Are educators adequately accountable?

Long gone are the days when a parent might approach a government school teacher with care, to ask about an offspring’s progress. Were the teacher to feel that she (teachers in primary schools were almost always women) to feel that the parent was being critical in some way, the parent would be described throughout the whole school as an ‘over-anxious’ parent.

Then, official inspectors of teaching were dispensed with, and replaced with school boards involving participation by representative elected parents. The latter, however, had no say in what was taught or how it was taught. The principal was effectively in control of the school.

Then came the claim by some teachers that they had the right to decide what was taught at school. While teachers were never challenged as to how they taught, one wondered how teachers could decide what was needed to be taught to prepare their students for their future. Progressing from school to teachers college (now university) to school teaching, without any experience or even knowledge of the realm of employment (and survival), how could they know about the needs of society, both in the present and in the future?

Aren’t elected governments responsible for such decisions, aided by education professionals in both the public sector and academe?

Strangely, a recently retired high school teacher told a group of us that she had to shout at some of her obstreperous students to control their behaviour. Many did not want to be in school after Year 10; yet the federal government requires all students to complete Year 12. (Why?) Many students were disinterested in much of the fare provided. She confirmed the low levels of literacy and numeracy of some students.

Thus arose the national need to have tests of competence (for years 3, 5, 7 and 9) periodically. This was opposed – for obvious reasons – by some in the education system. Their arguments? Too much time is being spent in preparing for the tests; tests are stressful; the joy of learning is being diminished.

Do these objectors understand the objectives of education? Do they accept responsibility for ensuring (repeat, ensuring) that school leavers are able to compete and survive in the unprotected world? Do they know what this realm is like? As well, are education authorities and teachers upgrading teaching skills and the competence to achieve this great responsibility?

Are not tests a necessary feature of quality control?