Children are not just future economic resources

I feel the need to respond to Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham‘s speech, at the ADC Education Summit, in Melbourne last week. You can read the transcript here.

I acknowledge that our Education Minister is doing what he believes to be best. My concern is that he views children solely through a lens of an Economist. Sadly, this narrow view undervalues the importance of an authentic childhood, free of adult pressures. It is imperative that we allow children to grow and develop at their own pace. Unfortunately, for Mr Birmingham, normal, healthy child development and the way children learn, may not fit with his economic timeline. As difficult as it is to loosen the political grip and let the system be guided by the needs of children – we MUST give Education back to children and Teachers. Children cannot be expected to magically be ready to fit the system – you cannot prepare a child for a developmental milestone that they haven’t reached yet! The well-being of children AND the economic prosperity of the country, depends on it.

Please let our children be children. It is such a short window of time to crush with imposed standards and comparisons.

Now to address the speech:

Undeniably the primary role in many ways of our education system, from a child’s earliest years to their completion in higher education and training is to prepare our young people predominately for the jobs of the future.

“Undeniably” the biggest mistake that our education policy makers make, is that they primarily see children as “future economic resources” and not as worthwhile, whole people RIGHT NOW. If education meets the holistic developmental needs of children, the “economic outcomes” will undeniably, take care of themselves.

We will rely upon some of those young people to be the innovators and entrepreneurs of the future. In these cases their education doesn’t just need to skill them to get a job but BhPDeyxCYAAhCBTalso needs to provide them with the skills to create jobs for others.


Politicians constantly sprout the need to educate for “innovation” but their proposed method is to “standardise“….think about that for a minute. *irony*


Australia will continue to invest at record levels in early childhood education, through schools and into tertiary education, focusing on evidence-based measures designed to get the maximum improvement in education outcomes.

Results from PISA 2012 show that while our students are still performing well compared to their peers in most other countries, their performance in reading and mathematics has significantly declined over the last decade.

I begin to question the validity of the “evidence”, when the evidencebased evidence-measures are derived from the evidence utilised by the evidence obtained from the government’s standardised testing regime. Evidence needs to come from unbiased sources, in other words sources that don’t have a vested interest in the statistical outcomes, such as: international best practice, consultation with educators at the coal-face and peer-reviewed research.

Not to mention, that the outcomes have significantly declined over the past decade, since the introduction of the so-called “evidence-based measures” aka NAPLAN and the “C2C” in Queensland.

From the high-chair to higher education we must ensure that the silos of our education system are coordinated.

Our schools are now “silos”? A silo (from the Greek σιρός – siros, “pit for holding grain”) is a structure for storing bulk materials. Our children are now bulk materials to be stored until adulthood??


We must ensure at the outset that children are school ready, the baton is then handed over to our school system to ensure that when the student leaves the primary school they are equipped for success at secondary school, prior to successfully partaking in further training or higher education. 

There is a wide range of normal child development. Readiness is about the child – not the adult’s expectations. Normal development is a broad range – not a point in time – and can differ as much as 18 months in 4 and 5 year olds. You cannot make ALL 4/5 year olds “school ready” simply because someone in a ivory tower wishes it. That’s like expecting ALL 9 month old babies to walk! Yes “some” babies walk at 9 months – the problem begins when adults imply that the babies who aren’t walking at 9 months need remedial intervention. There is nothing wrong with babies, who are not ready until 12, 15, 18 months. Earlier doesn’t equal better long term outcomes. Likewise, school starting age and formal literacy and numeracy at 4 or at 7 will result in the same long term ability – the problem is with forcing or coercing a child who is not ready, causing damage their self-image because we are placing unreasonable adult expectations on them.tumblr_lsdbzsSikk1qb3hj3o1_1280

Results such as these are important indicators for all of us; governments, principals, teachers and parents, that w
e need to do more and to look at the reasons why despite record funding growth over a number of years, we are not seeing sufficient comparable improvements in student outcomes.

Yes! As a country, we DO need to look at the reasons why we are not seeing
improvements in student outcomes. NO – imposing more of what is not working, is not the answer! Perhaps, human beings don’t like being treated as government data? Children are PEOPLE with complex social, emotional,
physical AND cognitive needs. Teachers and children are disengaging BECAUSE our Government is systematically devaluing the most vital part of teaching and learning – THE RELATIONSHIP! Heartbreakingly, while Teachers can leave, most children don’t get that choice.


They work hard to educate and get our students ready for their adult life, but we can and we indeed must do better. That is why the Turnbull Government has outlined reforms to deliver earlier identification of literacy and numeracy problems, enabling earlier, consistent interventions, stronger reporting standards and minimum competencies among future teaching graduates. 

Mr Birmingham is missing the critical point, that education is not about “getting ready for adult life”, it IS life for our children RIGHT NOW. More and more quantifying of outcomes in the name of accountability and transparency, fails to recognise that Education is not an exact science. It is an ART. Good education is qualitative, not quantitative. The key ingredient in children engaging and learning is found in the relationships they form with their Teachers and peers. More testing and reporting doesn’t equal more learning!

and seriously????!!!, if a Teacher can complete a 4 year university degree, they have proven that they have “minimum competencies” in literacy and numeracy.


One of the key reforms that the Turnbull Government announced in May is to see students needing to complete both an English or humanities subject and a maths or science subject prior to obtaining their ATAR. 

But we’ve seen for too long, too many students increasingly drop out of maths or science studies during their secondary years of education, thereby closing the door to opportunities to them in the future, or requiring make-up classes when they actually go on to further learning. 
Vocational education cannot be viewed as a second best option. Students in schools need to understand through high quality career advice that apprentices in traditional trades often enjoy higher employment outcomes than university graduates, better wages than many university graduates and have a higher likelihood of being self-employed or starting a business. Quality in our VET system is just as important as quality in our university system.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses! Just because the current drive is “STEM” doesn’t mean EVERY student MUST study it. By year 11 and 12, students should be able to structure their studies to meet their interests and their work/life goals. Help and support them to succeed! Let them become innovators and entrepreneurs, pursue a trade OR go to university, IF that is where their focus lies. Give teenagers more control over their futures. “Study without thought is labour lost; thought without study is dangerous” (Confucius).

They increasingly drop out because it isn’t relevant to THEM. By the way – the lower paragraph contradicts the others in your speech…more irony.

The Turnbull Government will also act on the evidence that clearly shows that the single most important in-school factor for children is teaching quality. 

Vocational education cannot be viewed as a second best option. Students in schools need to understand through high quality career advice that apprentices in traditional trades often enjoy higher employment outcomes than university graduates, better wages than many university graduates and have a higher likelihood of being self-employed or starting a business. Quality in our VET system is just as important as quality in our university system.

So let them TEACH. Stop blaming Teachers for unattainable outcomes and “plateaus” and please….stop treating Teachers as data collectors!

We need to make sure that the research underpinning our education system is thorough and findings widely shared so that adaptations of those methods of learning and teaching that are most effective can occur across our system, not withstanding the boundaries of states or territories or the divisions between early learning, schools, universities, TAFEs or other educational training divides.

Completely agree with the last point.


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