Australian State starts afresh.

Pupil Treehorn:     Why can’t we kids have a test-free, pupil-centred, achievement-oriented, holistic-learning-based-curriculum?  Why? Why?

Klein testucators:     Why can’t we have a profit-based, stress-laden, teacher-squirming, unreliable test program.  That’s what we have. We can’t change it.

Treehorn:     Why can’t you replace tension with challenge, fear with encouragement, ritual with creativity, teacher-bashing with professionalism, subject-hate with love-of-learning, time-wasting-tests with shared-evaluation ?

Testucator:    Simply : We don’t know HOW.

Essential Reading/viewing : 

Standardized Testing is not Teaching

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

Treehorn is the hero of a children’s book called The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi. It’s about a small boy with enormous problems, who remained totally ignored by all adults, including his parents, teachers and principal during an important period in his life. Like all young school pupils, he came to learn that adults don’t take much notice of school kids, no matter how dire the circumstances. Children are left on their own to survive, despite the stress that  some very cruel adults impose on them – like the operators and users of NAPLAN the Wombat tests. The Shrinking of Treehorn is a powerful story with a morally-stunning conclusion.

An Australian State Starts Afresh

An Australian state, say Queensland, has been presented with an opportunity to re-examine its duties to its citizens.  The provision of quality compulsory schooling is at the top of its list as it should always be. That’s where a state’s future lies.

If it started by surveying the present situation, it would find that

  1. The curriculum for its schools has been controlled for six years by stressful testing procedures that indicate a high level of ethical malpractice. No matter what is in each school’s subject list of literacy, history, art, geography, I.T., music, language and the rest, the concentration on NAPLAN success has been an all pervading and time-consuming occupation of each school.
  2. The purpose of such a  program has been  to create tension, fear and concern amongst pupils and teachers, and parents. This is based on the mediaeval belief that fear of failure promotes better results in tests.
  3. Parents, teachers and pupils are now [2015] banning the bum program in droves. May God bless their concern and their principles.  4000 school pupilsare adding to those already giving NAPLAN the bum’s rush. Click and read about it.

The emerging ‘new’ state will find that its existing kind of approach that treats children as robotic instruments for the gathering of test scores is a clear breach of the Rights of the Child :

Children must be treated as human beings with a distinct set of rights

instead of as passive objects of care and charity.

{UNESCO Convention 2014}

So…what does the state do?

Where to from here? If this particular right is clearly accepted by the state representatives in parliament and they are prepared to treat  children as human beings, then what does the state do to provide the kind of schooling that emphasises and encourages love,  care, learnacy, acceptance of challenges, high levels of achievement, achievement according to ability, and holistic learning in the state’s schools; the whole box-and-dice of school learning?

Forget about recriminations for the unfortunate 2008-2015 mistakes, referred to above.  Here’s what might be done…

  1. Gather together the states three or four of the state’s most lateral-thinking practitioners – people actually working in schools – don’t ask associations or groups – side-thinking schoolies are easy to find – and let them discuss what they think the states’ schools should look like. Get them to record a summary of their thoughts.  {in my time, ancient as it is, I would have chosen from practitioners like Jack Christiansen, Les Treichel, Derek Hedgecock, Paul Thomson or people like them. There were plenty]
  1. No matter what it costs, the state should then try to engage asap :-  Prof. Robin Alexander{Cambridge Review of England’s Primary schooling],  Pasi Sahlberg[Finland leading Educator of distinction], Kelvin Smythe [Former Chief Inspector, New Zealand], Marion Brady [US educator and commentator] and Sir Ted Robinson [Anglo-American Educator] either individually or combined to visit and comment on what they think the state’s schools should do to have the best educational institutions on the globe. No speech circuit or side-issues. Serious talk. Each should only meet with the state’s own selected monitors [above] for intense discussions.


Select a dozen or so of the state’s best teachers, innovative ones who think laterally and have exciting learning classrooms. They are easy to find.  Just ask around.  Bring them together for a couple of weeks. Ask them to describe what they would like to see in an achievement-based, pupil-centred, tension free, holistic learning school. Then : Leave them alone. Turn them loose to share their thoughts with each other. …. no politician or bureaucrat to be allowed anywhere near them. If they need something [ a visit to somewhere, reading material, videos, anything] to enliven their thinking, try to provide it.

It works. It’s been done before. Sound professional, well-read, active  teachers are amazing. I know. I’ve seen this sort of group in action. Trust me. Trust them. They know how. They won’t let their profession down.


Phil Cullen , 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point, Australia 2486  07 5524 6443 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s