The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

The not so clever country

Symptomatic of the Federal Government’s lack of a clue as to what our skills, training, and education requirements might be to secure our economic future.

Highlights from ABC Online:

A national education conference in Canberra has heard there is a looming primary school teacher shortage that will leave Australia with a shortfall of 40,000 teachers by 2010.

The general secretary of Education International, Fred van Leeuwen, says the responsibility in Australia falls on the Federal Government.

“Governments must pay more attention to the training, recruitment and retention of qualified teachers,” he said.

“Secondly, the teaching profession must be made more attractive.”

In a related story:

Federal Government funding of Australia’s public school system is among the lowest of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

The Education International group has produced figures that show 68 per cent of Australian students go to public school but they receive only 35 per cent of the total funding.

The groups general secretary Fred van Leeuwen says government policy is downgrading the public sector while propping up the private sector.

“We might ask does the evidence back the ideologically driven shift of resources? It doesn’t,” he said.

“According to the OECD there is no significant overall superiority of non-government schooling in any country.”

While the evidence may not back the ideologically driven shift of resources, the politics of the situation would suggest otherwise. The least that can said is that the government has created a regulatory and funding regime which has facilitated the observed shift.

A free-market approach to education is that it should effectively be a privatised system with a token safety net public system, both competing in a common market place for the best students and the best teachers. The more successful the school, the better it will get, as demanded by a market economy dependent on growth for survival. And the converse is also likely to be true.

Now, just saying that if you wanted to create a wholesale free-market education system (think of the money you could save and give back to the punters), what better way to strengthen the market for private schools than by running down the competing public product. Of course everyone’s eventually going to send their kids to where the money is, and work a whole lot harder to pay for it, while investors in a McEducation Corporation like global wannabe ABC Learning and its executives can take their cut and get rich. This contributes to further erosion of the quality of family life. The dysfunctional can all be cast down to the lowest resourced of schools, exacerbating erosion of civil and community life. The wealthier among us will seek secure enclaves in greater numbers to isolate ourselves from the danger of a growing criminal underclass.

Well, if that’s what you wanted to do, running down public education would be a good way to start, I reckon.

Maybe that’s why we hear so much about politicians promising tougher teaching standards, tougher learning standards, with a performance-pay driven teaching force. Regardless of what merit you might place on these things, they will not, of themselves provide the resources needed for our nation’s education.

Foucssing on those things alone without substantial re-investment (we once had one of the highest OECD per capita education expenditures) will not rectify this parlous problem largely of the government’s own making. It began under Paul Keating’s watch, but it’s been ten years.

Unless provision is made for 40,000 replacement and new teachers by 2010 (3 years), we will join the UK and other affluent Western economies in the free-market poaching of teachers trained at the expense of another country and its tax-payers, thus adding stress to the education resources of another nation, by transferring the supply of teachers to more cost-effective economies. A kind of off-shore outsourcing, only the commodity is ‘teachers’. And the countries we poach from will suffer for our benefit, while we inadvertently damage poorer parts of the global economy. Peaceful societies are invariably educated ones. And education is actually cheaper than war as an agent of peace. Maybe that’s why there is so much anti-intellectual and militant sentiment abroad in our community?

What kind of nation can’t provide for its own education? A bloody lousy one, I’d reckon. Yet we expect it of our families.

But you know what? It’s sound economic investment to invest in education. It ain’t rocket science.

Filed under: Economics, Education, Politics

3 Responses

  1. Victoria says:

    You may be interested to track down and read a book titled ‘Foucault On Education’, edited by S.G.Ball (I’m pretty sure). I read an interesting piece in it for an assignment which I was doing last year in my Grad Dip Ed course, on Public versus Private School Education and the Philosophical underpinnings of same. It really opened my eyes to what the subtextual agenda is of the Private School and Religious Schooling brigade was, and it ain’t pretty ! My copy was in the University Technology Sydney library.
    Now, as for your assertion that all we need to do is train more teachers in Australia and oour problems will be solved. Well, nice utopian try but, as I alluded to previously, I tried to fill that hole last year and even though my intentions were pure I came up against an entrenched opposition. That is, teachers already in the system have a very negative attitude to those seeking to transfer into teaching from other professions, as is on the agenda of many State governments by way of a solution to the Teacher shortage crisis. I was basically made to feel like an interloper who didn’t have the best interests of the teaching “profession” at heart, such that my rites of passage were made as difficult as possible (especially as I already have a family that I needed to keep caring for at the same time as undertaking my Education studies). I’m not stupid, already being a qualified Pharmacist, but I was made to feel like a buffoon because I didn’t know the curriculum upside down and back to front. So I took my leave from the “profession” of teaching and will go back to Pharmacy wshere I am a respected professional and individual.
    So maybe you need to modify your call to arms for more teachers and limit it to the impressionable recent graduates from High School who are more easily malleable by those already entrenched in the system.

  2. slim says:

    I seem to recall in an earlier life a Sam Ball teaching Dip Ed in Tasmania in the halcyon days of the liberal arts in the early 70s.

    I’m saddened to hear that the transition from a professional life to the vocation of teaching was neither successful, rewarding or happy. On reflection, all I can offer is my understanding of why that might be. This has turned to some length ‘cos I got on roll there, so I’ll publish it tomorrow as a new post when I’ve had time to polish it up.

  3. […] is not a just a matter of supplying teachers Victoria commented about her unhappy experience in moving from professional Pharmacist to teacher: Well, […]

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

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