Education Studies Shrouded in Secrecy
L. Parkour (pen name) teaches Literature and Language to high school students. Parkour reveals the truth about studies and data pertaining to education, tired of been rendered mute in accordance to Codes of Conduct.
Our news and media are constantly bombarding us with studies and data about why testing has a negative effect on the education of our students. Occasionally, a teacher will take a stand, usually backed by the union of their designated state and under the guise of pushing for government reform. There are the usual responses from the minister of the costs associated with Gonski reforms, the need to lift standards in public education, and the clearly strategic jab at the opposition’s policies for the education sector.
As a teacher, I would like to be blunt. This whole debate is shrouded in secrecy; we, the professionals with all of the knowledge, with all of the skills, with all of the understanding of what students need, with all of the burdens of having to do as much as we can with as little as we have for these children each day, are silenced. Our Codes of Conduct render us mute on the issues of resource allocation, staffing levels, funding and management (or, rather, mismanagement). Instead, our ministers are our mouthpieces, spruiking what fantastic progress is being made despite literacy and numeracy levels being at an all time low and levels of disadvantage in public schools being at an all time high. Instead of taking responsibility for the decisions that produce these results, we make teachers more ‘accountable’; meaning, we make them do more paperwork and threaten them with losing their job if they cannot perform miracles. Then, in the same breath, the ministers announce funding for private schools, so they can build their Japanese reflection gardens and fifth yacht-housing shed.
What they show us, through these decisions, is that the socially disadvantaged are of less value than those who are affluent. What child will respect a system that labels them as inferior? What child will co-operate with the policies of a leader whose motives are to preserve the advantage of himself and those like him? And what of the teachers who choose to work with these children and in these systems that are gradually being made to feel like pathways to prison or unemployment? Within five years, many new teachers who join the system will leave, suffering from burn out. Are colleagues supportive? Mostly not; the grim reality is that when a teacher leaves the school, including taking sick or stress leave, the workload for their colleagues doubles, particularly those teaching in the same KLA or stage, leading to animosity and further alienation. Resilience can only extend so far. Of course, the students they have built a relationship and rapport with also suffer, as does their learning.
The articles about testing and class numbers and funding in public education all have valid points to make, however, I think we need to acknowledge the greater issue here. There is a distinct lack of transparency in this system. Not only are there specific formal codes in place that can lead to job loss, there is informal reporting within schools and a culture of protectionism of those who bully others into accepting decisions they do not consider in the best interests of staff or students. Staff members are told that if they have issues with the policies in place, they can take up a job in a different system. What is ignored is that some individuals are trying to improve the system for the sake of the pupils within it; concerned about the large amount of students who do not have the option of attending a school in a catholic or independent system. Presenting a united front to the school community on school discipline so that students can expect consistency is one thing, but silencing the expression of dissatisfaction about the ideologies behind said discipline policies is akin to fascism. Agreeing to adhere to limited resource allocation for the sake of fairness and equity in a school is fine, but this should not exclude a staff member from complaining about the way in which funding is impacting upon their teaching.
Policies may ultimately determine our actions, but they cannot determine our feelings towards these actions and expectations.
Parkour teaches Literature and Language to high school students and writes fervently in her spare time. She loves a good story and a passionate argument. She currently lives in the country and longs for the buzz of the city.