This paper was published in edited form in the ‘NT Suns’ on September 19 2017.
NEW IS NOT NEW
Educational ideas and changes are often presented to the public as being innovative and new. This is often not the case. Proposed changes are in fact there to have a great article re-introduction of old practices, previously discarded.
Within education at both schools and system levels of management, there is a fairly constant movement of staff. Those new to education in the NT, may introduce ‘new’ practices without being aware of their past use and history. This happens because there is little in the way of written and recorded NT educational history.
From time to time, those earning degrees, may study aspects of our Territory’s educational past. However, their dissertations and theses at best, find their way into the university’s library archive, often never seeing the light of day after they have been assessed and filed. This means they benefit no-one. The research devoted to their preparation and what they reveal is largely wasted.
When appointed CEO of Education in 2009, Gary Barnes observed to a meeting of school leaders that his job as incoming leader was not helped by the fact that we had no recorded and readily available history of education in the NT. He suggested that to understand educational history would help leaders in planning the way forward.
Any hope there might be some changes to overcome this deficiency have never occurred. Consequently, many educators who come to the NT remain blind to educational history. They make decisions and introduce policies without realising how much of their ‘new’ content is old hat. The following are a few of the policies that have been re-run:
• Regionalisation of educational management which has been on, off and on again several times since the late 1970’s.
• Introduction of Aboriginal languages into schools. Over time, bilingual education and other approaches have been embraced, rejected and re-endorsed.
• Developing programs for the study of languages other than English (LOTE) in both primary and secondary schools has had the same on again, off again, now on again history.
• Teacher training methodologies have been re-modelled so many times, that confusion has resulted.
• TAFE, VET and life education approaches are in a constant state of flux, posing huge challenges for schools, training institutions and students.
Innovation and change are important to grow educational systems and the schools they support. However, so too is consistency and predictability. Introducing, dropping, reinstating and changing focus by habit, is not wise. For the sake of stability we need to reflect on our educational history.