…. well, take your pick: Adelaide, Sydney, or Melbourne. I’ve been in all three today and realised the truth in the assertion that Australians use planes the way Brits use planes. I’ve been talking with people in all three places about both the Musical Futures and Learning Futures projects.Much enthusiasm from administrators and teachers alike, but the question of pedagogy is in danger of being overshadowed by curriculum issues (isn’t it always?). Australia is currently drafting its first national curriculum and it’s proving to be a painful process. Perhaps part of the reason lies in confusion over its purpose: is it to ensure parity or to drive up ‘standards’? No-one seems clear. From a British perspective, visiting Australia seems like deja vu all over. Despite Australia comfortably out-performing us in PISA and OECD tables, the Aussies seem determined to import our ‘accountability’ framework. Whilst their determination not to be complacent is admirable, we learned in England some time ago that publishing national standardised test results would only lead to ‘teaching to the tests’, and not do much to improve student outcomes anyway. In an article this week in The Age newspaper, it was revealed that more data would be made available on each school’s performance via the MySchool website. Despite Education Minister Garrett claiming that publishing data did not lead to teaching to the tests, a survey showed that over two-thirds of Principals were doing just that, since the website’s introduction. There seems to be deep-rooted suspicion from teachers I’ve met that the purpose of the new curriculum is predominantly to ensure that apples are compared with apples, and priced accordingly, from the Northern Territories to Tasmania. All new governments can’t resist defining what should be taught, and they are similarly keen to determine assessment – how it should be tested. What they can’t, or won’t, get their collective heads around, is that it’s attention to pedagogy, how students learn, that will not only lead to long lasting learning, but will improve results anyway. One can only hope that the plain common sense, and directness of the Australian people resists the temptation to go for short-term fixes. I was in a hardware store this week, south of Adelaide, and asked one of the staff where I’d find the loo.
‘Just a minute, mate, I’m just helping this couple out.’ Turning to a young couple he said’ So, are you re-painting it to live in it, or sell it?’
‘Sell it’, they replied.
‘Just follow me then, I’ll show you the cheap shit’. That’s the trouble with our kids’ education – they have to live with it for a very long time.