International 'benchmarking' studies and their identification of 'education best practice': A focus on classroom teachers and their practices

Year: 2012

Author: Skourdoumbis, Andrew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The disproportionate focus on classroom teachers and their instruction - teacher effectiveness - in order to confront and address under-achievement and disadvantage appears as a contemporary education policy theme in Australia. Phrases such as 'high performing schooling systems', 'the best teachers', 'high performing countries', 'quality teaching', 'under-performing schools', 'the right change', 'operationally feasible', 'targeting of reforms', 'degrees of under-performance', 'teacher quality and improved teaching' and 'external standards and governance' are constantly mentioned and given continual attention and prominence by policy-makers. This paper questions and critiques a policy-making direction that uses teacher effectiveness research to force and steer reform in education. The distinctive and typical almost narrow concern with teacher effectiveness works to the specific exclusion of breadth and scope concerning debate about broader education related issues and questions, for example, matters of student achievement, exclusion and disadvantage. This paper uses a qualitative research approach informed by critical theory to examine three influential private sector reports on education and schooling: The McKinsey Report (2007) - How the world's best-performing school systems come out on top, The Nous Group (2011) - Schooling Challenges and Opportunities and The Grattan Institute (2012) - Catching up: Learning from the best school systems in East Asia. The paper subjects the reports to close critical scrutiny and examination and finds that classroom teachers are positioned so that their specific and explicit instruction becomes the differentiating 'variable' in matters of student achievement and success.