I haven’t yet met an educator who hasn’t welcomed the recommendations of “Gonski 2.0”, as Gonski’s latest report is being called, and it was pleasing to know that the federal government immediately accepted, in principle, all its recommendations, as then did state governments.
The times are, indeed, a-changin’!
Good, Sir Ken Robinson might say! The eminent international advisor on education comments*, “Every country is trying to improve education – over the last 20 years there’s been a pattern of reform, and for the most part it’s been a catastrophic failure.”
“We have created a system that actively stops people wanting to learn,” Robinson argues, capturing the tension, perhaps even the heartbreak, that many teachers feel.
“The thing is, education has been recognized as a strategic issue, governments scrutinize the education policies of other countries like they scrutinize their economic and defence policies because they know it’s about trade and competition…But they think too simply about it…” says Robinson.
And governments’ thinking can be too simplistic about education because, as we have seen in many countries, including our own, they are wanting to boil it down to some useable data…and that’s where we see the McNamara Fallacy rearing its head.
(The McNamara Fallacy refers to a strategic method employed five or six decades ago - in the car industry! – that was based on the idea that you measure what you can observe: it saw every element of production quantified in a stringent fashion in order to improve efficiency and production. Evidently, Mr McNamara then attempted to transfer this seemingly successful approach from the realm of car production to the Vietnam War…**)
The reality is that, while measuring progress is undoubtedly important, such an approach can create too much focus on the measurable. We can fall into the trap of just valuing, or over-valuing, that which we can measure. Less-easily measured aspects can become regarded as less important, and they sometimes even fall from sight.
A focus on the measurable needs to be adopted in sympathetic conjunction with other approaches that “might yield better outcomes”. Otherwise, and depending of course on whether we are talking about car production or deep and authentic learning, it runs the risk of being “a deeply hubristic arrogance in the reduction of complex human processes to statistics”. **
And so to Gonski 2.0.
The recommendations are being welcomed by educators and by our federal and state governments because they are focused on addressing what are regarded as some of the biggest obstacles standing in the path of better learning outcomes for our students. Some, but not all of these obstacles, include:
• an industrial era approach to educating “the masses”;
• a lock-step approach that sees education meted out according to a student’s age rather than according to the student’s progress and achievement;
• a system that places excessive demands on our teachers…demands that can unfortunately appear to be prioritized over a genuine focus on each individual student’s needs;
• an excessive reliance on testing and summative (as opposed to formative) assessments;
• a state-based education system that prevents a united philosophy, a united approach across our nation…
At All Saints’ College, we welcome the recommendations of Gonski 2.0.
While obviously operating within the constraints of the current education system, we have for a number of years now been working towards a newly-envisaged model of education – a “personalisable” model that continues to value academic rigour while focusing on the development of 21st century skills, while fostering amongst our students a disposition that embraces and is excited by change, that recognizes the enormous importance of emotional intelligence, and that builds for our students meaningful connections and partnerships with industry, business, community, higher learning...
...We are most excited by the opportunities that lie ahead, and look forward to reporting to you on future developments in relation to Gonski 2.0.
* “Sir Ken speaks out: our school system crushes the will to learn”, Education HQ Australia, 3 May 2018, Sarah Duggan
** “The McNamara Fallacy and the Problem with Numbers in Education”, Chronotope blog, 4 April 2015