Tom Whitby, the founder and moderator of #edchat, recently suggested that it would be a good idea for education bloggers around the world to each write a post this weekend on the subject of Educational Reform. The results of this exercise can be viewed here. I think it is a great idea, and I am happy to make my small contribution here, but I find myself wondering if in fact Education Reform is actually what we should be working towards. Reform seems to imply that the education system is broken, or at least malformed, and that it needs to be re-formed so that it will all be better again. Here in Australia that is certainly not the case, at least from my perspective, and I doubt that it is really true in the USA or in many other places either.
Young people are learning to read, to write, and to interact with their peers. They are developing abilities in numeracy, critical thinking, and a whole host of other life skills. Students are graduating from primary school to high school, from high school to the workplace or further study, and every few months the Universities and Colleges confer degrees, from Bachelor to Doctorate, on young (and not so young) hopefuls who then go on to make their mark upon the world.
Teachers are teaching, imparting knowledge and skills to their students, and receiving their paychecks on a regular basis. We are told that there is a shortage of people entering the teaching profession, but I am aware of two positions recently advertised in schools, one a government school and one independent, for which there were 50 and 120 applicants respectively. It would seem, from this small sample, that there are plenty of people who are seeking work in the education sector, and that the competition for such places should ensure a workforce which is striving for excellence, if only for self-interested reasons of trying to get a job, and working to develop their own skills in teaching to the highest possible level.
To add to this, I recently attended a conference on Literacy in the Australian Curriculum. Over 200 teachers gave up a Saturday in Spring to sit and listen to speakers, panel discussions and workshops, all with a goal of better equipping themselves to teach their students. The Australian curriculum, which is nearing the implementation phase for years K-10, provides a number of challenges, but also many opportunities, for teachers. I found the speakers at the conference plentiful in their encouragement, their suggestions of resources, and their optimism that although the next few years will involve a lot of extra pressure on teachers around the inmplementation of the Australian Curriculum, the future is positive for the profession and in the outcomes which can be expected for our students.
To top it all off, I have just watched a ceremony from Rome in which Mary Mackillop, a pioneer of outback education in Australia in the 19th century, was canonised as Mother Mary of the Cross. Australians have always known that Mary MacKillop was a Saint, but now she is recognised as such by the Universal Church. She is an exemplary Christian witness, and also a great role model for teachers everywhere. As a young woman, in a time when young women were expected to do as they were told, she overcame physical infirmity, the social mores of her day, and opposition to her ideas from within and outside the church to fight for the principle that everyone is entitled to an education, and that the people who are best able to make decisions in schools are the teachers who are running the schools themselves.
So right now I am feeling quite optimistic about education. There is much that is good happening, and there are signs that the future could be even better. Re-formation is not what is needed, but constant review and improvement. And I have confidence that my colleagues in the teaching profession are equal to the task.