Home | In The Classroom | St Paul’s headmaster shares concerns education is ‘reaching a crisis point’ in Australia – Podcast

St Paul’s headmaster shares concerns education is ‘reaching a crisis point’ in Australia – Podcast

When St Paul's College headmaster Dr Paul Browning recently wrote an article on LinkedIn, it garnered a lot of attention and support. The premise of the piece, which I'd encourage you to read, was that we are gradually "dehumanising education" through standardised  curriculum and tests, such as NAPLAN and PISA, and excessive administrative work.

Browning shared with Education Review that the impetus of two related LinkedIn articles was an emotional tweet from a UK teacher who said she was resigning after 20 years of practice.

While the headmaster believes there's a place for some standardised testing, national curricula and high-impact teaching strategies, he fears that many are losing "sight of the joy of teaching", particularly from what he has seen on Twitter. Browning distinguishes himself from other teachers in his philosophy: "I teach students maths rather than teaching maths to students." The nuances in this line are subtle, but what Browning is actually saying is "the focus of education is on the student, not the subject".

Browning also recalls a quick chat he had with education minister, Alan Tudge, who commented that all we need is better teachers and better behaviour management. Tudge's simplistic response – coupled with wanting to become the new Singapore, China or Finland of education – made the headmaster aware of how commodified the sector had become and how students' and schools' contextual factors are too often ignored.

Listen to the podcast to hear more of Browning's insights into a sector "reaching a crisis point".

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One comment

  1. I would love to have the Finland model for schools, but NOT the China model. They are radically different from each other. But Alan Tudge, if he wants Singapore AND China AND Finland to be our models clearly does not see the huge differences in these models and the societies that they work within.
    I agree with Dr Paul Browning.

    My view is that our schools have been impacted by many government-led changes , that speak about “improvement” but show little interest in student interests or a student centred approach. Each “review by each government is based on a keen desire to show they are ” doing something ” to “improve” the previous government’s education policies and outcomes.
    This need to make changes results in the employment of government chosen “consultants”, paid exorbitant amounts to develop “new” curriculum, and so prove their worth by making “changes” to justify their employment. Constant change has resulted in constant change, not an improvement.
    Teachers in schools are not consulted. Students are not consulted.
    Teachers are now classroom bin emptiers, as many cleaning contractors don’t have that task in their contracts and teachers are now documenters and administrators and have multiple other roles that Finland does not see as a teaching role at all. But more and more administrative duties and workload have been given to Australian teachers.
    Demographics are ignored and teachers are told to spend valuable time making further changes to the assessment and reporting rubrics and criteria and documentation to meet and address the “new descriptors” of the curriculum that are often changed – both national and state, by the whims of the education “Minister” and political views of the government of the day.
    The de-funding of universities by government, has led to profit based coursework that values not quality but instead ‘paying student numbers’.
    University entry standards have declined. I know of many university student assessors, who have assessed student work as of a sub-standard level, have then watched as this poor quality work was given to another assessor who would give it inflated marks and pass it, without any ethics but only a desire to be paid for that task. This is in all states and universities.
    Universities are not able to independently choose their research, as it’s commercially funded now with the parameters set by the funding body to benefit the research needs of corporations or foreign governments who use our students as cheap employees for their service. Universities then effectively work for those entities, and university employees cannot speak freely about the university “sponsors” or the lowering of standards if they wish to keep their job.
    It is reaching a crisis point. And the corruption of political parties by donations that are used for re-election purposes, and the resultant influence that holds over the decisions those parties then make, is paralleled in the education sector.
    It is frustrating, tiring, demoralising for teachers and students and a far bigger picture than ” better teachers and better behaviour management”. I don’t think Alan Tudge has any macro understanding of his government’s role in the decline in education standards, nor does his government set an example of what “good behaviour management standards” should be by the behaviour his government displays in parliament.

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