The Council of Australian Governments agenda for educational policy reform in 2008 resulted in the National Education Agreement (NEA, 2008) being approved with the objective “that all Australian school students acquire the knowledge and skills to participate effectively in society and employment in a globalised economy” (NEA, 2008). Both State and Territory governments agreed to a performance reporting framework that would collect and publish both student and school data for three reasons:
- Accountability to students, parents, carers and community
- Public accountability in support of COAG outcomes and targets
- Providing an evidence base to support future policy reforms and system improvements, including the aim of better directed resources
ACARA 2012. Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia Dec 2012 (pp8-9).
Economic theory is increasingly impacting on education policy, strongly focused on measurement, outputs and comparison of outcomes, largely ignoring social issues, diversity and equity. NAPLAN is an example of this, and with increased focus on international standardised tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), high stakes international league tables and competitive country comparisons are now driving global reform agendas.
We believe that education policy should be focused on the goal of a socially just society, rather than a competitive economy in which human beings are seen as human capital. Many researchers are calling for governments to have more imagination in developing education policy (eg. Thomason et al, 2012). Policy makers need to imagine a long-term future, to have progressive ideas, to create visionary policy that leads away from obsession with measurement and instead focuses on school change that encompasses a broad based curriculum; that sees the arts as a key component of all teaching and learning so that students are engaged and find learning relevant and meaningful.
The high stakes focus on NAPLAN and the drive for international country competition in reading, numeracy and science, narrows schooling to a limited view of what is important, devalues the arts, physical education and the humanities and downplays the importance of creativity, problem solving and innovation.
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