Sunday, July 19, 2015

Schools: Prof says myths underpin tsunami of change

Louisa L

The twin furores that raged around Dawn Fraser and Zaky Mallah have faded. New ones surface daily. While senses are diverted by sideshows, masterminds are engineering grand theft across Australia.

In education, corporations organise to strip creativity and skills from teachers, reducing them to mere deliverers of high profit content and technology. 

At the recent NSW Teacher's Federation Annual Conference, Professor Stephen Dinham (left), of the Graduate School of Education at Melbourne University and President of the Australian College of Educators, gave voice to what he called a tsunami of changes engineered by and benefiting global corporations.

Research distorted, discounted and disregarded
Professor Dinham said, “Governments have stopped listening to educators”. Educators, he stated, have been 'either silent or silenced'. Instead, corporate voices monopolise the airwaves.

He listed, then systematically refuted, twenty 'myths about education', now 'deeply rooted in public consciousness'. 

According to Professor Dinham, these myths “have been found to be either unconfirmed or disproved by research evidence. But that has not stopped people, vested interests and organisations from advocating for them. In fact, quite the opposite seems to have occurred, with responses to such measures contributing to further falls in public confidence, leading to pressure for more extreme change.”

“Educational research and other evidence has been distorted, discounted or disregarded in favour of deregulation, privatisation, corporatisation and quick fix solutions to the supposed problems of teaching and the ‘crisis’ in schooling,” he stated.

Dinham's Myths 
1    Public education is failing
2    International testing is a true barometer of the decline in public schooling
3    Private schools are better than public schools
4    Government funded independent and for-profit schools are better than private schools
5    Greater autonomy for public schools will lift performance
6    Greater accountability will lift public school performance
7    Money is not the answer - increased spending on public education has not resulted in improvement in student achievement
8    The teacher is the biggest influence on and is therefore responsible for student achievement
9    Merit pay/payment by results is the solution to improving teacher quality
10    Removing tenure and dismissing poor teachers will lead to greater student achievement
11    Schools should be resourced on the basis of results
12    The curriculum is a captive of the ‘left’
13    Schools are not producing the skills and capabilities required by industry
14    21st century skills are not being taught in 21st century schools
15    Technology changes everything
16    Teacher education is ineffective and the value of a teaching credential is questionable
17    The effects of poverty are too difficult to overcome
18    Educational research offers no solutions
19    Non-educators should lead (public) schools
20    Choice, competition, privatisation and the free market are the answers to almost any question about education.

Stopping the wave
Professor Dinham continued, “In the medical sphere there are well-established protocols that need to be adhered to prior to the introduction of any new drug or treatment. No such protocols apply in education.”

When some US states predict how many prison beds they'll need based on high school dropout rates, Professor Dinham is clearly not catastrophising when he says, “Lives are also at stake in our schools.”

“It might appear na├»ve, but surely it is up to the proponents of major change to provide supporting evidence prior to its widespread introduction. It should not be left to others to disapprove or question these significant developments,” he concluded.

Corporations care nothing for justice, but voices like Professor Dinham's, once heard, would strike a chord amongst ordinary Australians, for whom polling shows education is a prime concern.

It's vital this tale of corporate takeover of education reaches the public. A twin task is highlighting links with growing community concern about overall corporate rule. 

Unlike Canute, united we can stop this wave of destruction, and focus on what matters, not on the mini furores that drown people's capacity to see the truth.

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