Teachers' unions and industrial politics: the control of education in N.S.W. and Victoria, 1965-1980
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 19:54 by Michaela Anderson
In the education debate of the 1970s, education was seen to play a major part in the perpetuation of inequality in Australian society. There was, however, a conspicuous absence of investigation of a key group in the debate, namely teachers. It is argued that such a situation was the logical outcome of the theories used, which, under various banners (structuralism and reproduction) assumed that teachers were doing what the system determined. The image of teachers as puppets of the state was already contained in these theories. This study looked in the horse's mouth, so to speak, by examining the practical expression of teachers' collective interests through union activity. It examined government school teachers' unions in NSW and Victoria during the period 1965 to 1980, and teachers' efforts to gain greater autonomy in classroom practices and control of their occupation. Four areas of union activity were identified: (1) the push for union representation on a central body controlling salaries and conditions; (2) the challenge to the functions of the inspector; (3) the debate about parents' right to participate in school decision-making; and (4) the struggle over control of curriculum. It was in union struggles to remove the constraints of the central employer, that tensions were most apparent between teachers' notions of professional expertise and the unions' tactic of stressing the need for teachers to have a closer relationship with the client (student and parent). The question of 'to whom are they accountable?' was a dilemma for teachers as state workers. The struggles between employers, teachers and parents continually met the difficulty of separating teachers' working conditions from the practice of teaching, i.e. in separating, so called, industrial and professional issues. Teachers' unions were caught in a series of ideological dilemmas: most remarkably in relation to inspection. The system of inspection for promotion to the school executive, a place which promised more autonomy to teachers, was itself a key factor in promoting central control of school organisations and curriculum. It is apparent from union policy that many union activists sometimes recognised these tensions and contradictions in the course of the struggle but there were considerable differences in the unions' responses to and indeed in the unions' ability to act upon them. -- Abstract.