A comment about Public vs Private

One of the things I find challenging when reading the press in New South Wales is that subjects are structured to create in the reader a sense of conflict and polarity. Some journalists are happy to write sweeping statements and are not really interested in describing a subject in detail.

We all know that education is constantly seen through the lens of public versus private in Australia. As an educator who has worked in Australia, The Philippines, UK and Zimbabwe I have had the honour of observing and teaching in a significant range of schools. I have seen excellent and poor public and independent schools and have seen brilliantly functioning teachers in poorer schools and comfortably neglectful teachers in independent schools.

The challenge for every school leader is to work closely with their staff to make each section of the school shine. To teach each student.

We are very proud of PLC Sydney: proud of our students, our teachers, and our community. Proud of our programs. Proud of the girls who flourish within them. We strive to improve. With 1200 students learning here we have a wonderful challenge to reach them all.

But I do want to say that we need better analysis from the press. The following data indicate that Australian independent schools perform exceptionally well in comparison to other nations and sectors. But I think they say much more than this: they suggest that we might be better off as a nation asking how we iteratively improve our educational offering, rather than to decry one another: there is so much still to learn about how to educate children and teenagers. The data given below are means. PLC Sydney sits close to the top of the bell curve for independent schools.

This means that if we thought the data said everything, schools like ours could simply stake our claim based on the evidence and do what we are doing. But we need to keep asking questions, because each child is their own person. Education is first of individuals and small groups, not sectors or nations. The classroom is a relational space, not a factory.

I accept that governments must allocate funding, but data such as those created by NAPLAN need to be used to support student learning. This is why NAPLAN was first developed. It was not created to rank order schools.

PISA 2012 Comparison of Mean Scores (PDF 285.5KB)

Dr Paul Burgis

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