NSW educators wanting to improve public school system could learn from Ontario
In Australia, relentless debates over education, arguments over curriculum and disputes about funding models could easily leave observers convinced the sky isn’t far off falling down.
Some of the bad news is true. But the good news is that, with the right strategies in place and some persistence, education systems can not only stave off doom but can, in fact, make substantial progress.
Ontario, Canada, which has characteristics similar to NSW, was stagnant in 2003. In a decade, the percentage of students reaching the highest standard in literacy and numeracy has risen from 54 to 70 per cent and high school graduation rates have risen from 68 to 83 per cent across its 900 secondary schools. The goal now is to move from great to excellent.
So what matters most as you try to improve something as large and as complicated as the NSW public school system, with its 2218 schools, 755,000 students and more than 70,000 teachers?
Starting from the top, you need a compelling vision and a coherent direction. And when you implement it, you need to engage schools and communities in a strong two-way partnership.
This vision must permeate all levels of the system. You need to create the expectations and belief that all students can achieve, regardless of postcode. You need to develop agreement and alignment of practices in schools, along with the capacity of leaders and peer teachers to give constructive feedback to each other.