Excellence and wellbeing

International rankings of educational achievements can be useful as indicators of relative effort and outcomes. Even if Australia manages to be ranked ahead of the UK and the USA in some areas of knowledge, could not Australia do better? Of course, we do have highly motivated and competent students. Even if many of them are of Asian descent, could they not all be guided to do better in an all-round manner? Would not individual wellbeing be enhanced by increasing levels of competence (however measured)?

Is white or Western supremacy responsible for Australian authorities ignoring the learning available in Singapore about raising the skills of Australian teachers continually? Or, could it be cultural differences – chopsticks vs. cutlery, Christ vs. Confucius, welfare vs. self-sufficiency, individualism vs. communalism?

The hallmark of a civilised society is how it looks after the lowest ranks of that society. Do we not need to do more for students from low-education, or low-income, or disinterested families? The ‘near enough is good enough’ adage of the ‘old’ Anglo-Australian is now out-of-date. Adapt or sink!

Waffling about students’ wellbeing, or whingeing about the need for more money (to do what?) is no help. Enhanced all-round competence will ensure increased personal wellbeing. Make education relevant, but varied according to potential. Actualise the potential of all students. Does this mean different streams and content of learning? Indeed, is ‘one-size-fits-all’ the appropriate approach?

‘My way and no other way’ will also have to go. I refer to fads in education. Remember the failed effort to ‘deconstruct’ language – which left students sloshing through semantic sludge? Or the ‘whole-of-word’ fiasco imposed upon little children for decades, while teaching by phonics was actually banned. I write from the experiences of my own family. Thus, learning their own mother tongue was delayed by years because of this ridiculous fad. There are not many words in the English language requiring a whole-of-word approach.

We do have great schools (even in the public sector), and wonderful teachers who are sensitive to the reality of unavoidable stress, trials, and tribulations through life. There is an undeniable need to impart to youngsters usable knowledge and skills (while rounding them off in other directions), underpinned by ambition and resilience of mind. Perpetually increasing the quality of teaching is surely conducive to shaping youths to fit into a competitive future.

The wellbeing of students comes from them knowing that they are being well prepared for life.