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Topics: Education
Assignment 3: Academic Essay
By Lachlan Allison
Examine the ways in which together, and separately, the key questions throw light on the current policy directions described and critiqued by Lingard?

Australia and its curriculum in education are fast going down a road where other nations are not; we are going down a path that consistently shows that our current policies are not working for our students (Lingard 2011). What does this mean? According to the Gonski Report (2011) there is an urgent need for change, there are growing gaps in student achievement, the federal government needs to lead the way, we must invest for success and most importantly ‘our children’s future is at stake.’ These notions suggest that curriculum is highly contested across Australia and has been since Australia became a Commonwealth. So what now? That is where this essay comes in. Its purpose is to draw upon the current policies and ideologies surrounding curriculum in Australia through the examination of the Rudd/Gillard government policies and Susan Groundwater-smith’s new direction for change in education. These current policy directions will be analysed and consider the influence of political perspectives, curriculum orientations, stakeholders and how historical ideas and assumptions have shaped our curriculum.

Contemporary political perspectives across Australia state, “the current and key purpose of assessment, particularly in education, has been to establish and raise the standards of learning. This is now a virtually universal belief. It is hard to find a country that is not using the rhetoric of needing assessment to raise standards in response to the challenges of globalisation” (Stobart 2008, pp. 24). This is notion is evident in our country and is highlighted as the ‘education revolution.’ The education revolution was comprised by the Rudd/Gillard government back in 2007, and was argued and seen by many as a neo-liberism approach to education (Lingard 2011), meaning it demonstrated a market driven approach to economic and social policy based upon historical and current society theories (what is believed to be needed in contemporary education). The transparency of this revolution was seen through NAPLAN testing, emphasising standardised testing across the nation at all schools, and the publication of these tests displayed on a ‘my school website’, showing the comparisons of schools overall achievement of student learning outcomes and progressive development (Collins 2011). On the contrary, there has been much scepticism of how this is benefitting our students, our future, and our economy and whether or not it is really purposeful (Lingard 2003).
According to (Lingard 2011) it is believed to be changing teacher’s work and making it less meaningful and more overwhelming and stressful. Groundwater-smith (2009), a well-respected leader in education supports the sceptics and criticises labours current direction of education revolution and how it isn’t what’s needed for our nation. She believes that the contemporary education revolution is working against the conceptions of the teaching profession and in regards to teachers work, we need to both change and maximise its impact in constructive and beneficial ways for student learning that emphasises more freedom and opportunity. Her policies promote ‘teacher professionalism’, which considers our history, our students and their schools, their backgrounds and learning styles. However, because of such current concrete curriculum policies, assessments and standards it is even harder to implement her effective policy measures (Lingard 2011).
The potential impacts of current educational policies suggest that there is significant need for change and that these impacts are predominant throughout schools and teachers work in the classroom (Brady 2007). These policies consist of assessment and accountability frameworks that are embedded in the ACARA curriculum owned and participated in by many stakeholders (governments, principals, teachers and other education enthusiasts) and are used to manage and monitor student achievement standards across the nation using the ‘my school website’ (Hursh 2005). The ‘NAPLAN’ is a national test of numeracy and literacy for every student in the year levels 3,5 and 7. It is driven politically rather than educationally and brings about several concerns; overwhelming students and teachers with stress, the content is narrow and boring, involves teachers ‘teaching to the test.’ the concepts within it need to be learned by may (that’s when its held) and it seems to focus superficially on overtaking deep learning (Lingard 2011). On the contrary, there are some positive short-term gains associated with NAPLAN such as; encouraging a focus on what matters in literacy and numeracy, encourages focus on both across the curriculum and across the school and it offers ‘baseline data’ which can be used as a benchmark for learning goals and progression. However, long-term gains are non-existent because the approach is so narrowly focused guaranteeing that the negatives far outweigh the positives, calling for more efficient and valuable measures (Groundwater-smith 2011).
The issue that most cant comprehend is how if the purpose is to have schools compete against one another to push up student achievement standards, how can those lower socio-economic schools keep up? Henderson (2005) describes that poorer communities feel greater pressure from the test, and that potentially NAPLAN and the my school webiste was widening the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Over the 2008/2009 periods, statistics clearly showed this widening gap, causing more issues for struggling schools. Numerous articles from those years stated that problems such as cheating existed because of the my school website and teachers feeling so much pressure for being held accountable for all students achievement (Lingard 2003). The teacher union is continuing to combat the usage of both NAPLAN and the my school website by indicating to the government that the current educational revolution is contradicting original ideologies and not improving school systems or its students but instead having a backfiring effect (Lingard 2011).

Throughout the past 50 years the federal government has increased its involvement in education, shaping our current and future curriculum policies and creating continuous conflict between political leaders and educational union leaders (Lingard 2011). The underpinning of this conflict suggests the ideologies and political perspectives are naïve to the needs of educating our students and catering for their needs (Groundwater-smith 2009). Lingard (2011) supports this notion by stating it as ‘economistic framing,’ meaning the federal government seek to control and focus on the nations economy, the demands of society and structure of education to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach (this was evident back when Hawke/Keating were in power). As you can see the stakeholders have the control and power of influencing education and curriculum, and have issued a ‘constitutional arrangement’ to state governments where they have their own power (Brady 2007). Another argument to why current stakeholders are naive to education is because they borrowed current policies from other nations without the realisation and understanding of our own and its differences. When I say this I mean there was no consideration to our history, society, infrastructures, backgrounds, multi-culturism and education (Lingard 2011). These pivotal mistakes continue to be the effects of a market-orientated approach in education (Carter 2009), where money and media plays a bigger role than what is really needed and key to student learning, and that is the underlying issue (Gonski Report 2011).
Groundwater-smith (2011) believes that educational leaders and teachers should have the biggest say and be the primary stakeholder in curriculum and education, because they know their students and are not naïve to their needs and learning requirements. They understand that each child and school is different and how they can make differences in student’s lives. This is further supported by Groundwater-smith (2009) who states that a teachers profession is to be ‘research informed and be research informing,’ meaning that they have the knowledge of real world concepts and their purpose is to pass that on to students in meaningful settings, broadening student learning and development. The orientation this entitles is a collective and democratic one, enabling a national reform agenda so that education can become purposeful, the positive goals of the Rudd/Gillard education revolution have a chance of being achieved, the direction is altered for the better and ensures social equity and justice is met (Lingard 2011).

Groundwater-smiths (2011) research clarifies that collaborative processes and practices in a school and teaching setting has massive potential in student achievement, particularly in relation to the work and nature of a teaching profession that provides more social structures for all students. Taking the side of Groundwater-smith, Gonski and Lingard I believe that if we keep heading down this direction of educational revolution our students and education will suffer. The competition between schools and their achievement is unhealthy. If the consideration of various stakeholders, an adaptation of a different orientation, and less political perspective and control is seen in education, maybe we can broaden our curriculum and gain purpose in it (Lingard 2011). Giving teachers the opportunity to do their profession without such scoped assessment and accountability, making school what it should be; fun, engaging and meaningful will lead to success in Australia’s education (Boomer 1992). Putting it more simply, as a nation we need to look at coming up with richer and more intelligent forms of accountability than what is currently being endured. The NAPLAN and my school website facilitated by the Rudd/Gillard government is not working and is negatively impacting on education more than people are aware of (Reid 2010) If change is undergone, potentially Australia could be recognised alongside successful educative nations such as Korea and Finland as a highly successful in educating students (Lingard 2011).
The change is here, its at knocking on the door, all we need is to adjust, tweak and guide the directional goals of current policies towards more effective teaching based practices that teachers are sought to do so students are equipped and informed citizens for the future (Groundwater-smith 2009).

Reference List
Boomer, G 1992, 'Negotiating the curriculum', in Negotiating the Curriculum: educating for the 21st century, eds. G Boomer, N Lester, C Onore & J Cook, The Falmer Press, London, pp. 4-14.

Brady, L & Kennedy, K (2007) Ch. 2 ‘Curriculum and the Pluralist State: Resolving conflicts over ownership of the school curriculum’ in Curriculum Construction, Pearson Education: Frenchs Forest, NSW, pp 14- 31. Carter J et al., 2009 Orientations to Education and Curriculum, draft course materials. Adelaide: University of South Australia

Collins, C. 2011 ‘The tail wagging the dog? Assessment and reporting.’ Australia's Curriculum Dilemmas: state cultures and the big issues. L. Yates, C. Collins and K. O'Connor. Melbourne, Melbourne University Press: 185-210. Henderson, Deborah 2005 ‘What is education for? Situating history, cultural understandings and studies of society and environment against neo-conservative critiques of curriculum reform’ in Australian Journal of Education, Vol 49 No 3, pp 306-319 Hursh, David 2005 ‘The growth of high-stakes testing in the USA: accountability, markets and the decline in educational equality’ British Educational Research Journal Vol. 31, No. 5 October 2005, pp 605-622

Gonski Report

Lingard, Bob; Hayes, Debra; Mills, Martin 2003 ‘Teachers and Productive Pedagogies: contextualising, conceptualising, utilising’. Pedagogy, Culture and Society Vol. 11, No. 3. Pp 399 -422
Lingard, B 2011, 'Changing Teachers' work in Australia', Ch. 16 pp. 229-45 in N Mockler and J Sachs (eds), Rethinking Educational practice through reflexive inquiry, Springer, New York

Reid, Alan and Gill, Judy & Sears (eds) 2010 Ch. 2 ‘In Whose Interest? Australian Schooling and the Changing Contexts of Citizenship’ from Globalisation, the Nation State and the Citizen: Dilemmas and directions for citizenship education. Routledge

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