Schools in

All the journalists, academics and politicians must be back from their holidays because the media is abuzz this week with all kinds of what should be done to ‘fix’ schools and teachers in the process.

The Federal Government’s rolling up its sleeves and unveiling its education revolution with, you guessed it, a national curriculum! Let’s hope that some teachers are included in the National Curriculum Board which will spend the next three years developing a uniform school curriculum for Australian students. It’s chairman Professor McGaw opened up his tenure with the admonishment that:

Australia has fallen behind in reading because there is too much focus on lifting the results of struggling students, rather than also making our top students perform even better (AGE)

And further, that ‘educators and governments should “behave like women and multi-task”, he said, by working to lift the game of all students.’

Meanwhile, economist Andrew Leigh argues in today’s Education Age that the government should persist with an investigation of performance based pay for teachers (not academics) which is what I thought the other party were in favour of? Leigh is concerned with what he calls the ‘decline in the academic aptitude of Australian teachers’ based on the average percentile rank of those entering education courses. Leigh is a little vague about what might constitute high performance but argues for an opt-in scheme to be trialled.

In the same issue of the big paper Christopher Bantick argues pretty much exactly the opposite viewpoint, that ‘teaching has never been about the money’. Bantick writes:

Should remuneration be a factor in becoming a teacher? Hardly. And money does not make an exemplary teacher either. So what does? The children in front of a teacher are not concerned how much or how little Mr of Ms earns. What they want is to be taken seriously as individuals, and to be excited and challenged by ideas. Learning new stuff is a powerful intoxicant. If teachers forget this, or are distracted by money issues, they may as well resign.

It’s pretty hard to tell exactly what Bantick is calling for except that great teachers are born not made, they ‘touch hearts and minds’ and he urges teachers to

‘…try something unconventional. Shock the students out of their torpor and find your greatness. Be passionate, creative, Yes, take risks’

All presumably within the bounds of the national curriculum of course.

Criminal classes
Oh, and don’t think the Herald-Sun has ignored the burning issues of the day either. It’s cutting edge front page story today by Carly Crawford is called Criminal Classes in Victorian Schools (love the alliteration) and warns its readers that the Victorian Institute of Teaching has quietly allowed 400 teachers who have been convicted of serious crimes in the past to keep on teaching.

So, teachers should get paid more, not care about pay, improve basic literacy and numeracy but don’t neglect the bright kids, think differently and originally but be prepared to teach the same curriculum as everywhere else in this wide brown land. And, don’t forget there’s a lot of ‘criminal classes’ out there.

I wonder what week two will bring?

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