My post this week is about the hyper frame which surrounds education. Teachers are routinely told directly and indirectly they are part of a deficit profession, where costs are up and yet results are declining — the resulting frame for teachers is ‘do more with less’ and to accept to work in a profession where inspectors and authorities (also known as the mysterious they) will sit in closed-door judgement of their work, as though the crisis and deficit in education has not occurred through global politics and economic policy and best solved by weeding out the chaff – regardless circumstances and opportunities.
Experience is the best teacher. It isn’t easy to be a teacher despite un-evidenced claims that Universities are doing a poor job at training them. But the do more with less manta isn’t about quality teaching or reform, it is about money. Teaching is a profession where the long-tail of expectations – things teachers do that is invisible – is an inexhaustible pool. The juxtaposition that teaching is both too expensive and in deficit sits against an economic landscape where electricity prices have risen 50% in the last decade and house prices in Australia’s major cities have skyrocketed. New teachers cannot afford a house in Sydney, and face a two hour communute from a rented house share. So do more with less, includes things out of school – such as less quality of life and realistic tipping point. Teachers have always paid for things for their classes and not ‘claimed the expense’ unlike the world of politics, where expenses are seen as a right – teachers cannot realistically fund the system forever.
Schools are now compared to the ‘Finland’ and it’s worth looking this …
Finland has developed a deeply thoughtful curriculum and then provided teachers ever more autonomy with respect to how they approach that curriculum, they have both a curriculum worth teaching to and the kind of autonomy in how they approach it that is characteristic only of the high status professions. Because Finland is at the frontiers of curriculum design to support creativity and innovation, teachers have a job that has many of the attractions of the professions that involve research, development and design – NCEE
Now let’s revisit other countries. Teaching is not a high status profession as it is in Finland. If it was, parents and students would not physically or verbally attack teachers. Teachers are also not encouraged to be researchers, but consumers of products which they are told to use (by ‘experts’) as they are going to improve the outcomes of students. Classroom teachers often have very limited input into these products or processes.
In Finland 85% of teachers stay until retirement. They are paid roughly the same as other OECD countries, but the schools are not run by administrators or the hyperframe of deficit and failure which the media report is response to political and lobby group rhetoric about lowering costs and driving up productivity. Children are not products, but products seek children out as life long revenue streams. This is fundamentally wrong and partly why I oppose the endless sloganeering and brandification of schools (who can afford it).
Finnish teachers work HALF the hours of their American counterparts. So in many ways, people who say directly or imply accept how things are – are never going to change, anymore than he’s going to leave his wife and be with you tomorrow. American, Australian, and UK teachers have many more obligations than Finnish teachers, meaning potentially high levels of stress and less time for planning enriching educational activities. So there will be less, but not in the cost saving way the administrators insist will occur.
The hyper frame has two positions – those of the administration and those of the teachers. Finding a common frame is not going to achieved by expecting teachers to continually accept a culture of fall-back and criticism, but one of advancement and tangible benefits to their status, health and environment – which also has a flow on effect to the most important people in our society, those without a voice and choice – children.