One-size non-education.

The Treehorn Express

The following article appeared in Queensland’s Bayside Bulletin, written by educator, commentator and school principal, Paul Thomson, Principal of Kimberley College, Carbrook.

One size fits all in a non-education approach.

The Australian curriculum ignores the differences in ability that occur within school grades, with tragic consequences for the education of children.

“Apart from the rather silly pretence that there is one standard for a ‘grade’ there is deep concern that pressured teaching is leading to bizarre teaching practices. These include huge amounts of homework for young children, many hours of test practice and work of extreme difficulty.”


                                        The Australian curriculum has not been adopted by all states – and for good reasons.
Paul-Thomson[1]How do you implement a curriculum which has, to date, 15 subjects? How do you enthuse teachers abut a curriculum that does not recognise the huge range of abilities within a grade?

The grade number, for example the seven part of ‘grade 7’, is a better indicator of difference rather then of sameness.

To illustrate, in grade 7, there is an approximate seven year’s range in ability. How does the Australian curriculum cope with this reality? It ignores it. It ignores the fact that some grade 7 children can write to a grade 10 standard, while some struggle to achieve a grade 4 standard. That’s the real world which is ignored in the interests of ‘rigorous’ teaching.

The ignoring of these differences has tragic consequences for the majority of children. The high achievers become bored and the less academic are humiliated daily. Of course, this grade-based ritual is further ‘legitimised’ by NAPLAN, which is designed to help diagnose learning problems.

Apparently it is considered that teachers are incapable of detecting children’s difficulties and “helping them learn from mistakes”.

If the basic purpose of schooling is not to educate, then the National Curriculum and NAPLAN are useful tools. The non-education approach is to concentrate on the one-size-fits-all lessons and then assign a rating. Game over. Put your ‘clients’ on a bell curve and sprinkle around the As, Bs, Cs and Ds.

Too bad for all you kids who got a 0, but you’ve got to accept your lower status sometime or other.

Take your medicine early, kids.

Now the NAPLAN season is still fresh in our memory, it’s time for some reflection – a reality check…….

Apart from the rather silly pretence that there is one standard for a ‘grade’, there is deep concern that pressured teaching is leading to bizarre teaching practices. These include huge amounts of homework for young children and many hours of test practice and work of extreme difficulty.

When concern is expressed that a Year 2 child cannot locate an adverbial clause in a sentence, something is seriously wrong. Of course, the vast majority of adults would not be able to perform this less than vital task.

The above is not intended to criticise schools or principals. Principals are heavily pressured to ensure that there are few, if any, withdrawals from NAPLAN and understandably, this pressure becomes part of the school culture. A passage in the NAPLAN handbook warns principals against “influencing parents to withdraw children.” Perhaps I should, at this stage, ask all parents to disregard this article to keep myself safe from my unspecified punishment for exercising freedom of speech.

Final questions :

If NAPLAN is such a valuable education tool, why is bullying of teachers, principals, schools and systems necessary on a national scale to ensure compliance?

If, after the passing of 170 years are the words of Charles Dickens so relevant when he criticised educators for “being ever ready to weigh and measure every parcel of human nature to see exactly what it comes to?”


Phil Cullen […… paranoiac about helping school kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 0407865999

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