Despite the fact we are on school holidays in Australia, my last post generated a very lively debate over the validity and usefulness of NAPLAN which got me thinking about the overall purpose of schooling in Australia.
A recent edition of New Yorker magazine ran an interesting opinion piece regarding French President François Hollande’s decision to ban homework. If you have a subscription you can read it here, but the crux of the article was that the battle over homework was not really about homework, but about ‘what people wants schools to do’.
The same could be said about our recent discussion over NAPLAN – it’s not about the test or even how it’s used – it’s about what it represents for schools.
President Hollande’s decision to ban homework and make the school day shorter echoes Finland’s approach. However, as the article demonstrates, Finland and the no. 2 country in the world, South Korea, are almost polar opposite in their approaches to schooling, yet on international measures are achieving similar success.
The author believes the success of these countries lies in a clear vision – a shared narrative – about what citizens in these countries want their schools to do i.e. the purpose of schooling.
In the educational debate in Australia, currently, there is diverse range of views about what our schools should be; what they should teach; and, of course, how we measure success. There is a lot of policy noise and yammering on all sides of the debate trying to introduce sometimes opposing strategies for improvement, without answering this very fundamental question.
So let’s throw the doors and windows open here and address the question. For Australia:
- do we want our schools to be hothouses of study where achievement is grown on steroids?
- do we want our schools to communities of comfort and nurture for kids?
- do we want them to be geared around achieving a University entry score?
- do we want to narrow the focus to ensure high achievement on a few simple benchmarks?
- do we want them to pump our kids full of facts and figures?
- do we want them to open kids up to questioning and reflection?
I also came across a great blog which in many ways raises the same questions and talks about the asumptions upon which we construct our schooling experiences. Are these assumptions still valid? Well worth a look
What do you want our schools to be?