Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hockey, Year 12 and the Purpose of Education

Two hockey matches this morning separated by almost an hour. We left the house at 6.45am, getting back five hours later.

At matches like these parents share their concerns. This is our second year 12, the final year in the NSW Higher School Certificate. It has been far worse than our first. Other parents also complained about the pressure on their daughters.

One parent commented at the way the school now seems to be giving two very different messages.

The official line remains that the HSC is just one stage, that students should not worry too much, that there are other options. However, there is a second, growing, line that emphasises the school's performance on the league tables, the need always to do better on official measurements.

This led to a discussion on the growing incidence of performance and performance measurement in private schools and the adverse effects this was having.

One parent, a lawyer, wondered just what was in the teacher's contracts. Another talked about school hopping, moving into a school to push up exam performance, then moving on to a higher salary in another school to properly capture the individual gains.

One parent expressed her support for national standards, but changed her mind on the spot when other parents pointed out what this might actually mean on the ground.

Another parent commented that business wanted people who could think and were unhappy with the product they were getting. There was general agreement that education needed to be more about education, less about training.

Not one parent was happy with the education their daughters were getting. However, there was little inclination to blame the school. Rather, the focus was on broader systemic problems.

I expressed the view that the education system was like a huge ship. Once underway, it continued in the same direction for an extended period regardless of changed conditions. We just had to suffer until changing parent perceptions were sufficient to force direction change.