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A genuine revolution

By Chris Watt - posted Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Fidel Castro’s guerrilla manifesto of 1957 included an immediate literacy and education campaign, with the slogan “Revolution and Education are the same thing”.

One suspects that Federal Labor were not reading from the same script when they promoted their education agenda during 2007. While the Federal Government has “named” its education agenda an “Education Revolution” a fundamental question might be: “is it?”

The Prime Minister, 12 months ago in January 2007, as the then Opposition Leader, stated that what was needed was “a revolution in the quantum of our investment and a revolution in the quality of our education outcomes”.


Going by this definition it is arguable that the “plan” as made explicit to date, is a true revolution.

It does not at first appear to be a political revolution, nor “a sudden and violent revolution that seeks not only to establish a new political system but to transform an entire society”. Nor even a significant change that usually occurs in a short period of time, nor perhaps “activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation”; depending of which definition suits one’s argument.

It is possible, if the types of challenges facing Australian education outlined later in this piece are addressed, we may consequently see “slow but sweeping transformations of the entire society that take several generations to bring about”.

The choice of the word “revolution” however, opens possibilities, perhaps unintended when the Prime Minister announced it last year. The word revolution itself is critical in consideration of the questions “but where and how should it end?”

Paul Freire in his eloquent writing Pedagogy of the Oppressed said of the nature of “the word”:

But the word is more than just an instrument that makes dialogue possible … Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one is sacrificed - even in part - the other immediately suffers.


In this context then it is worth reflecting on education in Australia over the past decade, considering the achievements, the challenges and the shortfalls.

In spite of what the Independent Education Union of Australia would view as poor government policy and inadequate funding over the past decade, Australian students have been highly competitive in the international surveys.

Further, almost all Australian students meet the national benchmarks in literacy and numeracy.

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About the Author

Chris Watt is the Federal Secretary of the Independent Education Union of Australia.

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All articles by Chris Watt

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