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Building the Education Revolution: rorts etc « Previous | |Next »
April 13, 2010

I am surprised that it has taken so long for the Rudd Government to set up an inquiry into the rorts by the building industry in the $16 billion school building/stimulus program. The gouging stories have been surfacing for several months, and the months of government denials that there was a problem with respect to the inflated quotes and costs, overcharging, money going to schools due to close, and unwanted projects imposed on schools by state education bureaucracies have not been persuasive.

Clearly, the line that complaints represented a minute proportion of projects, can no longer stand with the dissatisfaction at the school level; in spite of the stimulus package addressing the run-down of public school assets at local level, over the past few decades. What we have is the neutralising of political problems to create clear air for the election campaign.

Most of the Rudd Government's emphasis and rhetoric has been on “branding and recognition" with the signs on school fences announcing the Commonwealth government’s $16 billion Building the Education Revolution (BER) program. It's hardly an education revolution since the rationale is economic rather than educational--it is contributing to economic recovery through rapid construction of shovel-ready building plans, and this takes priority over provision of “learning environments” in the program objectives.

However, the economic and the global financial crisis have now passed. So why no mention of linking the building program to the computers in schools strand of building the education revolution by developing local digital media hubs that would provide training and the development of local digital resources. This would connect education to the digital economy and the national broadband network that will bring high speed broadband to low-income communities.

This kind of linking could begin the process of re-engaging young people who have drifted out of, and away from, formal schooling.The national broadband network opens up possibilities to bring the best educational materials and teachers to students in low-income communities and to training young people in the skills needed to work in a digital/information economy.

The third strand of Gillard's rhetoric of an education revolution is the emphasis on standardised testing and “accountability” for schools and teachers with its focus on progress in literacy and numeracy at the expense of arts, science, history, literature, geography, civics, foreign languages and physical education. What hope for digital literacy in the context of the impact of digital media when the conception of good education is a back to basics education. This dumbing down and narrowing of the curriculum appears to be the future of public education in Australia.

The long term implications of this educational traditionalist strand of reform (the business model of education) are: the “failing” schools are the urban public schools that serve predominantly poor or minority students; acceleration of the enrolment drift away from schools in poor areas; and increasing the element of social hierarchy among and between our public and private schools.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:41 AM | | Comments (5)


Chris Bonnor in Reformed to the hilt at Inside Story highlights just how much Gillard's educational reform agenda has been influenced by Joel Klein, the New York City Schools Chancellor, system-wide educational reforms in New York. In this market model choice, competition and accountability are the education reform levers.

What has been picked up is the test-based accountability--using test scores as the sole measure of the performance of teachers and schools. The American model also uses the strategy of shaming and humiliating low performing schools and uses sanctions against teachers and schools that are unable to improve student results. Rudd has said that schools that fail to improve will be subject to “tough action”, including firing principals and senior staff and closing schools.

Do reporting school results and greater competition and choice lead to significant improvements in student achievement and school performance? Or does it exacerbate the social divide? These are crucial questions for the Rudd Government given its rhetoric of social inclusion.

Po Mo politics?
With schmoozing a acience, and consciousness a dirty word, when do political folk ever get round to irrelevancies like the problems of the real world?

Presumably they couldn't set up an inquiry until they knew what the findings would be.

Of course, Peter.
You know what barbarians they are.

"Presumably they couldn't set up an inquiry until they knew what the findings would be."

The inquiry will find that the building industry needs more regulation.