Substance in the education rhetoric

By Brian J. Caldwell. The Age. 17 November 2013

Substance in the education rhetoric

EDUCATION Minister Martin Dixon has released a position paper that adds substance to the Baillieu government’s commitment to lift the performance of Victoria’s students into the global top tier in the next 10 years. But the public and profession are entitled to ask whether this is empty rhetoric in the absence of a plan or whether there is a realistic possibility that the target can be achieved.

Having watched what happened to such ambitious intentions in every state and territory and in comparable countries over the past three decades, I believe there is a good possibility of success – providing some pre-conditions are satisfied.

Dixon outlined his intentions in an unusual speech last November entitled ”Victoria, a Learning Community”. It was the first time I am aware of that a minister has praised his predecessors for what they had done to improve schools. He outlined two waves of reform spanning the Kennett and the Bracks/Brumby years, and proposed a third wave based on higher levels of school autonomy and a stronger profession. He has now provided substance to the vision in ”Developing Victoria as a Learning Community”, released on Thursday.

Dixon revisits the past two decades but now highlights where the reforms fell short. In language virtually identical to that of Julia Gillard, he describes the social and economic consequences of not lifting the performance of students, and sets the same goal of becoming one of the world’s best school systems.
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