The Obtuseness of a “Behaviour Curriculum”

I’m way, way late to this one and classroom behaviour is not my department. Anyone willing to announce to their class “I used to be an axe murderer and if you don’t learn how to solve linear equations then I’m going to kill you” should probably not be pronouncing too loudly on this stuff. But the behaviour thing got up my nose recently, and what’s a blog for if not to get things out of your nose?

A bit over a month ago, a Federal senate committee published the Final Report on their inquiry into “The issue of increasing disruption in Australian school classrooms”. This was reported and pre-reported here and there, for example in The Australian, by Natasha Bita (Murdoch, paywalled). Bita’s outline of the report suggested that it consisted of important obviousnesses: open-plan classrooms are very idiotic; proper traditional teaching, with the students paying to attention to a teacher, is very not idiotic; and so on. There was one sentence of Bita’s report, however, that was anti-obvious:

The senate inquiry … will recommend the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority … devise a “behaviour curriculum’’ to teach students how to behave in class.

That seemed to me pretty nuts, so I went to the Final Report, to read precisely what was recommended in this regard. And there was nothing: the Final Report appears to make no reference to a “behaviour curriculum” (nor to “open-plan” classrooms), other than in the Greens’ silly dissent.

The final report is oddly brief, with just one chapter and concluding with just one recommendation, on academic standards. It appears to be more of an addendum to the Interim Report, released in December 2023, which, as I eventually discovered, is where the meat is. In particular, on a “behaviour curriculum”, the Interim Report notes (p 55),

5.19 While the committee recognises that the Australian Curriculum does not outline the pedagogical approach for delivering its content, the committee expects that the explicit teaching of behaviour should be a vital component of the Australian Curriculum. As such, the committee believes that ACARA should introduce a ‘Behaviour Curriculum’ that will explicitly teach behaviour to help students understand their school’s behavioural expectations and values, allowing them to navigate their school’s social environment successfully while ensuring that the best possible learning climate is achieved.

5.20 Introducing a ‘Behaviour Curriculum’ will enable a whole-school approach to addressing behaviour in classrooms, which affects the overall learning climate of the school. The committee recognises that the intent behind a ‘Behaviour Curriculum’ is not to dictate a list of unwanted behaviours but to represent the essential habits and routines that are conducive to learning in a school environment.

This discussion is then summarised:

5.21 Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority strengthen the focus on behaviour within the Australian Curriculum by specifically introducing a ‘Behaviour Curriculum’.

As I belatedly found out, there was a decent amount of discussion of all this when the Interim Report appeared, with some significant push-back again the suggestion of a behaviour curriculum. So, “Senators ignored the Research” and “Australia doesn’t need a ‘Behaviour Curriculum’. We need to implement Social and Emotional Learning now“, and a general grumpiness in eduquarters. This push-back was clueless: please, Dear Lord, spare us from any more Social and Emotional Learning. Most reports, however, either played the “behaviour curriculum” idea stenographically straight or more actively supported it; this included referencing the inevitable “CIS Analysis Paper“, which just happened to appear in October last year. This positive reporting on the idea of a “behaviour curriculum”, however was just as clueless as the push-back.

Behaviour is an undeniable problem in Australian schools and it needs to be addressed. The idea, however, that a behaviour curriculum could fix things, or that a behaviour curriculum is even a thing, is charmingly naive. Or, it would be charmingly naive if the idea were not so uncharmingly authoritarian and invasive.

A curriculum is a course of study presented in sequence, itemising the stuff to be learned. We have an arithmetic component of the curriculum because (most of) the kids don’t know how to calculate, for example, 58 x 76 and we want them to learn it. But what is it that a behaviour curriculum would teach little Johnny that he doesn’t already know? To learn how to not be a disruptive shithead? He already knows how to not be a disruptive shithead. The only question is whether he’s permitted to get away with it.

It is also remarkably naive to imagine that a behaviour curriculum might make sense in any broad generality. The arithmetic curriculum is the same at both Our Ladies for Perpetual Properness and Shitkicker High because the kids at both schools need to learn how to calculate 58 x 76; that does not happen, for disgraceful reasons, but few disagree on the principle that the arithmetic learned at the two schools should be broadly the same. But a behaviour curriculum? The idea that what is appropriate for OLfPP would be appropriate for SH, or vice versa, is absolutely hilarious.

A “behaviour curriculum” is even too broad for a single school because teachers, good teachers, manage their classrooms in very different ways. Some teachers are strict, maintaining and restoring quiet with a single arched eyebrow. Others are fine with more chaos, with yelling back and forth, threats of axe murdering and so forth, but still with a fundamental respect in both directions. Teaching is very much a matter of style and that extends to behaviour management.

To be fair, it is possible that I’m just nitpicking over words. Ignoring the phrase “behaviour curriculum”, the issues are undeniable and there is little doubt that I would agree in broad outline with the desired goals of the committee members and with the author of the CIS paper. I am in strong agreement that some structural decisions should be mandated, or at least strongly encouraged: classrooms should be self-contained and quiet, or at least quietenable, spaces; the default classroom arrangement should be for the kids to face the teacher and the boards upon which she can write. Some regulation and semi-regulation of common sense is perfectly reasonable and would be greatly beneficial.

Nonetheless, words matter and any codification of cultural expectation must be considered with great care. The AITSL Teacher Standards, for example, are a disaster. Of course professional conduct is a proper concern, but the AITSL Standards and it’s ninety-seven idiotic dot points is an obfuscating forest when all that is required are a couple of stately trees. The Standards do no good and more than a little harm. It feels to me that a “behaviour curriculum” would be very similar.

Teachers are already besieged with social and behavioural and pastoral expectations, with little Hitlers applying and misapplying little Hitler rules. Yes, a behaviour curriculum is fundamentally being proposed to help teachers rather than to bind them, but there is no guarantee that this is the way it would play out and I doubt that it would. Principals and their deputy henchmen are always more concerned with safety and homogeneity than quality or individuality. I can only see a behaviour curriculum worsening this aspect.

The committee has  recommended ACARA “specifically” introduce a behaviour curriculum into the Australian Curriculum. Well, let ’em try, and then ACARA can show us the draft. Maybe they’ll come up with something that isn’t either pointless truisms or ham-fisted, handcuffing overreach. I’ll believe it when I see it.

37 Replies to “The Obtuseness of a “Behaviour Curriculum””

  1. I do not comment here much but this is something that makes me angry.

    I started teaching in 1980. I completed my teaching degree and was left floundering in classrooms because the powers that be did not give you any guidance as to how to teach anything. They just told you what you could not do.

    So how does the AITSL teacher standards help you cope with a situation where smart aleck student works their way up to “Do you do it doggy fashion?” In my class of thirty odd students who all wanted to get in on the act (so to speak) which of the 97 dot points apply?

    So, in the case of this school, I sent him outside the classroom door so that I might address this without the audience. He was then hoovered up by a roving head teacher and disciplined by them.

    You might want to engage the parents in this to get support but it is unlikely that this will help in many cases as I have also had a student who are encouraged to watch porn with their father, one parent who at a teacher night demanded to know why their child had not been taught table manners yet (even though lunches were normally eaten in the playground and no opportunity had arisen to get them to say “Please pass the salt” or point out which knife and fork they should be using) and another who wanted to know why their child was forced to line up quietly outside the classroom in an orderly fashion before entering. “What is this, a prison?”

    Why do the people that make these rules never have to deal with the fallout from their ideas?

    I do not teach anymore but I thought about going back. It seems to be worse now than when I left in terms of the bureaucracy of it all. Learning seems to take a back seat to being seen to follow the rules.

    1. Thanks, Neil. I see both parents and teachers blaming each other generally for the problems. I think they are both very strongly correct.

    1. My thoughts along those lines; what happens to students who muck about in ‘Behaviour’ class?

  2. I hesitated to say anything here as my only resource is more than ten years experience teaching k12 as a substitute teacher. However, I have studied many aspects of psychology both during and after my decade of classroom experience back in the 90s. When I began teaching, I had what I believe to be a culturally conditioned response to rule breaking, namely punishment in the form of detention. Over time I realized that I was acting as an agent of social conditioning and had failed to understand the deeper motivations of poorly behaved students. The environment within which I taught was the public schools in San Bernardino, CA, USA. A full half of the students came from families living on welfare many of whom had moved to San Bernardino from Los Angeles where the cost of living was much higher. When I spoke with the regular teaching staff of how the public school system was a source of daily shaming for students who were not particularly adept at traditional school subject matter, the response was appalling. Almost none had spent any time considering how the function of education was contextualized by the overarching culture that it served. John Dewey’s influence had been thoroughly extirpated from discussions of the philosophy of education. By that time the major multinational corporations had succeeded in convincing people that education was nothing more than a job training program. I had nearly completed a PhD program in mathematics at Claremont Graduate School(now University) and had seen up close how universities had been transformed into publicly funded research arms for these same corporations. In the fall of 2018 until the outbreak of covid in March of 2019 I also subbed in the local k12 in Waianae, HI, USA. Things had gotten much worse since the 90s. Waianae is also a lower socioeconomic status (SES) community. I was loved by the students but loathed by the administration. Unlike most of the faculty, it was easily apparent to the students that I understood their plight. Their hostility towards the education was grounded in the fact that the school system didn’t give a shit how they felt. The focus on STEM was grotesque. As a sort of STEM person myself(it is a very long story) I was able to connect with the STEM stars as well. I am a arts and humanities person by nature so connecting with the creative artsy students was very easy and my own family background of extreme abuse, living on welfare and a brother who had been given the choice to join the military in 1965 (Vietnam War) or go to prison for his umpteenth petty crime conviction gave me an in with the students who were suffering the most from the fascist oligarchic culture that is the U S of A. If you have trouble parsing that I suggest you look up the 2014 study by two Princeton University scholars Gilens and Page. On this subject I am a virtual walking library. I know in the USA most k12 teachers come from lower SES backgrounds and are often the first in their family to graduate from college. If you look at the GRE Guide to scores you will find that those education majors who choose to go on to graduate school have the lowest sum of scores(quant + verbal) which is highly correlated with IQ. The only other group with such low scores are social workers. What I am saying is that those two groups have very little to no respect in American culture and their income reflects that fact. Their relatively low IQ and pride in being a college graduate makes it very difficult to take a view of radical rejection of corporatocracy and the daily shaming that is the life of most students. The STEM students may well be the darlings of the school administrators but they suffer rejection as nerds. The whole system is soul destroying. If we lose our own humanity in service to our fascist overlords then the future of humanity is extinction. It may well be too late.

    1. Hi Charles. I’ll try to read your comment but, quickly, there are these things called paragraphs. You might want to give them a go.

    2. Hi Charles,

      I’ve now read your comment, and it is very interesting (although I’d still suggest you use paragraphs).

      I know very little of the American school system. I’m no novice when it comes to American politics and I’m not at all naive about the perversion of American society by corporate control and a thoroughly corrupted duopolistic voting system, but I know next to nothing how this plays out in American schooling. So your stories were helpful. In broad outline you seem to be arguing about two camps, two approaches to school education. But, as often seems to be the case, I think I may be in a third camp.

      You rail against, correctly of course, the idea of schooling as “nothing more than a job training program”. I also agree that the current STEM fetish is part and parcel of this job training program, and I loathe it. You may be interested in this attack on STEM education. You contrast this with a more humanistic, and humane approach to education. In broad outline, I agree. But, at least, in Australia, I see a problem.

      In Australia, the problem seems to me to be that that the school curriculum and fundamental ideology is demoralisingly utilitarian while, at the same time, is way way too much concern is given to how students feel. In broad brush, the academic expectations are so pathetically low, there is plenty of room to allow students to play up and learn nothing, and basically do bugger all. I want none of this. I do not want the trivial job training, and I do not want the over-pandering to the poor little petals.

      I want schools to be tough places. I want there to be rules and testing and expectations. I want it to matter if the student does not learn and if the student does not attempt to learn. And, specifically to the point on this post, I want little Johnny to realise that he cannot get away with being a disruptive shithead, that he cannot interfere with others’ desire to teach and to learn.

      But I also want schools to be rewarding places, which can be the only justification for the toughness. I want the kids to learn proper mathematical thought, not this inch-deep “real-world” numeracy garbage. I want students to read genuinely good literature rather than watch genuinely bad movies. I want the students to aspire to deep thought and great art, and to appreciate that this aspiration requires seriously hard work on the not-great, on the practice of fundamental skills and technique.

      The kids must be invested in their education and it is our role to ensure there is a proper education in which to be invested and that the students are so invested. But the kids are still kids, and we do not pander to their immature visions and desires. We are the masters, not they.

  3. A behaviour curriculum refers to explicitly teaching classroom expectations and routines such as how to enter the room, what to do at the start of class, how to pass around the booklets, how to ansk a question etc. It helps if these are consistent across the school. The point of making it explicit is that many children will not pick up these expectations implicitly. It’s reasonable to argue whether this is right label. It is clearly not a solution to Australia’s school behaviour crisis but it is part of a solution.

    1. Thanks, Greg. I agree. Rituals are valuable, and I’m all for them. I also noted that this may be more a minor disagreement about the label than substantive concerns on the suggestions or the goals. The little I’ve read by Tom Bennett I like, and I certainly have much less time for Bennett’s detractors than I do Bennett. Like zero time. But labels matter and they can lead to bad ideas, as they have here.

      Again, what works at Our Ladies for Perpetual Properness will not work at Shitkicker High. That is not remotely an argument for SH not having its own solid culture and clear rules, which is way way too common the conclusion, but the culture and rules will be different in all but broad principle.

      The committee proposal is to have a behaviour curriculum in, um, the Curriculum. What could that possibly look like and be non-trivial and coherent and helpful? I cannot see it.

      1. Hear, hear.

        I’m all for letting this idea be trialed in schools, but only if it is clear that at some point within, say, three years, the effectiveness of the trial will be assessed and, if need be, the project will be abandoned and the architects of the scheme will be told that it failed the clinical trials.

        Otherwise, there is no point and you end up with just another frustrating set of dot points and teacher PD sessions that add no value and take away time from an already struggling curriculum.

        1. The problem is it won’t be evaluated. All people are interested in is being seen to look like they are doing something about the problem. They are often out of the classroom and have no insight into what is happening in the classroom; and if they are in the classroom it’s often teaching your top students or at a prestigious school. Often if a teacher complains to them they turn the tables and often blame the staff member rather than dealing with the root cause. Yes, sometimes staff do cause issues, but if a student is frustrated in class and acting up because they can’t do basic arithmetic, or their parents are warring, or they haven’t had breakfast then there are bigger issues at play.

          1. I think this is at least in part beside the point. The question here I think is what is acceptable and expected behaviour within a school or classroom, and how can this be expressed and established. There are plenty of kids who have eaten and have functioning families who are still disruptive shits, because this behaviour is basically accepted by the school, and often enough by the teacher.

            1. What I find interesting is that many of the disruptive shits have a part time job (MacDonalds, Hungry Jacks, KFC, Subway etc) and can clearly behave within the parameters of that work place. I think it’s worth contemplating why that is. (And I wonder what their reaction would be if a teacher came into \displaystyle their workplace and behaved badly …)

              It’s not that the disruptive shit can’t behave at school, I believe that many of them can. I think they make a choice not to, knowing that the only consequence is another ‘restorative conversation’.

              1. Yes, this is the key point, which I made in the post. Little Johnny already knows how to not be a disruptive shithead. The only question is whether the school permits him to get away with it. A “behaviour curriculum” is just not the missing bit, and the proposal perverts the entire discussion.

    2. I agree that explicit instructions on behaviour is vital. But every good teacher does this. You set up very clear rules and expectations at the start of the year and as soon as they don’t follow them you bring them back into line. The students like routine and it makes many feel safe when their lives outside the classroom is chaotic.

      However, I have worked at a number of schools where the staff have been teaching for 30-40 years. These are staff who know their content backwards, know how to teach it, and get outstanding results. They have reputations amongst the students and excellent rapport with the students. They also know how to manage a classroom. Even they are complaining about the poor behaviour of students and how it is getting worse. They are also saying this behaviour is making them contemplate retiring or leaving the profession.

      Yes consistency is important across a school too. However I have seen so many ideas such as this be introduced and then just fade away. It’s usually introduced by someone who doesn’t have to deal with the consequences, let alone how to implement it. There’s often no research behind it – we have a problem, this looks like a solution (and often comes with a catchy slogan, acronym or shiny posters or magnets), so let’s do it. The people who write it tick their box for doing something and can write on their CV ‘implemented a whole school behaviour policy’. It all sounds good, but just adds more workload on the teachers, and honestly puts more experienced teachers off side as they feel like they’ve been doing this stuff for years and their experience is being devalued.

      1. Thanks, Will. I think you are spot on on the problem: even strong, long-experienced teachers, who are well aware of the necessity of classroom rules and are experienced at enacting them, are being undermined by general forces. These are forces both acting within the schools and in society generally.

        Obviously a school can do little about general societal forces, and it is not clear who can. If parents do not pay proper attention to their kids, and if they do not demand that the kids pay proper attention to anything else, then there is little that a school can do to remedy this, even if the school were to try.

        Still, a school can either try or it cannot, and I think the committee report is attempting to both assist schools in this attempt and to demand they make the attempt. Obviously, getting rid of the insane open-planned classrooms would assist, and I think the report has similar “well, duh” recommendations. My problem with the report, and the reason for this post, was the mandating component, the recommendation of a “behaviour curriculum”. This seemed to me to be plain nuts, and nothing in the comments on the post has swayed me.

        A school must have a proper culture of learning, which requires, along with sane architecture, a clear and strong and appropriate system of rules and expectations and consequences. That can and must differ from school to school, which is why the “behaviour curriculum” thing is nuts. The goal is right: the suggested method, as most commenters here have noted, would be just another pointless list of dot points.

  4. I’m not at a loss of words about this (since this is my third posting), rather I’m struggling to succinctly put my observations across.

    I’m a teacher of 30+ years experience. I’m taken on various roles in schools as well as in curriculum offices. I’ve taught the full range of students from struggling year 10s who can’t do 4 x 4, up to Specialist 12. I’ve had many students who have been amongst the top in the state. A number of my students have gone onto do Maths at University and some have gone onto do Maths teaching.

    However, I have to say that the last few years have made me question staying as a teacher. Ten years ago I pictured myself teaching until I retired. I love being in the classroom as much as I love my subject. Nowadays I don’t see myself staying in the classroom. The behaviour of students is one part of the issue – a lack of respect is ever present, a lack of perseverance where students just give up when things get slightly hard, along with a lack of willingness to put in hard work. Parents have become ever more supportive of their children offering excuses for their child’s behaviour – some even lie for their child – what is that teaching them? The idea that they can be an influencer or marry a rich person, and things will just be given to them is commonplace amongst some.

    But often schools have become more toxic too. Students are promoted to higher grades lacking basic skills. The workload and expectations of teachers has gone through the roof. Everything needs to be documented and the emphasis is on covering yourself – call a parent to tell them their child is disruptive and they’ll either want evidence, blame you, say ‘it’s just the way they are’ or want to discuss the behaviour of other students rather than address the problem – that’s assuming you can even get hold of the parent. Everything is pushed down onto staff and nothing is taken away. There’s plenty of thought bubbles that come up in schools forcing teachers to adjust programs or the way they teach, and then just fade away. I’ve lost count of the number of glossy brochures I’ve seen promoting new approaches which often come with posters only to see the posters be thrown out in six months time. There’s no accountability – some staff just ignore it and aren’t called to account, and as a result the whole system falls apart. I’ve gotten to the stage whether I just pick and choose which initiatives I implement, knowing that I will rarely, if ever, be checked up on. I know it means the whole system will fall apart but I’m tired of working hard on initiatives only to see my hard work come to nothing as something else comes along.

    Finally, I will share an experience from a staff meeting when someone was implementing a new whole school initiative. I asked ‘what are you taking away so we have time to implement this?’ They couldn’t answer. I then asked ‘so have you evaluated xxxxx, and if so, can you please share with staff your findings.’ The conversation was quickly moved on. For the rest of the meeting my questions were ignored though fellow staff questions were not, that was until one staff member said ‘Will has had his hand up for ages, I believe he has a question.’ They then ended the meeting. I left that school at the end of the year. I didn’t want to leave but I was worn down by the toxicity of the school.

    1. All too common a story, unfortunately.

      Will a “behaviour curriculum” improve behaviour? Maybe.

      Will it stop good teachers leaving the profession? I doubt it.

    2. This was very much like my experience as well (though I have much less), ideas cycle around poorly implemented and little changes other than higher expectations on teachers.

      I am skeptical that ACARA could implement anything like a sensible behaviour curriculum, does a country level behaviour curriculum exist anywhere in the world? A quick google found this in England, it is advice for schools on how to manage behaviour which mentions a school-level behaviour curriculum.

      Click to access Behaviour_in_schools_-_advice_for_headteachers_and_school_staff_Feb_2024.pdf

      Quite a lot of schools don’t have a clear, consistent culture of learning, it’s hard to guess what would be the first step to create one. At a broad level reducing technology, re-arranging classrooms and teaching to mastery early on would help. Maybe a proper, respectable vocational pathway too? I have seen a lot of Year 10-12 students who know what they are doing is pointless for everyone though fixing other issues might see less of this. I reckon a lot of students and teachers are running in survival mode at the moment.

      1. Schools are complicated places and managing them is probably (I wouldn’t know, never having risen much above the level of “teacher”) getting more complicated with each and every change of government/curriculum framework.

        But for some reason, behaviour has been identified as an area in need of attention and the concept of explicit teaching has been floated as an option.

        I do (half) wonder what would happen if we took the idea of explicitly teaching something else (such as times tables), grabbed a few recent quotes from some Boaler-types and then substituted “behaviour” and see if it made more or less sense than before…

        1. I’m sure any Behaviour Curriculum will be taught using a ‘discovery based learning’ approach.

        2. RF, behaviour *is* an area in need of attention, and explicit teaching *would* help, hugely. This is not the same as advocating the explicit teaching of behaviour. A culture of attention and respect is the medium in which to learn, it is not the stuff to learn.

    3. Thanks very much, Will. No need to be succinct.

      I hear these stories *all* the time, and have experienced it some myself, in my brief ventures into that world. Simply, the culture of teaching and learning has been lost. Teachers now were themselves typcially taught by teachers with little sense of that culture. So, in brief, most younger teachers simply do not know what they are doing, even if well intentioned.

  5. Could this “behaviour curriculum” be coupled with “behaviour consequences”? Sounds like a winner.

    While we’re at it, why not skip the curriculum?

    1. Ha. I was going to suggest an ongoing Behaviour Consequences Curriculum (BCC) with a practical component for appropriate students that involved working on a community service ‘chain gang’ (I use ‘chain gang’ somewhat euphemistically but with the expected connotations) under close supervision.

  6. As a parent of a high-schooler, I want to share some insights on the differences between when I went to school, and when my child is now going to school:
    – I went to school in India. There were small traditions at the beginning of each day – starting the day with the same set of routines for the whole school. It was called the morning assembly – each day, a few classes and children, rostered, were given the responsibility of collating and reading out the news for that day, maybe a song / prayer / some good quotes from books or thoughts, and ending with a song. There was always a value- or ethics-based takeaway. This set a routine to the whole day, so that we were already centred in on paying attention and a learning mindset when we walked into the first class. Sure, there were disruptive students – but there were consequences – like them being asked to stand outside the classroom for the duration of a period and reflect on their behaviour.
    – There were small regularly repeated marks of respect that by rules, you had to do: wishing a teacher good morning or good afternoon, a uniquely Indian tradition of touching your elders’ / teachers’ feet to take their blessings on special days / exam days (I still routinely do this when I go back to my old school to meet my teachers, and when I taught my son to do this for his piano teacher here in Australia – she was very moved – as the whole concept of having that special sense of respect for a teacher seems completely missing).
    – There were dress code expectations. We had to do things like turn up clean, freshly pressed uniforms (by high school, this meant washing our own clothes and ironing them, because there were no washing machines), cut our nails, not have nail paint (this was a girl’s school), only very small earrings, no lose long hair, etc. The object was not to repress a child, but to remove the focus from looks and dress and hair and nails to academics, during school hours. I can hardly learn deep math if I am still thinking about hair and nails.
    – There were behaviour expectations in the classroom – of course this was pre-mobile phone days and pre-screen and pre-internet days, but even then, you usually faced consequences if you were found say reading a novel or playing tic-tac-toe during class time.
    – There was a library period, where you HAD to check out books, and hand in summaries of what you had read during the week to the library teacher. This was not marked or graded, but the good examples were read out to the whole class, which made us motivated to read, understand and write on varied topics that had nothing to do with a set curriculum.
    – In contrast, even for regular subjects, my son, throughout his schooling, has had no textbooks – the whole concept of sitting down patiently with a text, reading on your own, comprehending some material, and then being set problem solving tasks / writing tasks / summarising tasks is completely missing. Instead, the kids here learn a subject from a set of slides which are presented in the classroom – mostly filled with pictures, and a few words.
    – Textbooks were really high quality – in contrast, the Pearson Year 11 physics book here seems like what we had in Year 7 – in year 11 and 12, we were comfortably working with Resnick Halliday type books. This applied to every subject – including the humanities subjects, but definitely science and math. The learning was so intense, that there was not much time left for bad behaviour.
    – The expectation that school was not just to learn, but learning how to learn, was very important.
    – At school and at university – marks for tests were simply posted up on the board for the whole class as a list – there was no notion of privacy around marks etc. There were both “surprise tests” (you did not know you were going to be tested), as well as term tests, half-yearlies and yearlies (when the WHOLE syllabus for the entire year was tested). You were scolded by the teachers on report day (there were marks, not binned grades only, and the marked test papers were available to the parents for them to see how their child had done) if they felt you were capable of performing better but were slacking off. This was not as draconian in effect as it sounds – instead, most of the times, after feeling bad about not performing well in a test, the student would be doubly motivated to back and work on the material, because it was important to aim to do well the next time.
    – If a child failed, they had to repeat a year, and were not promoted to the next year.
    – If there was ever an incident at school, and parents were called in – even if the child felt that they were not at fault, the parents NEVER EVER contradicted the teacher in front of the child, or behind their backs. This did mean that some mean teachers got away with a lot of bad behaviour towards children. But, most of the teachers were in fact amazing teachers, really good at their subjects, and so the message that the children got most of the time is that the teachers and the parents are a united front – getting the same message of how to behave and what to do at home, as well as at school – reinforced a behaviour pattern that was conducive to learning.
    – I could go on, but I will stop here – but in summary, I have found as a parent, that respect for learning, respect for knowledge, respect for those carry and convey that knowledge (parents and teachers) is missing – couple that with the internet, mobile phones – that primarily push through a very materialistic notion of the good life (having likes on Insta, and a branded pair of jeans is way more interesting than working hard on understanding the proof for a difficult theorem), and a syllabus that runs at least three to four years behind world standards, and the loss of interest in deep learning becomes a natural consequence.

    We will not need to deal with bad behaviour, if we create a good learning environment where knowledge and learning is valued – if the problem disappears, then we won’t need to find a solution for it. I know how ideal and naive I sound here, but I wanted to share that it was possible in another part of the world, once.

  7. I got almost no behaviour management training in my DipEd in the 80s and the same seems to be true today. That’s where the curriculum is really missing. They could simply set Tom Bennett’s book ‘Running the Room’ as the set text and have lots of practical work with it and also send student teachers out at the start of the school year to see how experienced teachers set expectations. That would make a big difference in my opinion.

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