“Today, I am here to talk about our children, their education, their lives and their future… On their behalf, I call on you to join me in a national crusade to give those children a better education and a better future” (Gillard, 2012).
In 2012, then prime minister Julia Gillard led a rousing speech that embarked on a national crusade to eradicate bad teachers, wasteful school practices and a supposed failing education system. The approach introducing greater accountability and transparency in schools through NAPLAN and the My School website. While she proposed 5 key changes to the education system, the biggest cost came through the emphasis of high-stakes testing on numeracy and literacy.
Not only has the implementation of these high-stakes tests NOT improved their intended goal to improve student outcomes in numeracy and literacy, they have in fact achieved the very opposite! Australia’s international ranking in these outcomes has slipped since her crusade began, from 17th to 20th in numeracy, and from 10th to 12th in literacy.
While none of this is news to the educationally informed or the avid news reader, there is a bigger issue here! Not only has high-stakes testing in schools NOT achieved their intended goal, but their implementation into the Australian school system through NAPLAN has had a disastrous effect on equity, creative thinking, higher-order thinking, a narrowing curriculum and student engagement since its implementation in 2008.
Now at this point, and with some background reading to broaden the knowledge of issues and their consequences on the subject, one might consider that the policy makers would acknowledge their error and make adjustments accordingly. But audit culture, which is a growing global phenomena in neoliberal society, is influenced by the global economy, which is driving the likes of PISA, which ranks one country against another on specific educational outcomes, as a means of demonstrating ‘good’ education. It’s like the Olympics for education and a means to evaluate if Australia is producing citizens of value to the capitalist system. What is deemed sellable or useful to economic growth is recognised, and what is hard to define in these terms, looses value and becomes silent or ignored, in the hustle and bustle of 21st century noise.
Ironically, one of the key outcomes being identified in business today is creative thinking, resilience and collaboration; all of which are being pushed aside in a narrowing curriculum that is witnessing: teachers teaching to the test; an increase in preparation examines to prepare students for NAPLAN; a return to teacher directed instruction. The result has seen less student centered learning, which is proven to develop: students’ social skills; diversity and equity by allowing students to work at their own pace and understanding; facilitates zone of proximal development and empowers the teacher to engage with students individually, to support their learning needs.
Creative Arts integration in Early Childhood and Primary education is the ONLY way to meet all these complex outcomes in a crowded curriculum. Through skilled pedagogy in arts education, this way of teaching and learning has the capacity to provide clear and proven outcomes in numeracy and literacy that aid student engagement. Quality Creative Arts integration provides creative and high-order thinking outcomes that are inherently equitable, through the differentiated ways of teaching and learning that occur in the pedagogy of the discipline, including student centered pedagogy to developed students’ social skills and team work.
Other than the obvious educational benefits, why are these outcomes so important today?
In a Harvard Blog, Manning (2017) states that “in organisations [today], innovation comes from people who use imagination and creativity to solve complex problems. Frameworks like creative problem solving and design thinking all share one common thread: they support and promote individual creative skills”.
The Economist has also chipped in on the subject, stating that “every company that employs creative people must think about how to harness their strengths for commercial gain without strangling their free-spiritedness. Hollywood has a century’s experience in this. Studios recruit a fresh creative team for each film, leaving its members to work intensely together with a minimum of interference, stepping in only when things are clearly going wrong. This gives team members a feeling of control and pride in their project; and to cap it all, everyone has their contribution duly acknowledged in the closing credits” (2017).
So next time you see the results of the recent PISA education Olympics, remember, these results mean little to what ‘good’ teaching or ‘good’ education outcomes are!
Cook, G. T. a. I. (2012). Spinning in the NAPLAN Ether: ‘Postscript on the Control Societies’ and the Seduction of Education in Australia. Edinburgh University Press, 6(4), 564-584.
Gillard, J. (2012, 3rd September, 2012). [A National Plan for School Improvement”, Speech to National Press Club, Canberra].
Manning, A. (2017). 4 Ways Creative Thinking Drives Professional Success. Retrieved from http://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/4-ways-creative-thinking-drives-professional-success
Murphie, A. (2014). Auditland. PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 11(2), 1-41.
Schumpeter. (2017, 7th February, 2017). Creative Capitalism. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/business/21629377-other-industries-have-lot-learn-hollywood-creative-capitalism
Thompson, G. (2010). Modulating power and ‘new weapons’: Taking aim at the ‘Education Revolution’. Paper presented at the 40th Conference of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia Inc. (PESA), Perth, Western Australia; Margaret River, Western Australia. http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/4448