By Pavlina McMaster
It seems that every day, the media publishes yet another story about the cracks in our school system. The fissures are many, and they’re ostensibly growing wider. They are so wide that children are falling through them, no matter how we try to paper over them or glue them shut. We seem to be using tissue-thin paper that tears at the slightest pressure, or perhaps the glue that comes in glue sticks and seems to dry in a brittle coating that sticks to nothing but itself.
And so, our children continue to plummet – into a school life of ignominy, anxiety, “failure”, obsession with scores rather than proficiency, dysfunctional relationships and a choice between conformity or rejection.
Teachers are overburdened with increasingly narrow judgements of what constitutes learning, handed down to them by an authority that lacks insight, expertise, knowledge and currency on what is truly valuable in education. They are not consulted as stakeholders at the front line of mass education.
Parents are dismissed as spectators in their children’s lives. Their innate understanding of their offspring is discounted and trampled in the stampede to take control of children’s learning in ways that will ultimately benefit no-one, not even the people who initiate the siege on childhood and wonder. There is no substitute for love in this aimless race. Nothing can trump caring as a motivator in providing “quality education”.
And yet, when children are removed from this system by parents who decide they want something different for their children, or parents who want to continue joyfully and respectfully raising their children, and decide to home educate, their motives are suspected as being less than selfless. Their abilities are called into question by the very authorities that oversee a system that erodes children’s confidence and self-esteem, their passion for questioning everything around them, and their delight and trust in other human beings.
The recently drafted Victorian education regulations begin with an admission that the home education system appears to be working. There is no evidence of dysfunction, there have not been any cases of reviewed families providing an inadequate education. And yet, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent on rigidly controlling and policing and changing the way in which Victorian parents home educate their children.
All this, at a time when the Attorney General’s Office has released a report detailing the Department of Education’s record keeping abilities. In short, they don’t know what they have, where they have it, if it’s in transit, what it says, or how to use it. They have had 10 years to collect information on home education, to build a working relationship with home educators that would inform and expand better supports and use existing frameworks in the home education community to achieve their stated aim – quality education for all Victorian children – at least in the home education sector.
Instead, their adversarial, antiquated, uninformed and authoritarian regulations will result in an outcome that will not match the stated aims. It is unnecessary, and is targeting a system that is working and producing proven results. You cannot change a system, then measure it, and assume that your results reflect the state of play before you altered it. You cannot impose a broken framework on a functioning system and believe that it will fly.
If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.