This week’s article in ABC News, Why do teachers leave? caused quite the stir on social media, with people exploring the question amongst their education circles, while others outright supported with lack of surprise, this topic of conversation.
The ABC article came as a timely reminder as many teachers, students and parents rounded off their first week back in the classrooms in Australia, that the expectations on educators through all levels of tenure, experience pressure, long hours and increasing social and emotional requirements whilst constantly being the first to blame when the public and government look to ‘fix’ our education system.
There were many indicators in 2016 that pointed the public towards the broken nature of Australia’s education system from our declining PISA results, lack of significant improvement in NAPLAN scores and poor comparative TIMMS performance. And there have been many attempts to improve these aspects through the National Teacher Standards, Australian Curriculum and even NAPLAN.
But is there something more going on? Is this issue deeper than the teachers?
I worked as a teacher for approximately eight years before moving into teacher education and then into university-specific policy. It is tough working in a system that is built against you from its training through to accreditation, promotion and even relationships with other staff, executives, students and parents. The fact that our system has remained largely unchanged since the industrial era adds further pressure as teachers are expected to somehow fit reflective learning into the windowed-box known as the modern-day classroom.
I was fortunate as many of the schools I worked at were small, independent and community-based structures whereby I could work with students, families and community interests and needs. Place-based, project-based and problem-based learning all underpinned my curriculum and pedagogical choices and I saw some impressive outcomes from this kind of freedom.
However the mainstream education system is not designed to nurture the student. I argue that the system in this context should be seen as distinct from the many teachers who I appreciate are making all the efforts available to them despite confines that include:
- Rigid curriculum
- Impasse excursion and place-based learning protocols
- Lack of meaningful training despite registration requirements
- Outdated perspectives and access to tech including BYOD
- Increasing workloads often not factored into face-to-face allocations
- Extra-curricula supervision
- Leadership positions without extra pay
- Increasing social and emotional support for colleagues, students and families
- Action research
- Professional learning requirements for accreditation
So why are teachers leaving the profession in droves? The system is broken. It does not reflect our students, families, teachers or communities, and it is exhausting trying to fix it while being the one getting slammed for everything wrong with it.
As yesterday’s article from the ABC titled Educating Australia – why our schools aren’t improving points out, Australia’s education system is in desperate need of an overhaul. We need to move away from classroom-based learning and embrace technological pedagogies that can assist students in self-directed learning that is meaningful, engaging and will prepare them for the unknown.
By 2025, over 50 per cent of the occupations we know today will be obsolete (source: Daily Mail). Finishing high school, completing a university degree or vocation certificate are no longer guarantees to having a secure job with only 42 per cent of recent university graduates being able to secure full-time employment (source: ABC News). And the notion of a secure job is taking on a whole new meaning as young people are expected to have at multiple career changes in their lifetime (source: SMH).
Despite these obvious advancements, Australia’s education system is still stuck in the industrial notion of teach – work – career, rather than embracing the dynamic evolution of technology, the major jumps in human neurodevelopment and admitting that the best we can do is to prepare our students to develop creative, intuitive and discerning problem-solving skills.
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