“Billions fail to stop slide in world student rankings” The Australian Dec 4 2013
Billions have been spent on facilities and technology for schools, and student performance has gone backwards. Class sizes have diminished, teachers have mandatory ongoing professional development, and student performance has gone backwards. The slide in the ability of Australian school students to learn will continue until someone shines a light on the proverbial pachyderm in this room and we as a nation begin to aggressively deal with it. The primary factor that undermines school based learning in Australia it is the rapid increase of general disengagement by parents in their children’s lives.
The foundation for learning, the tools for understanding and the aspiration to excel all have their origins in what happens in a child’s home. Where parents provide a secure and certain environment and are actively involved in their child’s learning that child is much more likely to be equipped to learn and have the confidence to be ambitious.
Routine and order in a child’s life at home that allows time for study, recreation and rest builds great students who are much more likely to respond positively to classroom teaching and to be a positive influence on a classroom experience. Add a consistent home experience of affection and kindness and you have children who are not just good learners but they are also nice. Where you find a school where these students predominate you will experience an ethos that fosters learning and personal growth.
Unfortunately these attitudes require a sacrifice by parents, and we in the indulgent west increasingly abhor sacrifice. The changed nature of family in our society and the increasingly common pursuit of personal rights and pleasures by parents – over their responsibility to parent – mean that great numbers of our children are effectively doing childhood on their own. If Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ reveals any truth it is that the outcome of this will be chaos, bullying and the dominance of the strong over the smart. Sound familiar?
If we are to elevate academic performance standards while also building strong emotional intelligence in our children we need to put more money into education – of parents. Investment in a range of training programs, from a ‘Life Be In It’ style marketing program to parenting seminars offered in schools and more is going to make a much bigger, faster, long lasting impact than any other expenditure.