The big irony for many parents who have found ourselves schooling our kids at home in the last year is that education departments and teacher unions around the country have strongly opposed (until now) the organisation of school education as if parents and teachers are actually ‘co-educators’ of children.
On most education department websites, you will find hidden away at the bottom of a page somewhere, often under a heading such as ‘philosophy’, a statement of acknowledgement that parents and teachers are partners, or ‘co-educators’, in the intellectual, physical, social and moral formation of students.
Of course, they don’t mean it.
If they did mean it, they would coach parents in our role as co-educators. They would provide resources for parents, they would involve us in the classroom and outside it, and they would open up curriculum plans and teaching tools for parental access.
They don’t do these things. And so, in 2020 and 2021 when some Australian governments closed schools as part of a frenzied panic over covid-19, parents found ourselves having to step into the breach, unprepared, with few resources and even fewer skills, in coaching the self-learning of our kids. For most parents, frustration, bewilderment and a scant supply of patience got the better of us.
Parents in New South Wales are settling in for a sustained period of schooling in this way. There is no end in sight to the nightmare of flying blind, deep in stress, with multiple threats to mental health encroaching on us from all sides.
The covid crisis is illuminating the shortcomings and, in many cases, the deep-seated dysfunction in our systems of organising human and essential services. The fiasco in aged care, where bi-partisan political failure to de-institutionalise care for the elderly has set them up as sitting ducks for the virus, has at least exposed the charade that governments know what they are doing in service delivery. They don’t. For thirty years, they have simply outsourced and corporatised service delivery to a whole new generation of service delivery ‘providers’.
Alongside aged care, school education has been subject to the same fate. Providers of schooling do all the talking and all the lobbying about education. They get all the money, with stunningly little accountability to government and no accountability to parents. This is called ‘provider-centred service delivery’ – governments fund the providers of services in the hope that they can fulfill the diverse needs of children and parents. When they fail to fulfill these needs, there are no consequences. Nothing happens, for decades on end.
Amongst the many reasons for the establishment of The Sensible Centre is the critical need to change this model of service delivery to a ‘person-centred’ or ‘family-centred’, or, in the case of schooling, a ‘student- centred’ model.
Systems of teaching and learning should be built around the student, not the provider. Funding should be directed to the student via their parents, not via the provider. These two principles are essential for the reform of our schools, but neither Liberal nor Labor is remotely inclined to shift from their commitment to provider-centred systems.
What would schooling look like if we seriously enacted these two principles in recognition of parents and teachers as partners, ‘co-educators’ of our children?
This post first appeared in the newsletter of the Australian Sensible Centre....