Education is political!

I recently listened to the TERpodcast that focused on behaviour management. The section of the podcast that really interested me though was that of the news and the commentary with regard to the news that followed. Many people fail to see, or choose not to see, the connection between education and politics. I fear that I, like many teachers, have believed we should steer clear of politics regarding education – but can we?

I am inclined to think we are only sticking our heads in the sand if we continue to believe that education is not linked to politics and succumbing to all that influences political decision making. When educational changes are introduced as a result of political party decision making it is tightly coupled with politics. This is especially so with regard to public education but also, to a lesser extent, private education (linking in with national curriculum that is politically driven). So since education is so tied to politics why then do we focus intently on the school and educators as the problem, when the school and educators are working within the constraints provided by those who hold political power?

It becomes ever so evident when budget cuts are impacting on schools. As a very rudimentary explanation, the resource package that a school receives is determined by the budget set by the government.The school then needs to make decisions with regard to how this is spent and when less money is coming in, the school needs to make cuts in areas based on whole school needs and priorities. This sometimes means significant programs need to be axed to ensure the overall running of the school. Is this fair?

We need to start becoming more aware of what is really impacting on education. What starts to happen when we shift the paradigm of, for instance, pay based on seniority to being based on student outcomes (see Post by About Teaching with regard to the recent election in Queensland for links re policy presented by each major political party). The flow on impacts of pay based on student outcomes have some interesting ramifications. How would this impact on those teaching and those learning? Would this mean standardised testing is then used to determine pay? Would we be happy to see more standardised testing? What impact would this then have on the curriculum? How would teaching and learning change when the focus suddenly becomes that of the educators pay?  If you have read any of Yong Zhao’s work you will be aware of the close tie politics has to educational change and some of the underlying drivers that feed into this.

Careful consideration needs to occur here. Education is not a business, it is about learning and it is about our young. Our young people are not a product. We need to take time to use our voices well, look at the larger system, and to consider how to ensure our voices are heard clearly by those who make the policies that directly impact on the education of our young.

As a teacher I want the freedom to teach the child, the person that they are, to enable them to become active in their world and to be productive citizens. I want the opportunity to make the learning experience one that digs deeper into their interests and into learning, one that provides them with critical thinking skills and the ability to be resilient problem solvers who will have positive futures.

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