GIVE SCHOOLS A BREAK

 The most unnerving factor about education is all the tooing, froing argy-barging that goes on about structure and organisation. Education is regulated to the point of inundating schools and teachers with paperwork, administrative and accountability requirements that bury good prctice and a comon sense approach. The whole process is one catatonic mess! 

The joy of teaching and the pleasures of learning have been stripped away by the grim regulatory and expectational fronts throwing up new directions and demanded priorities on an almost daily basis.

RESPECT

Principals and teachers should aim to earn the respect of students and peers. Positional power is best if earned on the basis of respect rather than through pulling rank.

Make an aim one of catching peers, subordinates and students doing ‘something good’ so you can offer them praise. Be sincere and never trivialise thanks you offer, so it is seen to be meant.

EDUCATION HAS FOUNDING NEEDS – Walking must come first

This column was published in the Suns Newsapers in January 2016. Before putting structures into place for students of tender years, ensure basics. And DON’T take the fun and enjoyment out of the first years of schooling.

RUNNING DOES NOT COME FIRST
It seems that educational systems are continually being challenged on the subject of balance within the teaching and learning spectrum. The 2008 Melbourne Declaration on education was signed by all State and Territory Ministers of Education. The declaration’s preamble affirmed the importance of holistic education. Social, emotional and moral development of children were key elements of educational development. Academic development was not the sole educational focus.

There is a marked departure from this position. Children at increasingly younger ages, are being introduced to the academic world. A pilot program has introduced preschool children to a language other than English. This trial has been declared a success. It will be extended to other preschools in 2016. If successful, it could become Australia-wide from as early as 2017.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said teaching pre-schoolers another language has set a new standard. More than 1700 Australian pre-schoolers have learnt Japanese, Indonesian, French, Mandarin Chinese and Arabic as part of the trial. Minister Birmingham said “There is currently an evaluation process occurring and I will wait for that to conclude before making a final decision but pending a positive recommendation from this review I have every intention of rolling out the Early Learning Languages Australia application across the country in 2017.”

What’s next?

Minister Birmingham said based on the success of this trial and as part of the Innovation and Science Agenda the Turnbull Government would commit $6 million to the development of a similar STEM-(Science, Technology, English, Maths) focused application.

“Knowing that around 75 per cent of the fastest-growing industries require STEM-related skills, we want to work with Australia’s youngest minds to ensure they develop an interest in those fields.

Birmingham justified this computer and tablet based approach to Early Learning. “The skills and opportunities those children participating in these programmes receive are a perfect example of the Innovation Agenda that is at the heart of the Turnbull Government’s vision for Australia’s future.” (Source: Media release 12 January 2016)

One track

Developmentally, children have to crawl and walk before they can run. I believe we ought not disregard the Melbourne Declaration’s call for holistic development. Taking those who are little more than toddlers into early learning programs that quickly lead toward a point of pre-academic saturation is not wise. The developmental principles espoused in the Melbourne Declaration recognise and point toward the need for both character development and social competencies. Childhood occupies a few brief years and should be enjoyed. Forcing children into learning domains in a premature ‘high flying’ context can deny them the entitlement and joy of childhood.

Learning and understanding are important but it should all be in good time. Prematurely exposing children to learning before they have the maturity for conceptual understanding, could lead to disenchantment with education.

DON’T DILUTE ETHICAL BEHAVIOUR

DON’T RELEGATE ETHICS

It is fine to talk about accountability in leading and teaching.    Accountability is important. It is often the only thing that is discussed. 

Consider though, the need for ethics to underpin leading and teaching. Accountability  Leadership (AL) is demanded of school leaders by systems. Principals and school leaders in turn put AT (accountability [in] teaching) back onto teachers. This is about meeting systemically imposed standards, with testing, measurement and assessment the key national education drivers.

In all this, I am disappointed that the ethical elements of leading and teaching can take a back seat. Holistic education, which considers the social, we optional and moral/spiritual factors of development can run second the the academic imperative. If and when this happens, students are the losers.

DON’T RUN – OR WALK – ON RETIRING

One of the changes that has happened for me in retirement, has been the opportunity to spend more time thinking about policies that are ‘shaped above’ and downlined onto schools. Maybe, ‘dropped’ or ‘loaded’ might be better descriptors, for those in schools feel a great deal comes down from on high, often with minimal notice. New policies (the words ‘reforms’ and ‘initiatives’ are often used) require those within schools to accept and implement new priorities, processes and procedures. Those in schools often have little time to respond to suggestions with meaningful input to the shaping of new ways forward, because they are too busy receiving and implementing.

Time to reflect upon and respond to draft proposals for change, feeding back into the consideration loop, is often denied. New policies often have to be implemented ‘tomorrow if not yesterday’.

I often wish, nearly four years into retirement from full time work, that I had been able to consider policy propositions then, as I do now. Retirement can allow one to become more proactive in response to issues than is the cases when working full time. To this end, I encourage those who have retired or are retiring, to remain affiliated with education. Consider proposed policy changes and developing priorities and make an input to those groups charged with their development.

There is really no need to walk away from education on the day of retirement.

MAKE 2016 A YEAR OF ‘COMMON SENSE’ EDUCATION

hope that 2016 can be the ‘Year of Common Sense’ for education. Research is important, so too are new initiatives. We ought also appreciate and continue to develop approaches and strategies that work well.

A worry for me is that too often, things that are working well, are tossed out simply because they have been around for a long time, AND WORKING WELL. I suspect there care times where teachers and school leaders who want something new because what they have is old hat and boring – no matter that what is in place works well and for the betterment of students. Is tossing aside proven my practice, really a common sense approach? Or is there a certain giddiness and excitement about new ideas that causes us to supplant practice without regard for the fact that this may work against the best interests of students?

May ‘common sense’ prevail in educational pursuits during 2016.

PERSPECTIVES TO EDUCATIONAL CHANGE WITHIN SCHOOLS. Bringing Influence to Bear

In retirement from full time work but as an educator who still makes peripheral contribution, I have discovered something very interesting.

When in full time work within schools, principals and their staff members are on the ‘inside’ looking ‘out’. New ideas, approaches, initiatives and priorities developed within the wider policy and planning domain, after some pre-consideration, are funnelled down on to schools to pilot, trial, implement and generally manage. New initiatives (so called) often come down in volume, meaning those in schools have very little time to think about what might be entailed before they have to wrangle them into place. It is this imperative that gives riser to the complaints of curriculum overcrowding and lack of time to work systematically and in a carefully managed context.

Schools are the end-point of these new educational directions . Implementation is often compulsory and has to be undertaken within a very limited time frame. The consequence of this methodology is that those in schools are case into reactive do mode. they have little time to consider the Genesis and the evolution of initiatives before they land on schools. Principals and staff members, along with school councils and communities of students and parents are discouraged by these pressures from giving genuine feedback. They have little time for talking because they are so busy doing.

The bigger picture

Once retired and with the pressure of day-to-day work lifted from one’s shoulders, the chance to consider proposed change takes on a different character. It becomes possible to view issues from the outside (the school) looking in rather than being inside the school looking out (at systems and government positions).

Being able to consider issues in a more dispassionate and less intimate weary does provide the chance for consideration and also for contribution to the shaping of policies and programs before they are down lined to schools. This can be done through contribution to working parties and accepting invitations to make submissions during discussion phases of change being considered. Some retirees joint committees considering policies at this level.

Walking away from education when retired does not afford this opportunity. For those who remain in touch, there can be a role to fill. Part of that giving back is considering how change impacted upon those within schools, from a first hand experience trial viewpoint. That can be an important perspective to include in discourse prior to ideas reaching school level.

DITCH HONORARY DOCTORATES

One of the things that grates on my soul, in Australia at least, is the propensity of Universities to go in for awarding honorary doctorates and on occasion, honorary professorships, to politicans, sports personalities, defence force personnel and ‘noted’ members of the public. When these honorary honours are conferred, they are often accompanied by statements in the media announcing conferees as academics.

This is just not right. If flies in the face of logic which confers doctorates and high level accolades on the basis of research and serious study. If also offers a figurative ‘slap across the face’ to those whose qualifications are genuinely earned, often at considerable personal sacrifice and cost.

A particularly galling aspect of this recognition is that honorary qualifications are often conferred during graduation ceremonies, at which the ‘honorary’ awarded is highlighted well and truly above genuine graduates.

There are plenty of other accolades that can be offered to people who have done well and made contribution in political, defence, sporting and community domains. There is no need to dilute the purist notion of academe by conferral of honorary awards.

Or have I got the bull by the tail?