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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 697

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (13:08): At the heart of everything here, the one thing I like about this private member's motion is that we are talking about education, because education is the key. The previous member raised a couple of valid points. Finland is a great example of what can happen, but Finland is a very small section. I have friends who went on sabbaticals to Finland. When they walked in, every kid looked the same, every kid had the same blonde hair and every kid had the same background. No one in a Finnish school has to deal with kids who have not had breakfast. No-one in Finland has to deal with kids who have the other challenges that Australian schools have. No-one in Finland has to deal with those things that are inherently tough in the Australian education system.

Ms MacTiernan interjecting

Mr EWEN JONES: The one thing I will agree with, member for Perth, when you talk about teachers, is that in Finland they are PhD qualified. They are very special people. Teachers that I know who have walked into classrooms in Finland talk about the level of engagement there. They say it is spectacular. What we have to do is talk about that engagement.

My younger brother Stewart is a secondary school principal in Brisbane. He is a very good teacher. He sent me a photograph of his grade 3 class at Texas State School in 1970. There were 34 kids in that class, one teacher and no teachers aide. Six kids in the class had there shoes on; the rest of them were barefoot. There were some terrible haircuts. I bet every kid in that class could read and write. There was no teacher's aide, no special needs—nothing. What that teacher, Miss Baker, had to do! She was a very, very tough teacher. In those days, because of the way education was, the smart women were never going to go on to be doctors, pharmacists, accountants or engineers. They were probably told they would make good teachers and nurses. Those of us who are of that age were so blessed with our education, because we had that level of female teaching. My wife is an early childhood teacher. She also is a spectacular teacher. In her class she has three special needs. She has kids who cannot toilet themselves and she has 12 hours aide time. The challenges in education are so much bigger than they were in our time. We ask so much more of teachers today than we ever have.

I take the point of the member for Perth about ATARs and the level of education coming into the system, but I think that what we have to do is look at why people are taking up education, why people are becoming teachers. I think a lot of it is to do with the lack of risk. When kids leave school, because we have been so risk averse at school, they do not know what to do. They want to feel safe. They have not done anything. We have primary schools in Townsville where you are not allowed to do a cartwheel. We have schools in Townsville that do not compete in sports between them because they do not want anyone to find out what it is to be a winner or a loser. Those of the sorts of things in which we have to encourage kids to risk, to fail. When I speak to year 12 kids who are about to leave school and to year 7 kids I wish them failure, because to have failed means they have stepped outside their comfort zone, taken the risk or put themselves on the edge. We as a society have to say to our kids: 'It's okay to fail. It's okay to step out,' and be done with it, to have a go, to scrape you knee, to break your arm, to do that thing. That is what we have to do. We have to encourage risk. The greatest teachers I have had in life were the ones who engaged with me personally. I have no idea what their educational qualifications were, but they loved their subject and their students. That is what we want in education

I say to the Labor Party: can we move on from Gonski? What the Labor Party proposed was never Gonski. It went so far away from what Professor Gonski said. It back ended the payments so far that it was three parliaments from when it was proposed. The legislation brought to the parliament was so inadequate there was no way of working out exactly what it was doing. When the PEFO was produced we saw that they had pulled $1.2 billion out of education. Then Minister Shorten said, 'Of course we were going to put it back. It was only for the purposes of PEFO.' We are getting on with the job on education. We are actually putting smart things into schools. We are trusting our teachers to provide the teaching outcome. We are encouraging parents and principals and school communities. As the member for Fisher, Mal Brough, said earlier, Labor talks about national, national, national; big picture all the time. What we are talking about is local, local, local. That is where the education debate must be.