Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is education a global competition?

Readings: Is education a global competition?
 Australia's schools are failing and are behind other countries across the globe. Jo Tovey from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reports on the PISA 2009 results for Australia. Does this impression of global competition mean that Australian teachers and students are in a global race?
Tovey's report identifies a reason for Australia's performance relative to other nations and highlights growing inequalities between rich and poor as a reason for Australia's ranking.
Does this impression of global competition mean that Australian teachers and students are in a global race?

This question is complicated as it pre-states an assumption based on problem identification and action. I am not sure what percent of teachers are aware of the PISA rankings, what percentage are aware of the PISA rankings whilst programing and delivery of service and what percent of teacher take direct action based on PISA rankings, but I am sure Australian teachers want to improve their professional practice.

Teaching is an overwhelming complex profession firmly based on the dynamics of in-your-face and mind interaction. The classroom is about managing large numbers of micro decisions per hour. As an administrator I make less decisions per day. It is far from an accident ward, but it is further away from a lecture room in a university. By the end of a day teachers I work with are both exhilarated and exhausted by the dynamics of a classroom. I view classroom dynamics more as a small workshop with 25 to 30 bodies and minds busily working away on multiple tasks. The classroom is not a sweatshop, but it is space of intense activity with a large number of bodies and minds.

I also find teachers are conscious of their professional practice and are keen to improve, innovate and alter programs to suit the needs of their students. In short Australian teachers are determined to improve learning standards, but I believe improvement is based on professional values rather than external competition. In a sporting sense teachers are not watching the clock or score board as they focus on their play. I am a firm believer in Hattie’s Visual Learning where improvement in practice can improve student-learning achievement.

Schools have been a function of competition as long as the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) has existed. The pursuit of ‘gold’ through ATAR scores can influence a school’s prosperity and status. The myschool site based on National Assessment Programs results could be influencing where young parents reside and the number of students moving from public to private schools. This could be affecting the  socio-economic gap between schools. I can assume that PISA results are not instigating a migration of students from Australian to Shanghai, however it could slow down the intake of students within International Schools programs from specific East Asian countries.

If anything, the competition belongs as the responsibility of the Federal Education Minister, State and Territory Education Ministers and Departments of Education (within the operands of our political structures). They are the authorities that have operational spending and decision-making powers to enact change in the best interest of Australia, and Australian states and territories. They provision and enable future strategic directions. It is the people of Australian and states and Territories whom collectively rise to the needs of the future.
  • Education doesn’t just belong to teachers, principals or schools. It belongs to the communities and societies of Australia.
  • Teacher’s core business is not to construct learning programs based on external test scores, however it is society’s prerogative to design the future through education.

As a Territorian educator the PISA results indicate a significant gap between indigenous and non-indigenous achievement results. The article promotes tied funding (Gonski) as the key to close this gap. The article discredits the fundings to the Northern Territory as it is not based on disadvantage. 

It concludes with this statement ‘There is now a real and well-founded fear that this new disparity between the way different states will fund schools - ''Gonski'' and ''non-Gonski'' - will only exacerbate the inequalities between them, as students in rural indigenous schools in the Northern Territory attract less funding than those in NSW, perhaps helping to compound the existence of many ''Australias'' for decades to come’ (Tovey 2013). The statement links funding with achievement and highlights the power of strategic directions within federal, states and territories educational bodies. 

If the article is correct the Federal Government has allocated funding that is strategically defined by global standing (PISA) and is using this global standing to influence states and territories. As states and territories initiate future funded programs, teachers and students are intrinsically entwined within what is ‘the global competition’.
  • Yes. Australian teachers and students are entwined within a global race?