CONFERENCE The Annual Federal Conference for 2012 was held in Melbourne from Friday 24 February to Sunday 26 February. The ACT Branch had a voting delegation of Secretary Penny Gilmour and President Phil Rasmus, along with the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Delegate Vicki Lucas and Branch TAFE Vice President Janet Harris, who was the TAFE Delegate representing the ACT, NT and Tasmania. Acting Assistant to the Secretary (Professional) Glenn Fowler attended as an observer. As usual, the keynote addresses were inspiring and had common themes. Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation in Finland, was fresh from addressing Australian politicians and Education Directors General. Let’s hope these policy makers listened carefully. Sahlberg’s message closely aligned with that of the formidable Professor Allan Luke from the Queensland University of Technology, and our overseas friends Nina Franklin from the UK’s National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Ian Leckie, the President of New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI). The “Global Education Reform Agenda” (GERM) is infecting developed nations at varying speeds: in some nations it is approaching the end of its decade-long cycle, whilst in others like Australia and New Zealand there is much work yet to be done to see it off. GERM is all about mass high stakes testing, competition between schools, privatisation, deprofessionalisation, devolution and the introduction of charter schools or their equivalent. This agenda has been around long enough now for thousands of evidenced-based papers to have been
written on the subject and the conclusion is clear – it doesn’t work. More enlightened education systems like those found in Finland and Canada are investing where it matters – in sample (not mass) testing, teacher professionalism, teacher learning communities, equity of outcomes and socially representative public schools. And yes, they’re the nations which lead the world when it comes to results in student sample tests such as PISA and TIMMS. By staying true to the principles that led us to teach, we can collectively outlast this damaging agenda, but we must remain vigilant. The address from Fred Van Leeuwin, Secretary General of Education International, concentrated on the effects of the Global Financial Crisis on education and workers in those countries hardest hit. He presented a disturbing picture of the crisis for teachers in Greece, where salaries have been cut overnight by 40% and prices have risen in the same period by 35%. The result of this situation is that many teachers who can no longer afford to live in cities such as Athens are simply abandoning the profession and moving to less expensive rural locales. On a more positive note, Fred gave an encouraging report on the progress of EI’s global education campaign which aims to ensure access to basic education for all children by 2015. Much formal business was conducted at Conference, including that on the following key areas.
Schools Funding Review Much pride was expressed in the efforts of AEU members along with parents and community members for so heavily influencing the long-awaited Gonski Report into schools funding. Arguments that the AEU has presented for years have now become accepted wisdom through the publication of this report, and this is crucial for the future prospects of public schools. Gonski’s panel recommends a needs-based funding model which specifically accounts for disadvantage, and it recommends an immediate multibillion dollar injection into public schools where the majority of disadvantage resides. The report is far from perfect, having been effectively hamstrung by the Prime Minister from the start through the promise that no school would lose a dollar, but it provides a blueprint for a more equitable funding model should governments be prepared to fund it. Conference called on the federal government to pass legislation enshrining Gonski’s recommendations by year’s end. The longer it takes for the Government to act, the greater the resource gap between our public schools and their private counterparts and as well-known public education advocate Lyndsay Connors asserts, “Resources delayed are resources denied”. Convincing governments of the urgent need to implement Gonski’s recommendations is our next challenge, so get ready for the next phase. The work of a public education supporter is never done!
PAGE 18 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice