Measuring the quality of education not as simple as it seems writes Greg Whitby, Executive director of schools, Catholic diocese of Parramatta. How true that is! Mind you I wonder a little at his opening paragraph, though I can see why he has done it. Can’t help wondering who the UNprofessional educators might be though… Perhaps “teachers” is enough?
Professional educators would welcome Julia Gillard’s assertion that teaching excellence should be identified and rewarded, and that high standards be expected of all students (“Tell-all report cards to compare schools“, August 12). We all want better schools.
However, the strategies for improving education require careful scrutiny. Comprehensive and valid data is a necessary basis for any improvement strategy. However, great care must be taken in interpreting and applying this data if it is expected to guide the educational agenda and determine resource levels.
A test-driven curriculum would undoubtedly distort educational programs; and general comparisons of schools, not based on a thorough understanding of the complexities of learning and teaching, would simply mislead and distract the public.
Even comparisons of schools in similar environments, and with similar problems, may not be helpful unless based on a deeply informed understanding of the specific context, culture and rate of improvement of the schools concerned.
When governments around the world have adopted quick and simple solutions to complex educational problems, they have usually got it wrong and seem determined to continue doing so.
It would be so much easier if schools were factories, created to produce easily measured, standardised products. But they are not. They are full of vibrant, growing, learning human beings, each with individual needs, styles, natural abilities and background experiences.
We have known for well over two decades now that the key to improving students’ learning is a combination of good teachers using relevant methods. We would be better served by helping teachers to continuously improve the effectiveness of their teaching, rather than focusing on narrow measures of some aspects of student achievement that don’t show the whole picture.
The world of learning is delightfully complex. We need to be careful we do not confine learning to a simplistic mindset of measurements and comparisons in our endeavour for a better education system.
We do seem fated to chase the phantom again; the new government is not much better than the Howard government in its pursuit of the measurable — whatever can be crunched in a computer is the limit of reality, it seems.
Look, people; I’m retired. Fatalistically, I will just let them go on their preset course reinventing the wheel. At the end of some period — five, ten years — they will wake up to discover that little has changed and certainly not much has improved.
I have said my piece before.