Sins of Commission

A few months ago, I made a submission to the Inquiry by the Productivity Commission into the National School Reform Agreement. The Commission has just released its Interim Report, and has invited further submissions. I won’t be bothering.

Perhaps somewhere in its 250 pages the Interim Report contains a significant and worthwhile observation or recommendation. People are welcome to hunt through the motherhooded woods of “wellbeing” and “quality”. I couldn’t find a single hint that the PC has the slightest clue what is wrong with the Australian education system, or what it would take to fix it.

My submission was focussed and minor. I had argued that the PC, via the National Measurement Framework, was wrongly focussing on “numeracy”, to the exclusion of arithmetic and mathematics. I had also argued that this wrong focus indicated that the PC was listening to less-than-expert experts, and that the PC should get out more, meet some new people. Of course, my submission was ignored entirely. The IR contains recommendations for the National Measurement Framework, but nothing that acknowledges the fundamental wrongness in the measurements being made.

Others are also commenting on the IR, of course. Jenny Gore, the professor-master of some inquiry-based nonsense called Quality Teaching Rounds, has applauded the IR for promoting some inquiry-based nonsense called Quality Teaching Rounds. Greg Ashman has ripped into Gore’s nonsense.

Elsewhere, Alan Tudge has written clearly and well, advocating three fundamental changes (Murdoch, paywalled). In brief, we should give the teachers something to teach (fix the curriculum), ensure teachers teach it (emphasise direct instruction), and ensure students learn it (instil a classroom culture of attention). I do not see any sense of Tudge’s good and obvious recommendations in the Interim Report. I do not see any sense in the Interim Report whatsoever.

7 Replies to “Sins of Commission”

  1. Many secondary schools have open-plan classrooms. I can’t believe that they are good for productivity in teaching and learning.

          1. I guess the designs must be mandated from above because teachers and students aren’t there when the buildings are built. And then they just have to put up with them however they are.

            I found this article on the topic interesting: https://blog.siniat.com.au/open-plan-classrooms-are-popular. That article links to an announcement-type thing Education Minister Rob Stokes in 2017 announcing a plan for more open-plan design. The reasons listed are similar to what I read in a design brief for the school I taught at: “inclusive”, “flexible”, “adaptable”, “communities”. A general sense of being modern and trendy. They have a weird idea of inclusive that doesn’t include people who enjoy quiet and orderly environments, obviously.

            It’s interesting that it comes from an acoustic design website, because the problem with the ‘flexible’ open-plan design in my experience was the noise. They were so loud, and it was very frustrating teaching in a big room with three other classes. Even when my students were quiet, they couldn’t hear me because the other classes were noisy; and then other times, my class would be causing the same problem for others.

            It also contributed to a sense of chaos. There were no doors to close, to signal the class was in action. Some students would roam the building during class time and go into the wrong classes.

            1. Thanks, wst. Very interesting. Open plan is a disaster, but is entirely consistent with the modern notion of education as (bad) entertainment.

              1. Despite what DET and others claim (*), open plan exists because it’s cheap(er). Economics always trumps good educational outcomes (again, despite what gets claimed).

                * On the basis of wishful thinking and certainly zero evidence in secondary schools.

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