xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: June 2013

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A Rendezvous with Triumph and Disaster

It was British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson who said, “A week is a long time in Politics.”
I am sure former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard would agree with him. So too, would the sacked  Australian Cricket Coach, South African born, Mickey Arthur. He was sensationally dismissed by Cricket Australia after a string of team losses and the appalling behaviour of some Australian cricketers. Arthur’s sacking caught many by surprise as it was made only two weeks before Australia faces up to England in the Ashes Test cricket series.

Arthur was replaced coach by Darren Lehmann, who has some good credentials for the position. Lehmann’s nickname is “Boof”, a title which would seem more appropriately applied to some of the pampered prima donnas currently in the Australian cricket team.

They say that these sorts of things occur in threes, so I am wondering who will be the next cab off the rank. I just checked my pulse and am still here so, whomever it is, it is not going to be me. Not just yet, at any rate.

Julia Gillard’s removal from office, although it came very swiftly in the end, was actually three years in the making after she, with the support of the entire Labor Caucus, sacked Kevin Rudd in June 2010. Unlike previous sacked or defeated leaders, Rudd did not gracefully depart the scene. Over time he worked strenuously and deviously to destabilise Gillard and promote himself as her replacement. Events have shown that he was very successful in doing just that. Predicably, the media which was singing Rudd's praises last week are now lining up to fire pot shots at him. In the meantime Tony Abbott continues to live in a media friendly "no policy questions asked" zone.

Perhaps more than any other Prime Minister, Julia Gillard suffered the outrageous slings and arrows of her political opponents and the bulk of the mainstream Australian media. She was denigrated on national television  with signs saying she was a bitch and witch. Her political opponents happily stood in front of these sign.

She was infamously vilified as someone who had caused her father to die of shame. It was said repeatedly on the radio that she should be put in a bag and dropped in the ocean. Cartoonist lampooned her Australian accent, her dress sense and her figure. One cartoonist, Larry Pickering, depicted her in such  grotesque and repulsive ways that much of his despicable work could not be published in Australian newspapers or on TV. 

She was obscenely described in an expensively produced menu that was allegedly used at a Liberal fundraiser dinner. Soon after the contents of that menu became known, various Liberal Party members who had attended the dinner quickly apologised for its contents. A few days later the owner of the restaurant claimed that he had done it as a private joke and that only he and his son saw the menu. The same Liberal Party members who had apologised profusely about the menu two days before then claimed that they had never, ever  seen the menu. Some people are still wondering about that one.

Apart from her well publicised  “Misogynist” speech in the parliament, Julia Gillard generally focussed on the policies. Recently in Perth in an interview with radio shock jock, Howard Sattler, she was asked if her boyfriend was a homosexual. This outrageous question eventually cost Sattler his job. Julia Gillard, perhaps noting that Sattler has a medical problem, smiled and responded in a bemused and gracious way and made no attempt to enter into an aggressive discussion. We can only wonder what would have happened to Sattler if he had asked a similar question of Bob Hawke, Paul Keating...or Tony Abbott.

Perhaps Ms Gillard  was aware of Margaret Thatcher's  remarks that “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think well, if they attack me personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”

The morning after defeating Julia Gillard in the Caucus vote, there was a sense of Deja Vu in Parliament as Kevin Rudd stood once again as Prime Minister and proceeded to give a glowing tribute to the lady who’s political career he had just terminated. In fact, so glowingly did he describe Ms Gillard’s  parliamentary record that Tony Abbott was quickly on his feet asking Mr Rudd why, if Julia Gillard was as good as he said she was, had he replaced her?

It was good question, but, of course everyone knew the answer. Kevin Rudd had replaced Julia Gillard because the Labor Caucus thought Kevin Rudd had a better chance of defeating Tony Abbott in the forthcoming election. Even Mr Abbott knew that. The fact that the Labor Caucus had reversed its party  leadership decisions of June 2010 and on two subsequent occasions, the last in April year, was a ringing endorsement of Paul Keating's observation  that if you are going to bet on anything, "always bet on Self Interest. At least you know it is trying."

Ironically, the Guardian newspaper (The Guardian Australia Online Version, June 28, 2013) has now produced figures to say that Julia Gillard’s minority government was the most effective government in Australian federal history. This statement was made by the Guardian journalist, Nick Evershed, who counted the total number of Acts of Parliament passed under each Prime Minister and divided this sum by the number of days each  Prime Minister was in office. This gave Mr Evershed the rate of Acts of Parliament passed per day for every Prime Minister since Edmund Barton stepped into the office on January the 1st, 1901.

Julia Gillard tops this Legislative Effectiveness list with a Rate of 0.495 Acts of Parliament per day, followed by Bob Hawke at 0.491 per day. Malcolm Fraser, in third place, is the top conservative PM at 0.481. Paul Keating is next at 0.476 and John Howard is in 5th place at 0.452. Kevin Rudd is ranked 8th at 0.374 and Sir Robert Menzies is 11th at 0.247.

Even Mr Evershed admits that there are flaws in this way of measuring a government’s effectiveness but, nevertheless, the figures are interesting. Some of the illustrious names of the early years of Federation such as Alfred Deakin, Andrew Fisher and Sir George Reid have rather low rates, but this is largely due to the fact that in those early days, Federal governments passed relatively small amounts of legislation.

Demonstrating that statistical analysis is not an infallible measure, it is notable that John Curtin, whom many respected political commentators regard as Australia's greatest Prime Minister, appears on the list in 15th place with a rate of 0.157. Of course he and his government were rather preoccupied with World War 2 at the time.

The fact  remains that Julia Gillard led a minority government that produced a huge amount of legislation, much of it nation building, that will impact on Australian lives for the next fifty years or more. Her minority government was not expected to last twelve months, let alone three years. Its legislative record is doubly remarkable because her minority government achieved this notable feat despite the fact that the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, did not recognise Gillard’s government as legitimate. From Day One he tried desperately to destabilise it, calling almost daily for another election and working steadfastly to bring it about.

There is something ironic about Mr Abbott’s constant complaints about the legitimacy of the Gillard government, which was only able to claim a majority in the House of Representatives by negotiated agreements with the Greens and several Independents. The fact is that since 1949 many Liberal governments have not had a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and have only governed  by forming a coalition with the Country Party, previously known as the National Party. Apparently, according to Mr Abbott, it is quite legitimate for the Liberal Party to join forces with non Liberal Party members in order to form a government but definitely illegitimate when the Labor Party does exactly the same thing.

Donald Trump has said that “What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each twist of Fate.” Both Julia Gillard and Mickey Arthur have demonstrated, according to Trump’s criteria, that although deposed from their positions of power they are, in the truest sense, still winners.

Gillard’s retirement speech on national television, a half hour after her removal from office, was a Tour de Force. In defeat Julia Gillard impressed even the most avid Gillard haters with a speech that transfixed the nation.

Likewise, Mickey Arthur conducted himself with dignity after his dismissal. Adrian Barich, a Channel Seven journalist, reported in The West Australian of June 28, that after a long flight from South Africa, Mickey Arthur was happy to meet the waiting journalists at Perth Airport. He could have slipped out the back way or claimed he was weary and jet lagged, but he did no such thing. According to Adrian Barich he even had a friendly smile for the reporters as he answered their questions. He accepted responsibility for the Australian team’s performance and accepted Cricket Australia’s decision to sack him. There were no recriminations or attempts to blame others.

Here was a man whose career had been abruptly terminated. He would have been thinking deeply about what would be the repercussions and the upheavals for himself, his wife and his children. To make matters even worse, soon after his dismissal he had received the terrible news of the death of his mother in South Africa.  Like Gillard the previous night, Mickey Arthur fronted the media and epitomised Ernest Hemingway’s description of courage by showing  “grace under pressure”.

Rudyard Kipling wrote that, "If we can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters both the same” then we will have demonstrated the noblest qualities of human maturity. In this past eventful week Julia Gillard and Mickey Arthur have both met with Triumph and Disaster and have each given an outstanding example to us all.

At present they will both have a deep sense of loss. It will be interesting to see where the lives of these two worthy people go from here. About two thousand years ago Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor who knew a thing or two about winning, losing  and dramatic life changes said,“Loss is nothing but change and change is Nature’s Delight.”

No doubt Julia Gillard and Mickey Arthur will be hoping that Marcus Aurelius knew what he was talking about.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Recitation

Generally, I write  about current events. Sometimes, I get creative. I wrote this short story in August, 2011. In the best tradition of Hollywood motion pictures I can say that it is based  on fact.

The noise was starting to build up. It always did in the lounge bar in the early evening of a Friday night. They were mainly university students with a sprinkling of the real people, who worked in the real world, who came in for a couple of rounds of the strong stuff about 5.30 pm before heading home.

Down at the end of the room, Billy, the piano player, was tinkling away. He couldn’t read sheet music but he had a great ear and could play every tune that had ever been written. He mainly provided background music but, as the night wore on, people wanting to sing a song, or just to show off, would ask Billy to play something. Then they would get up on the small stage next to the piano, grab the microphone and suddenly they were in show business. These days they call it Karaoke, but this was the mid 1960s and the Japanese hadn’t invented Karaoke yet. The singers mainly sang standards by Elvis, , The Beatles, The Platters, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Doris Day, Nat King Cole or the folk tunes and political songs of The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Peter Paul and Mary.

Sometimes, while the singers sang their hearts out, the noise continued and nobody cared or paid much attention. Sometimes, something went right, everyone listened and the crowd was hushed. It depended on a lot of things: who was singing, the type of song, the mood of the mob. Sometimes it was the weather. Tonight it was cold and wet outside so it was likely to be noisy.

Ben was seated down the other end of the lounge. Ben liked the ambience of the bar lounge. He liked the music. He liked a beer, or three. And he liked to sing. On more than one occasion Ben had asked Billy to play something or other while he crooned out “Cold, Cold Heart” or some other ballad. The first time he put in a request, Ben was rattled when Billy asked, “What key do you want it in?” When Ben said that he didn’t have a clue, Billy just said, well sing the first couple of lines and I’ll pick it up as you go along. And he did. No rehearsals. He just played his piano so effortlessly to accompany any singer.

Tonight, Ben wasn’t interested in singing. As usual, he was engaged in earnest political debate with his friends. That is what happened ever Friday night after their university lectures were over.

There was plenty of choice for discussion in the late 1960s. The Vietnam War, conscription, nuclear disarmament and the ban the bomb crusade, China’s proposed entry to the United Nations, civil rights, the White Australia policy, migration, Aboriginal citizenship, trade unions, preferential voting and the Democratic Labor Party. If they wanted to have a really fierce discussion they would start talking about their favourite football teams and what the umpires were doing to destroy them.

On this particular night, Ben was expounding on the right of Communist China to take a seat in the United Nations where China was represented by tiny Taiwan. Against stiff opposition from some of his mates, Ben made his points with great conviction and increasing volume. He raised his voice for two reasons. Firstly, to emphasise his case, and also to impress the attractive girl at the next table who had smiled at him and seemed to be impressed by his arguments. At least that is what Ben thought. He was a pushover for any pretty girl who smiled at him. While he was in full voice she removed her topcoat to reveal a particularly well-shaped red jumper. That is when Ben began to lose the thread of his argument. A well-filled red jumper beats Red China every time.

Just then there was a commotion near the piano. One of the bar staff was struggling with an old man who was trying to get up onto the stage. The old bloke was swearing and putting up a good fight. The noise caused everyone else to pause and see what was going on.

“Get off there, you drunken old bugger,” yelled the waiter.

“I wanna recite me poem,” said the old man defiantly. He looked like a ‘metho’ drinker. He was above medium height but was slightly stooped over. Maybe he had been a shearer in his younger days. His thinning grey hair was slicked down by the rain. Two bleary grey eyes peered out from his craggy face. He had that vacant look that a lot of broken men had brought back with them from the war. 

He hadn’t shaved in a while and his face was covered in white, whiskered stubble. He wore an old, unbuttoned army great coat over a lumberjack’s blue cotton check shirt and a dirty pair of stained grey trousers that finished well short of his ankles. He obviously shopped at the Salvation Army. On his feet was a pair of unlaced, battered sandshoes. He had no socks.

By this time some of those nearby were telling the waiter to let him go. “Fair go, mate. Let the old bloke say his poem.” The waiter got tired of telling them that he was an old drunk who had wandered in off the cold and wintry streets.

“OK. You can say your poem, but then you’ll have to leave. OK?” said the waiter as he turned to pick up some empty glasses.

The old man looked down from the stage and mumbled his agreement. He then clasped the microphone to steady himself and slowly gazed around the room. Most people looked to see what the funny old geezer would do next while some resumed drinking, talking and eating the salted peanuts the management provided to stimulate more drinking. Most of them didn’t need much stimulation.

The old  man suddenly stood bolt upright like a soldier on parade. He was standing in a smoky bar, but, in his mind, he was back at some long forgotten school concert, ready to perform.

The Man From Snowy River, a poem by Banjo Patterson,” he declaimed into the microphone. His voice was surprisingly resonant with a crackling, gravel edge caused by too many cigarettes and too much methylated spirits.

“There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around,
That the colt from old Regret had got away.
And had joined the wild bush horses.
He was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered for the fray …”

He spoke the rousing words enthusiastically, with his eyes closed as if reading them from some internal screen. Occasionally, he would open them and make dramatic gestures to add to the magic of the poet’s words.

“And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No finer horseman ever held the reins …”

By this time everyone had stopped talking and drinking. They were carried along by the majesty of the old bloke’s  performance and the syncopated splendour of the words. Ben felt the hairs on the back of his neck rising.

He was hard and tough and wiry-just the sort that won’t say die-
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.”

Ben experienced again the thrill he felt when his Standard Four teacher had first read this mighty poem to the class. It was clear that others in the room were having the same sort of memories and feeling the same sort of thrill.

He sent the flint stones flying but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat-
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.

Apart from the old man’s voice there was no other sound in the lounge. No one drank. No one spoke. No one moved. Every one was rapt. Even the bar staff were silent, staring fixedly at the old drunken man on the stage.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted, cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.”

Eventually the performance ended. Everyone leapt to their feet and gave the old man a standing ovation. There was genuine pleasure on their faces as they cheered, whistled, yelled and stomped.

His poem finished, the man again stood bolt upright. Then, remembering that school concert of so long ago, he bowed ever so slowly from the waist. He stayed with his head bowed for about five seconds. It seemed longer. Eventually, he painfully straightened up. True to his word, he stumbled off the stage and, accompanied by the waiter, hobbled off through the main door. He was cheered and clapped all the way. Even the waiter patted him on the back.

Ben and his group resumed their seats and carried on with their discussion. Around 8-00 pm the group began to break up. Some were going home to study, some back to the Uni Library, some to pick up girlfriends, some to the Skyline Drive-In or to another pub or a dance where the night was just beginning. It was that time on a Friday night when you had to decide to do something or else the night would pass you by.

Ben was sad to see that the pretty girl in the red jumper had gone.What a shame. It could have been the start of a beautiful friendship. Maybe another Friday night. Not much point in him hanging around, he thought. Time that he was gone too. He knew there was going to be a party in a Subiaco flat so he decided to go home for a shower and a change of clothes.

Ben pulled the hood of his duffel coat up over his head as he walked down the street, passed the recently closed shops. Their neon lights made the road a  pool of coloured reflections. The lights of a passing car showed, across the road, the huddled figure of a man in the recessed doorway of dress shop. It was the old bloke from the pub.

Ben slowed his stride. The poor fellah, he thought. All alone and cold on a wintry Friday night. Maybe I should go and tell him how much I enjoyed his poetry. It will make him feel better. It’s the least I can do.

Ben was filled with self righteous pleasure at the act of random kindness he was about to bestow on one of nature’s unfortunate outcasts. He walked across the road. He could see the man sitting against the closed doors of the shop. He was taking a swig from a bottle wrapped in brown paper. Metho or cheap plonk.

This old bloke’s going to be so pleased  that I’ve taken the trouble to thank him for his poem, thought Ben as his desert boots sloshed through another puddle.

It’s probably the nicest thing anyone has done for him in a long time, Ben reflected, as he made his kind hearted, magnanimous way closer. He jumped over a puddle and stepped onto the opposite kerb to express his gratitude to the poor fellow.

“G’day, mate. I enjoyed your poem tonight. It was really great.”

The old man stared at Ben with cloudy grey eyes. He huddled even further into the doorway. Clutching his bottle protectively to his chest he growled, “Piss off.’’

Sunday, 2 June 2013

NAPLAN, Education Systems and Professor Deming.

“It isn't about schools but about the system.
Equity is a system level measure. (Pasi Salhberg)

A Senate committee is examining NAPLAN and its results. This may be good thing. Although, we all know that most committees do not usually produce anything of great value. Some say that a camel is horse designed by a committee, but that may be a trifle harsh. We shall see.

I wonder if the Senate Committtee will talk to any actual teachers or principals? Or will it just be parent groups, industry groups, focus groups and other politicians and journalists who dabble in education.

A week ago I heard a colleague in education say that “Only people with ten years experience in schools should be allowed to make decisions about education policy.” Warming to his task he added, “And that experience would have to be within the last ten years.”

Well I can suggest two people who the Senate Committee should take note of: Pasi Salhberg and Professor W.E Deming. When Pasi Salhberg speaks about education we all should listen. If we are looking at the system of education, then maybe we should also be noting the teachings of Professor W. Edwards Deming, the father of “Quality Assurance”.

More about Professor Deming later.

Why is Pasi Salhberg so important? Well, he is the Minister for Education in Finland and Finland is one of the Top Four countries in PISA’s Education Premiership table. It is to this pinnacle of PISA educational perfection that Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, says Australia must reach within five years. Well, naturally, everyone agrees that it is a commendable thing to aim high and seek improvement.

PISA, of course, is the OECD’s testing mechanism. Every three years PISA tests a random sample of 15 year olds in 40 OECD countries, to enable their governments to see how effective their education systems are...at least in getting fifteen year olds to do well in the PISA tests.

In 2009, the last year for which we have PISA results (PISA 2012 results will be published in December 2013), Australia was ranked at number 9, well ahead of the USA (17th) and the UK (25).
In fact Australia’s average score was judged to be significantly above the OECD average.

Not a bad effort really, although the public perception, gained from our politicians and the Australian media generally, is that Australian education is failing, our student teachers need to be better qualified and our school teachers need to work harder. Despite all the rhetoric, not a lot of evidence is provided  by the naysayers to substantiate these negative views. After all, we are 9th in the world!

Being 9th in the world is not good enough for the Australian PM. She has said we need to be in the top five, alongside Shanghai, Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore. One thing we do notice about these top five nations is that, unlike Australia, they do not have indigenous populations or multi cultural societies where the native language is not the language of choice spoken in the home. Under these circumstances, it would seem Australia is performing very, very creditably indeed.

It should also be pointed out that Shanghai is not a country, it is a large regional city in China. Perhaps we should be allowed to provide the PISA results for Canberra as representative of Australia as a whole. If so, Australia would be right near the top of the PISA hit parade.

As a result of the Prime Minister’s ambition to place Australia at the head of the PISA premiership table, our education system has focussed strongly on Literacy and Numeracy and instituted an annual, universal  standardised testing regime, NAPLAN. The NAPLAN testing programme has much to recommend it, for along with many other diagnostic, remedial and achievement tests, it provides teachers and schools with much useful information about individuals, whole class and school performance.

However, as the NAPLAN results of every school are now compulsorily published on the government’s Myschool website, they have become the key performance indicators for what constitutes a “good” school. That’s exactly correct. The results of the NAPLAN tests that are conducted over three days in May, and published in October of the same year, suddenly become the most important data that education systems, parents and the media can have about a school.

This has meant an increasingly heavy focus on literacy and numeracy, to the detriment of other school subjects. At the same time formal instruction in literacy and numeracy has entered the once creative and imaginative world of early childhood. Remember that Finland does not start formal education until children turn seven and they have no standardised testing except for final exams at the end of secondary school.

Some children and even some teachers, suffer stress from the heavy competitive focus on NAPLAN tests, while at the same time a whole new industry of NAPLAN teaching aids, texts and even toys are flooding the market and being purchased by parents, eager for their child’s NAPLAN success. Recently a book aimed at improving a child's NAPLAN scores was listed in the top 10 best selling books in Australia, a previously unheard of event.

Obviously these are the unpleasant, unintended outcomes of NAPLAN testing.
It is pleasing, therefore, to note that the Australian Senate is to mount an inquiry into NAPLAN testing and its consequences. Presumably, the Senate will be mainly interested to find out if the millions of dollars being spent on NAPLAN are worth it. Do the results justify the expenditure?

Well this is where Professor Deming comes in, because, if Pasi Salhberg is right and we should not focus on schools but focus instead on education systems, then we should also focus on the teachings of Professor W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993). Professor Deming held doctorates in Physics and Mathematics and gained an enviable reputation as a statistician and systems management guru. He devised statisical surveys showing that you could obtain valid information from a random sample without having to survey the entire population. As a statistician he perfected random sampling and quality assurance techniques that helped to make industries more efficient. 

In 1951 he was invited to Japan to assist with the national census. While there he was invited by a Japanese business association to examine their work systems and management practices. As that time Japan had an almost laughable international reputation for its manufactured goods. Japanese goods were invariably labelled, "Micky Mouse", a facetious name for its largely inferior products.

Deming visited workplaces and spoke to various industrial groups throughout Japan. Eventually, he listed 14 Key Principles to enable managers to transform their business practices in order to achieve effectiveness in their organisations.

So successful was Deming in lifting the effectiveness of Japanese manufacturing that within a very few years the Ford Motor Company was surprised find that its customers in the United States preferred its Japanese made cars to the ones manufactured in the USA. With plenty of U.S. built Ford cars in their showrooms, Ford Executives were stunned to find that its American customers were quite prepared to wait for the next shipment of Fords manufactured in Japan. Their customers said that the Japanese Fords were more efficient and ran better!

Both car models were made to the same specifications. Inspection of both models by Ford engineers revealed that the Japanese models were much closer, in every respect, to design requirements than the US model, which had greater variations of tolerance. For example, if the design called for a part to be one foot long (30 cms), plus or minus one eighth of an inch, the US model showed this magnitude of variation while the Japanese models ALL had a tolerance of only one sixteenth of an inch. This made the Japanese cars run more smoothly and efficiently. Ford customers were quick to show their preference for the better product.

I have always believed that teaching is more of an art than a science, so I am reluctant to use a business model as a means of improving our education system. However, Pasi Salhberg says we must examine our system of education and I believe Professor Deming understood how systems work. They work effectively when the people in them
*know what they are expected to produce,
*they are skilled in what they do, and receive ongoing on the job training, 
*they are involved in the process and get satisfaction from it.
*Above all, they are valued and trusted by their employers.

Perhaps some of those bean counting politicians and educrats should look at those 14 steps of Professor Deming once in a while, especially the following six which seen to relate directly to our educational system:-

No 3: Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for massive inspections by building quality into the product in the first place.

No 6: Institute training on the job.

No 8: Drive out fear and build trust so that everyone can work more effectively.

No 10: Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets asking for zero defects or new levels of productivity…the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.

No: 11 Eliminate numerical goals, numerical quotas and management objectives. Substitute leadership!

No 12: Remove barriers that rob people of joy in their work. This means abolishing the annual rating or merit system that ranks people and creates competition and conflict.

I think Pasi Salhberg would agree with all of those points and proudly point out that this is exactly how the education system operates in Finland.

If, as Salhberg says, it is the system of education that we should focus on, then we need to look at our education system through Professor Deming’s eyes. His management ideas certainly worked for the systemic improvements that the Japanese industrialists were seeking. In the early 1950s Deming set them what he thought was a five year target. They achieved it in four. It was a spectacular success, putting Japanese industry at the forefront of world manufacturing for the next thirty years.

Interestingly enough, The Cambridge University Review of Primary Education (2009), the most wide ranging review of primary education ever undertaken anywhere in the world, came out strongly against universal standardised testing. I hope the Senate NAPLAN Committee gets to read it, along with Professor Deming's 14 Key Principals for Business Effectiveness.

With regard to accountability, what the Cambridge University Review did recommend was random sampling of the population. Professor Deming would have been pleased. Random sampling for accountability purposes was the system used in Western Australia  into the late 1990s until the then federal minister of education, Dr David Kemp, threatened the state's funding unless universal stanadardised testing was introduced.

Reducing competition and conflict and developing trust, cooperation and joy in your work place seems like a good idea for education too!

Not sure NAPLAN is doing that, actually.