MAKE 2019 THE YEAR OF THE STUDENT

This column, in abridged form was published in the NT Sun under the header NAPLAN pressure on teachers on January 29 2019.

MAKE 2019 THE YEAR OF THE STUDENT

The 2019 NT school year is under way. In urban schools, teachers came in for a day of preparation and readiness on Friday January 25 and students are back for their first day today. Remote school teachers are today getting ready for the return of pupils tomorrow.

While on annual leave, teachers engage in both subconscious and conscious readiness for the school year ahead. They are well aware of the teaching responsibilities with which they will be faced. Educators new to the profession will be anticipating life in their classrooms and with their students.

At the beginning of every school year, principals and their leadership teams set agendas which include expectations they have of teachers and pupils. A great deal of focus is on expectations held for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9, whose NAPLAN results will determine the school’s standing in this national testing program. NAPLAN data is the key point of focus in many staff meetings. The agendas around regional meetings of principals and school leaders will also primarily focus on the analysis and consideration of academic issues.

NAPLAN is not the only testing program that occupies the highest of priorities in schools. There are a range of other formal testing options administered to students as they move up the grades and through the years of formal schooling.

Major and ongoing stress is placed on teaching strategies that will lead to advantageous data outcomes. Data collection and analysis has become the major driver in schools. School, system and national accountability seemingly underpins the Australian educational agenda at primary and middle school level.

The Melbourne Declaration on Education was developed as a statement of ambition and consensus by State and Territory Ministers and Directors of Education in 2008. The declaration’s preamble states that education should be holistic. Social, emotional and moral/spiritual needs were as important as students’ academic development.

It is somewhat paradoxical that 2008 was the first year of Australia-wide NAPLAN testing. From that time onward and notwithstanding the declaration’s focus, it seems that academics alone is the driver of Australian education.

“ …Bureaucracy dehumanises and compromises our teachers and our children … the joy of teaching can be turned into despair … children are becoming less important than outcomes.” (Noni Hazelhurst on cover of Teacher by Gabbie Stroud.)

I sincerely hope that 2019 will be a year focussing on holistic education and children as people … But that may well be a wish in vain.

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