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2 June 2010
Inadequate consultation, a narrow reform agenda and a too-rapid rollout are three of the key points to come out of the public policy forum at Deakin University which debated Australia’s ‘Education Revolution’.
The National Curriculum, NAPLAN, and the My School web site were topics of discussion at the forum. Participants included student, parent and teacher organisations together with Indigenous community members, educational researchers, and representatives from all school sectors and statutory authorities for teacher registration, curriculum and assessment.
Curriculum expert and Chair in Education at Deakin, Professor Brenton Doecke, said he was surprised by how many people felt excluded from the reform process.
“It was a surprise to me to learn how many people and groups felt that they had been shut out from consultation with the government about various aspects of the ‘Education Revolution’,” he said.
“As a teacher educator with strong links with the teaching profession, I was aware that many teachers felt that the government’s reforms were being imposed on them without regard to their knowledge and experience. What I didn’t realise was that parents and young people also felt that they had been excluded from adequate consultation.”
Professor Doecke said he now felt the national curriculum was a lost opportunity.
“The keynote address by Professor Alan Reid from the University of South Australia, as well as presentations by other panel members, has made me feel that the national curriculum exercise has been a lost opportunity.
“A national curriculum might play a powerful role in enabling Australians to grapple with their history and identity. What we have been offered, instead, is a piecemeal approach that is lacking any sense of wholeness and authentic purpose.
“I believe the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) reasons for introducing a national curriculum show a lack of vision, and a disturbing failure to realise the potential of an exercise like this. The development and implementation of a national curriculum should have involved a truly national conversation involving educators, parents and young people,” he said.
Professor Jill Blackmore, Director of Deakin’s Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation, also highlighted lack of consultation as one of the post-forum key points.
“All of the stakeholders present found the lack of consultancy to be a major issue. Parents, unions, principals, teachers, students – across all education sectors it was felt there had been little consultation as to whether these reforms were a good thing,” she said.
Professor Blackmore said there was also a double standard in the launch of the reforms.
“The fact is that teachers are expected to use evidence to inform their practice, but these reforms have been launched as major policy initiatives when the research evidence suggests they will have detrimental effects on schools, in particular those most disadvantaged,” Professor Blackmore said. “Transparency does not in itself produce quality.”
Another key point from the forum was that the overall reform agenda is too narrow and focuses primarily on the role of education in the economy and a range of traditional academic subjects without adequately recognising the importance of the social, physical and emotional wellbeing of young people, as well as the need to support their capacity for participatory citizenship, critical thinking and creativity.
Another noted that the rapid pace with which the reforms are being rolled out was making it difficult for people to have any ownership of them.
The My School? Whose School? What’s on the table for public education in Australia? forum was hosted by Deakin University’s School of Education and Centre for Research in Educational Futures. Head of Deakin’s School of Education, Professor Diane Mayer, said the forum was part of the School’s commitment to “providing a space for people to express their views and engage in an informed debate about the Federal Government’s reforms”.
Materials from the forum including a video of Professor Alan Reid’s keynote address, interviews with panel members, notes from panel sessions and a list of key points can be viewed on the forum’s web site: http://communities.deakin.edu.au/ppf2010/ .
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