Flipping The System: Part Two

I finally got around to reading the second chapter of Flip the System: Australia and I am glad I did. This chapter, which looks at commercialisation in Australian public schools, was written by Anna Hogan and Bob Lingard, both well known and highly respected academics. It draws on their research, conducted by a survey, into how teachers feel about commercialisation in their schools.

Not surprisingly, it’s a nuanced chapter, that explains that many teachers find commercially produced resources valuable, especially in the provision of high quality learning materials and resources to use in the classroom. Textbooks were identified as one example of this. However, Hogan and Lingard also note that teachers were concerned that increasing commercialisation was leading to the intensification of the de-professionalisation of teaching.

This is a crucial point – the intensification part. It means that many teachers have already accepted that teaching is well on the way to de-professionalisation, and commercialisation is only increasing the rate of that. From my perspective, I’d be inclined to agree with them. The authors explore this point, outlining the Australian context and identifying features like the increasingly top-down, authoritarian, accountability-focused approach of education systems to the role of schools and teachers in Australia. They describe this as ‘new managerialism’ which sees schools and systems managed at a distance and they identify that it is this movement which, in part, makes school systems attractive for investment by global edu-businesses.

They also identify that teacher voice is entirely absent from these discussions of the restructuring of the system:

’This chapter challenges this absence and argues the necessity of teachers voices to effective educational change and to reform content and processes, including consideration of the impact of restructuring on teacher professionalism’

Hogan and Lingard (2018, p. 20).

They specifically identify AITSL as part of the problem here – recognising the lack of a teacher voice on AITSL. I’ve seen AITSL compared with its New Zealand counterpart before – which requires more than half the board to be made up of teachers who have practiced in the last 5 years, I think.

There are other criticisms, too. Hogan and Lingard identify concerns about the teaching materials not being aligned to the Australian Curriculum standards, and teachers worrying about being forced to ‘teach to the test’ . Teachers also identity exhaustion as something that is limiting their capability to respond or enact professional judgement.

Overall, and the part that really resonated with me, was the way Hogan and Lingard explain that teachers are being positioned as ‘non-experts’ in their own fields. Instead, they are merely instruments of a system where educational decisions are made elsewhere, and their role is simply to adopt these decisions and facilitate them in a standardised, accountable environment.

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