Where education has gone wrong

Where education has gone wrong

Perhaps this is where education has gone wrong. I’m sitting at the ACEL 2014 conference, and I’m surrounded by people who no longer have anything to do with students. Of the thousand or so delegates at the conference, I reckon that less than 10% are actual teachers. Sure , there are school principals, but the vast majority are people with vested interests. Representatives of organisations that sell educational products. Representatives of systems and groups. Representatives of peak bodies. Politicians. Business people. Buyers and sellers. Speakers. Commentators. Authors. Educationalists – whatever that means. I say they have vested interests because I feel like they are here pushing their own little barrows – and I’m not sure that that’s what we should be talking about.

We’ve got lots of keynotes here – but so few of them are from teachers. We’ve got three¬†different ministers of education here to tell us about the future of education – but of the three, two have¬†never been teachers or principals. Even the academic speakers are far more likely to be drawn from tertiary backgrounds than from secondary ones. And this means that their experience is fundamentally different to that of teachers. Where are the voices of the teachers in the classroom? Where is the expert practitioner sharing his or her wisdom?
They’re not here because we’re a profession that has lost control of its own destiny. We no longer make decisions about what is to be expected of teachers. Instead, we’re at the whim of ‘thought leaders’ and policy makers and consultants – and these individuals are at the whim of the 24 hour news cycle and the three year election cycle. We seem to have lost the confidence that we, as teachers, are the best ones to make decisions about what is in the best interests of our students. And so, we now leap from idea to idea, grabbing onto whatever trend is popular, without pausing to think if it matches with our own experience and knowledge. We devalue ourselves as professionals and instead become nothing more than technicians, ruthlessly applying techniques that we’ve been told we must – even if those techniques have limited basis in fact, and less relevance for our own contexts.
So how can we recapture this narrative? I think it is important for us to be critical, more than anything else. We need to challenge the educational amway that people are trying to sell us and instead apply a methodical, research based approach to our own profession. This means that we need to be more reflective as practitioners. What worked in our classrooms? What didn’t? Instead of that gap between researchers and teachers, we need teacher-researchers, and researcher-teachers.