Damning lesson in our ‘flawed’ school system
By all the standard markers, by all the accepted rules and regulations and assessments of secondary school, my daughter has graduated from school a failure.
Over the two years of her higher school certificate, she has truanted frequently, she has failed to hand in assignments, she has failed to turn up on time, she has failed to meet uniform requirements, she has failed to attend some of her HSC trial exams, she has exhausted the patience of teachers and pushed to the outer limits the structural sympathies of the public school system … Expulsion has been just around the corner for six months … It has been difficult for her teachers; it has been difficult for her parents … It has been difficult for no one more than her.
This is how Australian journalist, author and mother Lucy Clark began an article that, since 2014, has been shared on Facebook 26,000 times. The widespread concern about the pressure being experienced by teenagers made her wonder whether the topic might warrant further exploration. Beautiful Failures: How the Quest for Success is Harming Our Kids is the fruit
For Clark, who describes the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy as “a blunt political tool and instrument of torture for many children, parents and teachers”, the tendency of our education system to excessively measure and rank children comes in for particular criticism. This is because, in Clark’s view, the concentration of education to a final mark encourages children to be ego-oriented rather than task-oriented. In this way, the task itself, the learning itself, becomes less important than the actual mark.
For Clark, money is another leading cause for the increasing pressure surrounding a child’s education in Australia, which has one of the widest gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged schools of any country in the OECD, a divide that is further strengthened by a funding model that has seen increased spending on private schools of 107 per cent from 1991 to 2001 while spending on public schools has increased by 52 per cent.
Thirty-five per cent of Australian children attend private schools and, according to Clark, pressure mounts as many parents struggle to raise the money to pay school fees, and as the expectations on children attending private schools are often heightened by their parents’ financial investment in their education.
Social media also comes under scrutiny in Beautiful Failures, with Clark describing Facebook as a place to boast and to list achievements, which then gives the impression that those who are not achieving must instead be failing.
This, combined with the infiltration of 24hour connectivity, deprives children of what used to be a quiet place after school: a place far from the schoolyard mob mentality that now follows them home via social media, and fills