The pollies are at it again, arguing over educational funding in an attempt to build political credit. Perhaps it is time for a garden variety teacher to weigh into the debate. For what it is worth, here is my 2c.
Yes of course schools need more funding. Yes, funding has an enormous impact on a school’s ability to support and enhance learning opportunities. However, rather than debating the amount of money required, I would like to discuss how funds will be dispersed. Perhaps this will provide a tangible framework for directing money to where it is needed most; places where real, functional, outcomes may be achieved.
So, what do students need? What will have most impact?
Smaller class sizes, more facilities – bigger gyms, rows of computers, a smart board in every classroom, more teacher training? Experience at the ‘coal face’ (over 14 years of classroom teaching) suggests, the biggest single determinate of individual student achievement is a little more personal than simply buying ‘things’. Student achievement is enhanced through;
1. A proactive ‘learning’ mindset
2. Functional, effective, critical literacy
(and yes, I accept numeracy is also very important)
With a proactive mindset a student has the opportunity to become a self motivated learner who accepts responsibility for the learning process. With base literacy skills and a commitment to developing critical literacy, a student has access to the tools required to become a lifelong learner. With an understanding of the learning process, a learner may increase their cognitive and social agility and flexibility. In other words, self-motivated learners are confident in their ability to meet the requirements of any given situation because, they have learnt how to learn.
This is what I would like to hear more about when various interest groups start debating funding initiatives and falling educational standards. As a society we need to be more aware of the impact of emotional well being. Active steps must be taken to support and develop emotional resilience. One solution which addresses low motivation and poor self image is the development of emotional, creative and critical literacy skills. When a person feels secure in their communication skills, they are more self assured – they have a voice that will be heard. This has wide ranging impacts for interpersonal interactions and, education (or learning) thrives in situations where there are productive interpersonal interactions.
So, rather than arguing about how much money should be given to whom, rather than suggesting more regulations, rather than more testing and rather than imposing more ways of demonstrating accountability, can we please be proactive. Let’s cure the disease rather than settling for treating the symptoms. Allow teachers time to think, allow students time to recognize the emotions they feel and allow both the time to work cooperatively. Yes, allow time to develop functional, emotional, creative and critical literacy. There are many different strategies for developing these emotional, creative and critical literacy skills – but I will leave that for another time.
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