‘Education is too politicised these days to do kids any good’

Is education too politicised?

Having spent my working career in education, I have gathered a few opinions about the whole thing.

In an age of Gonski and Naplan, where education has become a political football, I often wonder how much educational thought goes into the decisions that are made.

So often as I made my through the educational jungle, decisions were made for purely political reasons; never as they claimed as educational rationale.

So much was about saving money here and there and putting more and more on the shoulders of the teachers and schools.

Gonski, in theory, was a great idea but I fear with the implementation of this current Gonski funding plan whether we really will see any change. The rich and well-off schools will always be rich and well off, and the poor school will always be a poor school, with maybe a few more resources than they had before.

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I always thought of Naplan as a waste of time, as I have never really believed traditional testing was the way to go. Testing simply tests what you know today; a week from now you might struggle to remember half of what you learned to memory to get through the exam. The results are used in a more political way than a useful way. Sure, they may suggest your child is struggling in maths or literacy, but chances are you already knew that, or they just had a bad day.

I preferred ‘testing’ of the sort where students are asked to submit a project of some kind. These tasks illustrate the skills the student has and how the said student can manipulate those skills to show their best work.

You can see it, should you go to the events organised after each year’s Higher School Certificate in New South Wales. I went one year to the exhibition of outstanding work by students in the industrial arts area. Here were marvellous pieces of furniture and costume, jewellery and inventions that demonstrated the expertise and knowledge of the respective students.

You can see the same with Art Express, Encore and On Stage. I was lucky to attend a few on-stage performances where drama students showed their skill and understanding of the nature of performance.

All performance based subjects require students to illustrate through their work their understanding and application of the skills they have learned in their respective disciplines.

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When I was finishing my teaching career the introduction of project-based learning was just beginning, and I hope it has proved to be an asset to the learning of our students.

I do understand that the mathematicians reading this would be jumping up and down by now and that they enjoy nothing more than a good quadratic equation to play with, and I accept that maths exams are the way they are, and I have no ideas as to how that might change.

I worked with some wonderful maths teachers who loved their subject and taught it with as much passion as anyone else. They just do it differently.

What are your thoughts on standardised testing in schools?

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