to know. Students DO need access to technology at least some of the time. But more than that, they need rooms that don’t leak, heaters that work and spaces that suit the particular learning activity.

Of course, one never hears the same argument when talking about areas like Health or Defence. “It’s the quality of the doctor that counts, I don’t see why the hospital needs all these expensive machines. When I was born, the doctor managed with just a set of forceps and a stethoscope, so why can’t modern doctors do the same?”

And we’ll certainly never hear that it’s the quality of the soldier that counts, so why spend money upgrading the equipment or the weapons? David managed with just a slingshot and he was fighting Goliath.

But that’s what happens in education. Teachers are frequently asked to manage with just a slingshot. Goliath, by the way, was a Philistine. Of course, when it comes to education, he’s not the only one.

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