Sunday, December 17, 2006

Education Reform and Unions

The Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop has again raised the spectre of Australain teacher unions blocking "uniform educational standards" in Australia. She has doen this in response to the Labor opposition statements that the Federal Government should be working cooperatively with the States towards a national curriculum.

Ms Bishop's arguments are of the "reds under the bed" type: the unseen all-powerful enemy wnating to undermine Australian values, as espoused by the current conservative government. It is true that teacher unions in Australia have significant industrial muscle. It is also true that they have resisted John Howard's attempts at determining what view of history he thinks should be taught. That, perhaps, is reasonable: other politicians/governments that have determined the history syllabus include Stalin; and Japan, which has long refused to acknowledge or teach about the atrocities of WWII. Political interference with educational curricula is fraught with danger.

Professor Gordon Stanly, from the NSW Board of Studies, was intervied on ABC Stateline in October, 2006. ( In the interview he gave reasons for the breadth of curriculum in NSW, particularly in the English Syllabus for Years 11 - 12; described the consultative nature of curriculum development; the breadth of representation on the Board of Studies; and the extent and nature of measurement of outcomes in NSW. It is this breadth of curriculum, its attendant examination of multiple views and desire for students to form their own properly-constructed views that seems to so annoy John Howard and his Education Minister.

Both Labor (opposition) and Liberal (government) Parties seem to support the concept of a a national curriculum and consistent term dates. At face value, they are reasonable proposals. It is the political outlook - the Federal Government's desire for political control of education - that should ring alarm bells for us voters.

The Analyst