It would seem that the Federal Liberal Party Government wishes to extend their control over education, making what amounts to an opening shot in gaining complete dominion over all levels of the education system. This is, I can say as someone involved in the teaching profession, an incredibly bad idea.
Despite the name of their political party, the Australian Liberal Party can be safely labelled as being rather conservative (almost backwards in many ways) as has been demonstrated by their various past and recent policy decisions. Their economic priorities are odd to say the least with funding regularly being tied to acts which, to be blunt, are a waste of time. An interesting example of this is that schools would only gain Federal funding if they flew the Australian flag and said an oath of allegiace/sung the national anthem every day. Sure, it’s a nice thing to do but they do not seem to comprehend that teaching professionals are already extremely time poor and resource stretched – there is no reason to stand around singing a rather poorly written anthem when students and teachers alike could be in the classroom actually doing something useful.
Julie Bishop, the federal education minister, recently appeared on the SBS program Insight which focused on the issue of literacy and a proposed new method of paying teachers. The ignorance she displayed on how schools actually work, the incredible work load teachers currently have and the way that students learn … well, it was staggering. I am currently of the opinion that Julie Bishop reflects the Liberal Party’s general philosophy quite well – that modern society should regress to one based on that found in the 1950’s. John Howard’s recently proposed changes to how history is taught (which were thankfully abandoned) certainly vindicate this, with the Prime Minister clearly showing that he is also ignorant of modern education practice and theory.
So why is direct federal control of education a bad thing? For starters, not all children are the same – each and every one of them learns in a different way. Take a step back and you’ll soon see that students over distances learn differently; students in Victoria have vastly different interests and perspectives than those that reside in Queensland or Western Australia. It is simply impossible to construct a curriculum that can cater to the needs of all students on a national basis – there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ curriculum and this is a fact that the Liberals simply do not seem to comprehend.
In short, the Liberals want education to go back to basics which will do nothing but disadvantage students in years to come. The future of society will almost certainly be a place where it is not skills that are important, instead it will be the ability to learn new skills and to expand one’s thinking that will be the vital factor in life. As such, modern education has students learning how to learn, how to face new situations and master them on their own terms. By all indications, the Liberals want a return to rote learning where classrooms mindlessly repeat the times tables over and over again – which simply doesn’t work.
I doubt anyone can come up with any solid justification for the Liberal’s plans in regards to education – but I lay down the challenge now. Present any evidence you can find that a back to basics approach will be the best way to serve student needs – you won’t be able to.