I’m currently sitting in the National Convention Centre in Canberra as I write this post. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to present a session about active global citizenship education at the Australian College for Educational Leadership Conference. It’s the first time I’ve been to the ACEL Conference (at about $800 per delegate, it’s not cheap) and I’m glad I’ve come. Although I’ve only been here for one day, what has really impressed me is the practical nature of the conference – there is a real emphasis on research informing practice, and the sharing of good ideas from successful schools.
The quality of the speakers, too, has been very good. The conference was opened by Mr Cook, the Associate Secretary for the Department of Education, who spoke about the new government’s plans for education, including things like increased accountability and choice for principles, and the role of assessment and teacher quality. It all sounded very promising, but these things always do, don’t they? Reading between the lines, I think there are real things to be concerned about – especially the accountability section, and the way funding arrangements for school funding – the coalition is famous for underfunding public institutions.
Following that, Dr Bob Brown, former leader of the Greens, spoke. He was witty, erudite and discursive. I thoroughly enjoyed it – and not surprisingly, his talk was heavily political, arguing that educated people simply shouldn’t have voted for the Abbott government. Regardless of the truth of that – and there was some concocted outrage on Twitter about the political nature of his talk – I found it refreshing that here was someone who was so willing to speak about what he or she believed – there was no moderation, and I respect the honesty. I agreed with a lot of what he said, too. Inspiring stuff.
Finally, the third keynote was by Professor Kirsti Lonka, from the University of Helsinki. She spoke – at length, and in detail – about the Finnish educational system and the Finnish teacher training system. It was informative, but once again, I was disappointed that no one wanted to talk about what I see as the biggest issue: the quality of people who are undertaking teacher training. It’s all well and good talking about professional autonomy and trust between teachers and communities and governments, but until the quality of teachers in Australia reaches the quality of teachers in Finland, I’m not sure we’ll see any improvement.