Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Carping side issues for Australian education

EDUCATION Minister Julia Gillard carpeted the public education lobby yesterday for allowing a culture that accepted the underachievement of children and urged it to concentrate on implementing government reforms instead of carping about side issues.

Addressing the Public Education Forum last night, Ms Gillard reaffirmed the Government's commitment to transparent reporting of school performance despite objections from the teaching profession.

She made no apology for the Government keeping an election commitment to maintaining the flawed model of private school funding ahead of a planned review, which the public school lobby has attacked as unfair.

"I would strongly counsel that now is not the time to be diverted from the relentless implementation of our current broad and deep reform agenda," she said.

Ms Gillard said 2009 must be about delivering the "mammoth and urgent" building programs for schools, implementing national partnerships to improve teacher quality, literacy and numeracy, and combating disadvantage. Teachers should work to ensure these programs "make the leap from being words on the pages of intergovernmental agreements to active reforms in the classroom".

"Delivering this reform agenda involves working together to confront hard truths and overcome a status quo that has accepted the underachievement of some children for far too long," she said.

The Public Education Forum is being held by the Australian Education Union with the Australian Council of State School Organisations, Australian Government Primary Principals Association and Australian Secondary Principals Association.

International human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson will officially open the forum today.

A group of 15 associations representing teachers, principals and academics from the government, Catholic and independent school sectors wrote to all education ministers last week calling for legislation banning the compilation of league tables from school performance data.

"Whilst we are appreciative of (the ministers') desire to put in place a structure and process to allow for a longitudinal analysis of school and system performance, on behalf of our students and school communities the profession requires assurances that the misuse of this data will not occur," it says.

But Ms Gillard said the Government would not resile from its commitment to transparent reporting of student and school results.

"While public scrutiny might make all of us uncomfortable from time to time, so it should," she said.

"We serve the public. We are accountable to the public. And we can't shield ourselves from public scrutiny. Nor should we.

"The legitimacy of a publicly funded education system must flow from public confidence and trust in it, and from the extent to which it is able to demonstrate quality and improvement."

Naming three public school principals who had challenged the status quo and transformed schools with disadvantaged children, Ms Gillard said their work proved "disadvantage is not destiny".

"These principals have shown that massive improvements are possible in every school," she said.

"That is why I am unapologetic about my commitment to a new era of transparency."

Ms Gillard said she understood concerns about the misuse of school performance data and the misleading picture that resulted from league tables of raw scores, but the nation's education ministers were working to address the issue.

"They are important issues that can be dealt with, but to focus only on these issues is to miss the larger point," she said.

The Australian

1 comment:

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