It has come to the attention of the authorities that school is placing some youngsters under so much pressure that it might be safer to abolish it entirely and replace it with a network of self-esteem centres where the kiddies are told that they’re all doing a great job with everything and should be really proud of themselves.
This would be the logical end result of the research released this week which found that the NAPLAN tests for grades three, five, seven and nine were placing so much pressure on students that some of them are crying, getting tummy aches and even vomiting ahead of these apparently onerous exams. About 90 per cent of the teachers who responded said that stress was an issue.
I am not setting out to rubbish the research, conducted by the University of Melbourne at the behest of the Whitlam Institute, but to question whether the intention of the teachers who filled in the survey was coloured more by an industrial agenda than a focus on learning for kids and transparency for parents.
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If you had to rank the most important professions, teaching would be right up the top of the list. There is something noble about entering a profession which offers comparatively low rates for so vital a service as preparing children for a productive working life and a rounded social and intellectual life.
The teachers who most impress me are those who choose to work in the toughest public schools, where the idealised view of teaching spelled out above jars with the reality that “teaching” probably feels more like child-minding, with dysfunctional parenting and the absence of male role models in the family home leaving classrooms looking more like crèches for young adults who still act like little kids.
I was talking to a mate this week who also attended a fairly standard public school. She was saying that she can’t remember too many bad teachers from her school days, but will always remember the many excellent teachers she had. It’s an assessment which gels with my experience at a state school, where so many teachers went the extra yard, often outside of school hours, not just for kids who wanted to learn but also for those who did not.
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In the lead-up to the 2001 federal election, a Labor backbencher from Melbourne’s outer west weighed into the national debate on schools funding.
In a media release headed Howard’s Unfair School Funding Model Must Go, the MP attacked the Coalition Government for the funding arrangements it had introduced earlier that year.
As evidence of the inequity the release pointed out that the model treated elite private schools as more needy than public schools and gave them almost twice the funding per student. That was both “ridiculous and unfair”, the MP said. Fast forward ten years and that backbencher is now our Prime Minister.
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