This piece was published in the NT Sun on May 8 2018
GONSKI 2.0 A DEMAND TOO FAR
The recommendations of Gonski 2.0 will take obligations expected of schools, their principals and teachers a step too far. I hope that sense and sensibility prevail, rather than these latest recommendations being accepted carte blanc and foisted on schools.
There is some wonderment for me in the fact that Mr Gonski, a businessman of renown, is now regarded as an educational guru. He had a great deal to do with the ‘School Funding Model’ developed during the Rudd/Gillard years. That was about Australia-wide school funding focussed on opportunity and equity within education. However, he is now being revered for his thoughts on what should be the curriculum focus in classrooms.
The most recent Gonski recommendations were developed by a committee he heads, so he is not the sole author of proposed new directions. However, they are attributed to him as committee chairperson, possibly authenticated by the fact he is Chancellor of the University of NSW.
Individualised learning plans for each child in every class would be the straw breaking the camel’s back for teachers. Teachers struggle to provide for children in classes under present operational schemes and do well to meet diversified learning needs under present system requirements.
Further individualisation could reduce classrooms to places where teachers transfer material from their computers onto each student’s iPad or learning device. Progress would be monitored, assignments marked on completion and tasks revisited or extended through further exercises. Data about each child’s progress would be uploaded on a daily basis onto each child’s electronic file.
This approach might satisfy data exponents but would destroy the human contact between teachers and their students. Classrooms would become sterile and soulless, doing little to motivate students.
In advocating a changed focus, Mr Gonski suggests that NAPLAN has outlived its usefulness and should be discontinued. However, the preoccupation of education ministers and departmental CEO’s with test generated statistical analysis and data, means that it is not going to happen anytime soon.
The individualised approach to teaching being recommended by Gonski would simply add to the burdens that NAPLAN already places on students and schools.
In statistical terms, it has been confirmed that none of the changes, reforms and initiatives of the past decade or so, have enhanced educational outcomes for students in our schools. We have slipped to be 39th out of 41 high and middle income countries measured for student competence in maths, literacy and science. (Sydney Morning Herald, 15.6.17). Quite obviously, Australian educational planning is not being translated into enhanced student outcomes.