The media is once again filled with the gloomy news of our failing Australian education system. The natural conclusion people reach is that teachers and schools are failing our kids. However, I would assert that teachers today have a far better understanding of teaching and learning and are working harder than ever before. So what is going on?
My proposition is that we are seeing a gradual decline of our western society, a ‘degeneration’, as Niall Ferguson author of the best seller of the same name, asserts; a degeneration of the foundational institutions that make, or made our society great.
I believe that our nation is lacking a clear vision. We have allowed the premise that, ‘our quality of living will see continual improvement if we strive for ongoing economic growth’ to be our key political priority for far too long. This is the philosophy that is failing us now.
If I were interested in a political career, this would be my political platform.
Set a clear vision for our nation: “to be a nation of innovators.”
All successful organisations, and countries for that matter, have a clear vision. Singapore set a clear vision two decades ago—just look at that nation now. Australia should capitalise on its strengths. We are more creative than most. We have the capacity to be the world’s leading innovators.
Underpin the vision with three clear values: family, equality, and education.
Each of these three values are interlinked. Strong families mean better relationships, with in turn produces a better value system and a more equal society, which in turn leads to better educational results. All three working together produce more satisfying and fulfilling lives.
Our nation has become more and more unequal. From the CEOs who earn millions in bonuses, to the inequity in salaries between the sexes, all of which are just plain wrong.
We need to make our nation more equal. There is plenty of evidence to show that the more equal a society is the stronger it is. Think Finland, or the ACT for that matter, which is remarkably equal compared to all the States and would be near the top of the education league tables if it were a country.
Make policies support the values and the attainment of the vision. Policies to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and the sexes, and policies to strengthen the family unit. Encourage parents to choose who stays home to do the vital job of raising children during their formative years by ensuring equality of wages.
The pricing of housing also needs tackling within this value. Why does Australia have the third highest house price to income ratio in the world? Why is it that we think to be someone we have to accumulate material wealth? We have allowed greed to sell us a happiness myth.
Third, the path to a civil, peaceful, and successful society is through education. Education needs to be valued more highly that it is now. There needs to be equity of access, equity of resources and opportunities, and a greater respect for the hard work of teachers.
We need to forget the competition to be in the top five as measured by PISA and forge our own identity. To be a nation of innovators our children need to read, write, and add up, but they also need to be able to work together, foster their creativity, find a passion, develop resilience, and design solutions to the problems our world faces. The education of a child is a partnership between the family and the school, not solely the responsibility of our schools.
Why is it that we can’t achieve all this? Perhaps our political system is letting us down.