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'The system is not broken. It's faulty.' A teacher's plea for education reform.

Last month, I wrote an angry article airing my frustrations about the education system. As a life and mindset coach and a glass-half-full kinda gal, this was very out of character for me.

I’m sure that teachers and principals all over Australia will understand; we all have our own methods for processing our frustrations. 

Some of us cry into our whiteboard, some lash out at unsuspecting husbands, some smash a packet of Tim Tams before recess, and some pursue a love affair with Shiraz and brain-numbing Netflix. 

Watch: The things teachers do behind the scenes. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Personally, I turn to my laptop and write. With Shiraz and Tim Tams.

Jokes aside, something is seriously wrong.

To write an angry article is one thing, but to follow it up with a heartbroken plea is alarming. As I said, I pride myself on being an optimist, but my glass-half-full attitude has officially been shattered. When it comes to my sentiment toward the education system, my glass is dry as a bone and there is no sign of refill any time soon.

Over the past few weeks, my inbox has been flooded with messages from teachers, principals and parents all over Australia who tell me the same thing: the situation is dire. I would be lying if I said I haven’t felt a pang of familiar sadness every single time I receive another message with some iteration of 'I just want to teach' and 'I don’t want to let my students down, but I can’t go on like this.'

Now, I want to make this abundantly clear (teacher voice on): I truly searched for a positive insight and perspective to share on this matter. In fact, I kind of cringed when writing the headline for this article and tried my hardest to avoid such... dramatic language.

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Reform? Broken? Plea? C'mon Breanna, that’s a bit OTT, even for you. A facelift? A tweak? Reform seems so... extra. And yet, no matter how many times I replaced it with a less dramatic term, the truth is, a dramatic wake up call is exactly what we need. It was needed before the outbreak of COVID and this pandemic is simply the straw that is breaking the already tired, already overworked, already inefficient camel's back.

In my search for some positivity or silver lining to add to this discussion, I looked at the state of our system from multiple angles and contexts. Is it really fair to say it is broken?

Well. If we consider the purpose of our system, which apparently aims to ensure that Australian children are 'engaged in, and benefiting from schooling,' that 'literacy and numeracy achievement are improving' and that our students 'excel by international standards,' the results tell us that we are, in fact, going backwards.

Whilst this is genuinely disappointing for teachers, who truly care about their students' results, what is counterproductive and frustrating is the means prescribed to achieve this academic 'achievement', which includes a 'comprehensive and rigorous framework for performance reporting.'

Now, I’m no genius and you can call me crazy, but in my humble opinion, a teacher's job (and passion) is to... teach. And by 'teach' I mean having the time, space and resources to get to know each student and what they individually need to learn and grow.

A teacher with time and space can tell you each student's strengths, weaknesses, motivational style, and when something is 'just a bit off.' A teacher with time and space can tell the moment their student walks into their classroom if they need some extra attention or care that day before any learning can occur. A teacher with time and space can plan lessons with meaningful, engaging content with enough time for discussion, differentiation and, God forbid, some fun and banter to cultivate classroom rapport and culture.

Listen to Mia Freedman's interview with former teacher Gabbie Stroud on Mamamia's No Filter. Post continues after podcast.


A teacher who has to comply with 'rigorous and comprehensive reporting' has very little time for this. What’s worse, is that this teacher, who wants nothing more than to see their students thrive, is often plagued with guilt and sadness, feeling like they are failing the people they love most: their students.

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And that is only academically speaking.

Once again, excuse me for pointing out the obvious, but even if our students' academic performance was improving (which it isn’t), it all kiiiiiind of means nothing if a child is mentally and emotionally stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.

Once again, the youth mental health statistics in Australia show an increase in psychological stress and compared to other OECD countries, our students report being bullied more frequently. Just to add to the positivity, a new report recently found that Australian school principals are experiencing record levels of stress and burnout and since the pandemic, many states are now also suffering from a shortage in teaching staff, making the load heavier for those left inside the classroom.

Like I said, I have tried to put my rose-coloured glasses on to find something positive to cling to, but the truth is, we don’t need positivity; we need to face the facts and do better.

Every party inside of this system is struggling. School principals, who are personally drowning, are trying to get a lifeboat to their teaching staff, who are too busy trying to help their students, they can’t even swim to safety. The people this is all for, the students, are also getting subpar results, academically and psychologically.

Before COVID, the system was faulty but carefully held together by an industry of professionals who would sacrifice their own needs for the needs of their students. Now, with more shortages, disruptions and administration than before, the fault has become a break.

From all accounts, the education system does not appear to be fulfilling the purpose of its very existence. That to me, is not a system that works, it is a system which is broken. Reform sounds like a dramatic suggestion, but a dramatic change is exactly what this country needs.

Miss Mindset (Breanna May) is a writer, motivational speaker and mindset coach with a background in law and high school education. When she's not diving into all things psychology, personal development and philosophy, you will find her in the gym, or at the pub – because, balance. Follow her on  Instagram and Facebook.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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