The My School website was launched in late January by Education Minister Julia Gillard. The site provides profiles for almost 10,000 schools and the statistical information available is supposed to help parents rate schools in their area.
However, the vast majority of teachers and parent organisations are opposed to the site. The concern is that the information will be used to construct ‘league tables’ – a chart which ranks schools in order of ability and achievement.
The problem with league tables is that they ignore important information such as the socio-economic status of students, the levels of school funding or the number of students with special needs. League tables go against every piece of progressive research done on assessing school environments.
Ten years ago a similar list was made public in Australia resulting in many individual students being discriminated against. Based on inaccurate school rankings, many students failed to get into university and TAFE courses while others were denied employment opportunities.
Far from making good quality education accessible for all, league tables only entrench class divisions within the school system. At one end of the scale we have wealthy private schools that are brimming with resources while at the other end of the scale we have under funded public schools that are struggling to make ends meet and provide quality education.
Instead of pumping money into the public sector the Rudd Government is continuing the trend of giving private schools more government funds than public schools. League tables are not designed to work out where to increase funding but to pit schools against each other in a race to the bottom.
The government already knows which schools are lacking in resources. Instead of wasting funds on websites the government should be employing more teaching staff and spending money on more teaching resources like computers and books.
Correctly the Australian Education Union (AEU) has slammed the My School website and the use of league tables. The union has resolved to call on members to boycott the administration of this year’s NAPLAN tests which provide statistics for the site.
Teachers across the nation need to ensure that the union follows through on its promise. Unless a serious fight is waged over this issue Rudd and Gillard will try to blame teachers, parents and students for the problems created by years of inadequate funding and deregulation.
By John Gowland