What doesn’t work in education: the politics of distraction

Schools Students Teachers Classrooms Australia

This report questions some of the key education reform policies pursued by governments in the last twenty years.


In this report, the first of two linked papers on what doesn’t work in education, and then on what does, I describe the confused jargon and narratives that distract us from the most ambitious and vital aim of schooling: for every student to gain at least a year’s growth for a year’s input.

I then outline the policy responses commonly used by systems aspiring to be in the world’s ‘top five’ for education. I argue that these responses are ‘fixes’ that fail to address the important questions, and so are unlikely to make a difference, despite costing many billions of dollars. Such responses are part of what I call the ‘politics of distraction’.

In a subsequent paper, I will make the case for countries moving to systems that value and develop teacher expertise. This might be termed the politics of collaborative expertise, or, more simply, what works best. My hope is that these two papers spark a debate about the need, and then the actions required, to realign the narrative around schooling.

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