The vicious cycle of education reform
The constant push for reform by government-appointed bodies and private enterprises that appear to have no understanding of the true nature of practising teachers’ work nor the drive and dedication that it takes to perform is wearing thin on education professionals.
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke says the trend is a worrying one across all sectors as these authoritative bodies’ growing influence on state and federal policy sees teachers expected to do more with less support and resources.
“The interplay of a 24-hour news cycle and growing social inequity has generated a rhetoric of teacher deficiency, with an ever-increasing cast of authorities who profit from generation and commercialisation of ‘solutions’ to the ‘problem’ of the day,” Mr Burke said.
“Studies of the impact of reform in schools clearly indicate that the expectation that any reform will produce radical change in a short period of time is ridiculous.
He said that even under ideal conditions, where there is clarity of vision and philosophy, commitment of time, resources and school leadership encouraging and supporting a collaborative culture, it can take five to 10 years to reach a point of sustainable, quality praxis.
“For many teachers, the reality of reform is one of recurrent top-down imposition of arbitrary change based on an unproductive cycle of commissioning research to support a pre-determined, ideological agenda that has marginalised, and even demonised, the voice of skilled and experienced teachers,” Mr Burke said.
The increasing reality of the situation has even prompted the Melbourne University School of Graduate Education to suggest there is currently no professional body that can “advocate on behalf of the profession”.
Mr Burke said our union is taking on the challenge of reminding those who have forgotten that unions are, and always have been, the collective voice of the profession.
“Ours is an industry union representing more than 17,000 teachers, support staff and ancillary staff in non-government education institutions in Queensland and the Northern Territory and regularly participates in education and industrial debate through a system of committees comprised of members and union officers,” Mr Burke said.
“Active members are the key to our strength.
“We encourage all members to share their frustrations, thoughts and perspectives with organisers, union officers and other members who make up our Industrial, International, Equity, Organising/Campaigning, Membership Benefits, Services Staff, Publications, Education and VET Committees.”
The impact of education reform on practitioners and the profession falls within the remit of IEUA-QNT’s Education Committee. The committee works collectively to develop formal responses (referred to as submissions) to proposals for reform and generate advice to members dealing with the manifestation of those reforms in schools.
Individual members of the Education Committee also serve as union representatives on various stakeholder committees and boards (e.g. The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s (QCAA) Australian Curriculum and Senior Assessment Working Groups).
Recent discussions among committee members have prompted our union to seek new ways of restoring the right of practitioners to provide feedback on the viability of professional reform initiatives. In keeping with this, we will be exploring new ways in 2016 to discuss these issues with members to invite feedback and active participation surrounding reform.
Members who wish to find out more about the activities of the Education Committee are welcome to contact Research Officer, Adele Schmidt (firstname.lastname@example.org) on (07) 3839 7020 for more information.