Articles – The Centre for Independent Studies

Judge Tudge by promised turnaround

Glenn Fahey

19 March 2021 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

New federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has set an ambitious 10-year turnaround goal to once again be among the world’s highest performers.

His priorities in delivering improvement are reforming teaching quality, curriculum, and assessment. These priorities must be pursued with an outcomes-based approach if an education turnaround can be effected. That will put him at odds with a sector that’s routinely fixated on what’s put in rather than what comes out.

It will be necessary to align the turnaround mentality to curriculum, assessment, and teaching quality — rather than seeing them as standalone priorities.

The Minister must avoid the trap of seeing curriculum reform as a one-stop shop for educational improvement. It’s easy to become weighed down by inevitable battlegrounds over content and to be seduced by faux quick fixes, like importing overseas curriculums.

Ultimately, it’s delivery of curriculum more than development of curriculum, that is critical to the turnaround goal. That demands articulating — and gaining support for — how curriculum will improve teaching content, not just be an exercise in reshuffling the same deck.

Tudge’s commitment to retaining, while refining, NAPLAN is welcome, but must be matched with how higher standards will translate to the classroom.

Leading a national conversation about using NAPLAN — among other tools — to drive performance will make a lasting improvement to education. Tudge can take a leaf from the book of NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell in establishing benchmark outcomes for schools and delivering accountability that’s lacking; particularly for parents who have few options picking between schools.

Yet, the pachyderm in the classroom inevitably boils down to teaching quality. Workforce strategy is needed to improve flexibility, responsiveness, accountability, and expertise in the teaching profession. This requires a shakeup to a stagnant workforce that is rigid, resistant to change, unaccountable, and evidence-rejecting.

Reversing the trend is a major undertaking and one where few friends will be won within the education sector. Ambitious national leadership in education is timely and much-needed.

This is an edited extract of an opinion piece published in The Australian as Education reform starts at the end; student outcomes

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