The former dean of education at Melbourne University, Brian Caldwell is to be commended for his recent piece in the SMH. Caldwell rightly questions the longevity and the impact of Rudd’s education revolution, if it fails to ask the right questions and fails to address the ‘big issues’.
Caldwell observes that despite the trebling of our education expenditure, there has not been a significant improvement in the learning outcomes which you might expect given this fact. While an advocate for improving public education, he does identify issues facing other education sectors such as the increasing gap between high and low performing students, an ageing workforce and ageing infrastructure.
Money is only a temporary fix but it won’t buy us a long term solution. This is because increasing levels of expenditure is only ever focused on the “easy to do” parts of the problem. Caldwell’s strategies (some of which are validated by international experience) recognise these complexities. They are aimed at raising the status and skill of the profession. Only then, we will see sustained practice and improved learning outcomes.
This takes time, long term commitment and has to be sustained over time, not just a one off event. For me, part of the answer to this lies in building teacher capacity. This is done most effectively through collaboration among colleagues. We have known this for some time but the idea of working as team-members, sharing responsibility for one’s own learning, the learning of colleagues and students seems to be too challenging or too demanding. The Rudd Government would be wise to draw on the depth of experience of educational leaders like Brian Caldwell.