Wednesday, 7 February 2007

No clue about education

I was vaguely horrifed to hear Education Minister Julie Bishop pontificating about what education ought to be at the National Press Club today. I only caught the last few minutes (so maybe I do her an injustice) she seemed to be saying something like......Schools ought to be consulting with employers so that they can find out what parents want children to learn at school, and so that we may continue to have economic propsperity and they can share in it
Now I don't have much problem with that bald statement as a part of the vocational function that schools should see as theirs to address. But Minister Bishop seemed to be suggesting that this was the main function of education.
Here we have a travesty of educational philosophy, I suggest; and more than that a profound denigration of the role education should play in a civilised society.
If all it is meant to do is to provide fodder for the economic machine then God help us all.
Such a philosophy would spell the death of history, literature, pure maths, research science, music and anything that does not "upskill" the average participant.
We already see the narrowness that is engendered by those who, like Ms Bishop's Prime Ministerial colleague, have the narrowest of narrow views of what education in history is about, and who bandy the word "values" around and yet have no idea of the complexity of that sociological concept.
Contrast this with avid blog reader W who is a gifted educator (even if self-doubting) presently involved in helping immigrants to learn English. Earning a quarter of what Minister Bishop is reaping from the communal coffers, and struggling with a government that seems to think that 100 hours/student (or less) is all that they are prepared to fund; she has thrown herself into this work with gusto.
Ever looking for ways to engage her charges she tried to boil a potato in a classroom and set the fire alarms off, she is now confined to only using a microwave if she intends to teach English in such a challenging way.
To hear her talk about education is to hear one speak about a process which is immensely practical, and yet which is also mind-blowing. It is setting people free to live life.
She needs to talk to the good Minister and excite her too about the fact that education is more than just preparation for participation in the economy it is about engagement with the profundity of life, its challenges and its excitement...which, I suggest, is more than just being able to fill in a Centrelink form.
W's charges will remember her, I suggest, long after we have forgotten the narrow opportunistic philosophy of Julie Bishop and her boss....Julie who? I hear you ask

3 comments:

Arthur_Vandelay said...

Schools ought to be consulting with employers so that they can find out what parents want children to learn at school, and so that we may continue to have economic propsperity and they can share in it
Now I don't have much problem with that bald statement as a part of the vocational function that schools should see as theirs to address.


Sorry, but I do. I recognise that parents are stakeholders in the education system, but at the end of the day, education is a field of expertise--like medicine or biology or law--and parents are simply not qualified (i.e. in their capacity as parents) to decide what schools teach.

You just have to look at what's happening in the United States to see what kind of nonsense ensues when parents try to dictate the content of school curricula.

Anonymous said...

I actually did see the whole of Julie Bishop's address and she did not advocate that the end of education is simply economic prosperity. She included in her address, a statement on the importance of education for the enrichment of people's lives in every arena (Science, Arts, Humanities etc).

She also put forward a plan for performance based pay for teachers and the granting of autonomy to Principles to hire and fire staff on the basis of performance.

"BRING IT ON" I say.

Let's get these "I'm just in it for a job" no hopers out of the education system NOW!!

Julie Bishop has my VOTE!

stephen clark said...

Thanks for those comments. I am pleased anon that the Minister was saying more than I suspected. I must admit that when I have heard her at other times she does not seem to betray that. Her goals are often shallow, and narrowly vocational. My point being that eduycation is about something broader than preparing you for a job.
More seriously if all education is reduced to is vocational preparation then we are doing more than just gutting our education system, we are diminishing our society. I will no doubt be moved to blog more comprehensively on this in the near future. (I looked for a full text but couldn't find it...she is also different when she answers questions than when she delivers her prepared text)

I also see your point arthur about educational expertise. I myself have postgrad qualifications in education and am presently pursuing research into Supervised Field education.
However as a parent I think that we shoudl nto imagine that parents do not have a stake in education.
It took me a few years to realise how I had transferred respnsibility for my children to almost without question to their teachers. (And we are both education professionals). I think the professionals should be heeded, and the community should be heeded, parents have responsibility. Politiicans ...well we should be wary of them and clear that their motivations are often more about popularism and re-election.