Last week the Federal Government officially responded to the Gonski Report. I’m sure you heard the rousing call to arms from our Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

To avoid the risk of misquoting the Prime Minister, I’ve linked to the official media release.

In it Ms Gillard says:

Over the past decade Australian students have fallen from 2nd to 7th in reading, and 5th to 13th in maths compared to students in other countries. To keep winning the economic race, we have to win the education race. 

By reducing education to the simple proposition that it is merely a case of getting kids from A to B in the quickest possible time, the government has potentially opened a Pandora’s box.

If winning the race is now the main focus, what sacrifices are we willing to make in order to beat our Asian neighbours?

As one letter-writer to the Sydney Morning Herald stated:

If we aim to improve academic performance, we must get back to basics and concentrate on essentials such as reading, writing, maths and science.

This means cutting the plethora of airy-fairy time-wasters from the school curriculum.

Countless hours every school term are spent on feel-good subjects such as environmental appreciation, harmony and co-operation, Aboriginal heritage, cultural diversity, empathy and understanding, personal hygiene, religion and ethics.

He goes on to refer to these areas of the curriculum as mumbo-jumbo.

The point is the government has framed this debate in this way, and by and large the media and public lap it up.

I’ve written previously about the impact that an overemphasis on NAPLAN tests can have on children’s wellbeing. We must be mindful that a win-at-all-costs mentality does not envelope our schools. If it does they will not be particularly healthy places to be.

With my tongue firmly in my cheek here are my top tips for winning the education race.

Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, writer and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at and tweets at @danhaesler