Learning has been cancelled in all Australian schools for three days this week. It happens every year under the pretence of gathering useful information for accountability and diagnostic and motivational purposes, using NAPLAN testing devices. The tests are fear-based, designed to indicate that children are not doing well in the drastic subjects and will need to use publications and textbooks and computer programs produced by testucating corporations to get back to standard.
The vogue-word description for what is happening in Australian schools is 'Kleinism' for Joel Klein was the founder, as he claims . He is a former sweet-talking New York lawyer, now chief adviser to Rupert Murdoch, who convinced Julia Gillard at a cocktail party that his NY system was the best. It was the dry martini that did it. She decided, before saying good-evening to Rupert that 'this was it'. Klein's fare was then paid down under by banking interests, to persuade the Business Council of Australia members in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra that he knew what he was talking about.
Now, Australian schooling is the hardest working unit of the world Testing Industry using techniques that Finland and other leading countries would not touch with a 50m barge-pole. No self-respecting education system would.
The standardised blanket testing model has not worked. It aims only for mediocre achievements and all-at-the-same level pupils. Love of learning and seeking for high levels of achievement are not part of the NAPLAN plan.
What's happening in Australia? Our results are getting worse, so the testing industry goes crazy and tries to lay blame elsewhere for its own incompetence. It has now , sneakily attached to the budget papers the idea of testing Year 1s [OMG] and financially punishing teachers whose pupils do not improve.
Such PUNISHMENT BY RESULTS is a poor reflection of Payment By Results introduced as part of the Revised Code 1862 reviled by Matthew Arnold, Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth and others. Matthew, where are you when we need you?
The Year 3,5,7,9 tests themselves have had the expected reaction of lowering the standards, caused, no doubt, by the abuse of children's emotional intellect. The kids don't like doing maths or science or enjoy literacy pursuits under the threat of failing or doing more practice tests or just feeling small. To its credit, NSW is about to bring some joy and love into Maths and Science, both beautiful subjects, the love of which NAPLAN destroys. Watch this space.
The quest for the mediocre through NAPLAN test preparation will resume in January, 2017. One-third of the school-year later, we'll have another NAPLAN week while the rest of the world shoots ahead.
In the meantime, the main features of Australian schooling show up on the world stage...
- The Australian system of schooling [called Kleinism] is under the control of measurement-focussed personnel, agents of the testing industry.
- Every child within the compulsory schooling range is expected to contest standardised blanket tests for three days every other year, unless his/her parents opt out.
- Fear-based test preparation occupying one-third of every school year for Years 3,5,7,9 is actively promoted.
- Children are introduced to the rigours of heavy-duty testing at five years of age.
- Parents are not given the choice of "Yes" or "No" prior to test participation.
- Parents can opt-out if they chance to learn of their democratic right to do so.
- School principals prefer not to inform parents of their right of choice prior to test-time.
- School leavers will undertake minimal competency tests of literacy and numeracy in their final year.
- An holistic curriculum can be undertaken only by those pupils who attend completely independent schools and by home-schoolers.
- Teachers are financially punished if their pupils do not perform well at tests held in MAY each year.
I repeat: How would voters in Finland react to these conditions for schooling?
We should never forget that Compulsory Schooling was entrenched in law so that children could have the chance to learn to the best of their ability. Governments build classrooms in which such learning is meant to happen. The rooms were not meant to become the sheds of a testing factory. People in charge of these rooms know more about learning than those elsewhere. Their advice should be valued way above that of any other. Teacher organisations, representing those at the chalk-face, need to protect, preserve and stimulate the spirit of learning actively and to act as professionals who cannot be dissuaded from the ethical principles of child care.
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