Data collection and performance measurement; what kind of children will we get out of this?

What kind of children will we get out of this? — Whitlam Institute, University of Western Sydney

Back in 2009 Australian education commenced a new journey. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians set the direction for the next ten years with this noble goal: “For all young Australians to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.”

But someone somewhere (let’s call him The Invisible Guy in the Sky) decided that this goal would be best achieved with a corporate business style approach focusing on targets, data collection and performance measurement and review. Associate Professor Grønbæk Pors looks at the current data-driven management style of education in Australia in her paper ‘What kind of children will we get out of this?’ You can download her paper here: 

In her paper, Grønbæk Pors intelligently exposes the underlying dynamics of the focus on performance at the expense of learning. In stark contrast to the educational discourse that we currently hear, her perspective is fresh and she articulates what, I think, every teacher and school leader would like say but has been too busy (or afraid) to put into words. It is well worth a read.

Too busy? You can view a very short video excerpt or read an overview below.

James Phelps

What kind of children will we get out of this?

Education policy in times of performance

Australia is no stranger to torrid education policy debates. The recent difficult passage of the Gonski 2.0 funding package is the latest example, in some respects a discourse that has abandoned education for funding, testing and world rankings.

The Whitlam Institute’s latest Perspectives paper is by Justine Grønbæk Pors, Associate Professor in the Copenhagen Business School. It makes a claim for a deeper conversation about education, which is captured in the title of this paper: What kind of children will we get out of this?

Drawing on the Danish experience, Grønbæk Pors exposes the underlying dynamics of the focus on performance at the expense of learning. The Denmark studies, highlighting the emphasis on test scores, provide comparable lessons for Australian schooling.

Research shows that standardised testing and educational rankings continue to have adverse effects on children and young people. Australia’s NAPLAN has moved us no closer to improved outcomes but instead it has contributed to increased anxiety and stress amongst young people.

As educators in Denmark and Australia face an inescapable expectation to do more with less, school principals are required to shift their focus from education to management, and education rankings dominate political and policy discussion, Associate Professor Justine Grønbæk Pors challenges these approaches.

Grønbæk Pors offers ‘an invitation to the stakeholders of public education to have conversations about the purposes of education in a way that escapes the black and white imperative of current policies where you are either working towards better performance or posing an obstacle to it’. Read the paper.