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In this last episode of the year, the École branchée Educational Meetings make a small foray into the world of politics. We talk to Adrian Piccoli, Minister of Education for New South Wales, Australia.
The “École branchée educational meetings” are podcast interviews with school stakeholders from here and elsewhere. In this last episode of the season, our collaborator (and concept designer) Marc-André Girard talks to Mr. Adrian Piccoli (@PiccoliMP), Minister of Education of the province New South Wales, in Australia, whom he had the chance to meet during his participation in the uLead vertex, in April 2016. The interview is in English, but here is a summary.
The province of New South Wales has approximately 8 million inhabitants. Its capital is Sydney. His Minister of Education, Mr. Adrian Piccoli, has been in office for 5 years. He has a professional background in law and economics. In his opinion, it is not necessary to have a background as a teacher or a school principal to be effective in a position of Minister of Education. Even a minister with such background might arrive with preconceived ideas about the environment. Indeed, he recalls that his role is above all political, and that he must above all be a good adviser. To achieve this, it considers it essential to take into account the opinion of experts in the field, in particular teachers and school administrators, via their associations and unions. It is they, after all, who experience the system on a daily basis. Of course, then you have to test those ideas and get approval before you implement them.
In the political world, five years as Minister of Education seems like an eternity! Mr. Piccoli attributes his longevity to the importance of developing a culture of trust between teachers, school administrators and the Ministry. “We ask them what they need rather than telling them what to do,” he sums up.
For him, one of the advantages of being there for 5 years is to have been able to establish a path and to carry it out, which is not possible when there is too much change. He explains: “It takes a long time to implement a change. It is this longevity in the ministry that allows the development of a climate of confidence, and it is this confidence that allows us to move forward. "
Burst questions ...
How is the integration of technology going in your schools?
“We are currently in a lot of thought to determine what is fair use and what are the limits of the technology. The goal is not to give students what they want, but to integrate the right tools to effectively support essential skills. Also, we must ensure that the pedagogy changes in this direction, otherwise the technological tools are useless. "
How is the integration of students with special needs going?
“As much as possible, they are integrated into regular classes. The ministry then makes sure that it gives the schools the support they need. Our culture wants us to integrate them as much as possible into the regular system to promote their social development. "
How is the recruitment of quality candidates going to become teachers?
“Five years ago, there were no admission criteria for the teacher training program. It was probably a problem. Now, applicants must have a high general average, and excellent marks in English (mother tongue). This has restored a certain prestige to the profession, a bit like law or medicine. We see more and more high performing candidates choosing education. We also have high criteria for graduation. "
What could your system teach other systems?
“We have a lot in common with Canada, we have also explored and learned from your ways. With us, the advantage is that we do not have school boards. Everything revolves around 3 systems: the public (2200 schools), the Catholic system (300 schools) and the private system, the first two bringing together around 85 % students. This makes it easier to distribute positions fairly to teachers, for example. It is also easier to allocate financial resources according to the socioeconomic characteristics of the environment to promote equal opportunities. "
What advice would you give to a new minister who takes office to last?
“Make all possible efforts to build a climate of trust with those involved in the field, whether they are teachers, directors, unions or associations. We must at all costs avoid criticizing the profession. Of course, not all teachers will agree with everything you do, but you must always ask for their opinion and take it into account, work together with them. Also, I recommend avoiding big surprise announcements: always inform key players before making a media release, for example. "
Build and maintain confidence to ensure political stability in education
Marc-André Girard speaks with Adrian Piccoli
Minister of Education for New South Wales, Australia
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Summary and translation by Audrey Miller