Big business moves into schools down under

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

In July 2017, the conference of the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation which represents the rights of over 70 000 teachers in New South Wales was held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, Australia.
On day three of the conference, a controversial study, entitled “Commercialisation in Public Schooling (CIP): An Australian Study”, was released to delegates. The study reveals just how much education technology (EdTech) companies are benefiting financially from data they acquire from schools. Greg Thompson, associate professor of education research at the Queensland University of Technology and one of the co-authors of the study, said that it had involved the participation of thousands of teachers and school leaders across Australia.
Thompson’s team found out that 74% of these respondents were deeply concerned that allowing data about students into commercial hands was unethical. Half of all respondents were worried that commercial trends were dictating education policy, and a significant group was concerned that schools were now paying for services traditionally supplied by the Department of Education. “There’s a really strong sense that commercialisation has no place in public schools,” said Thompson. Thompson asserted: “Both [school] testing and assessment and [student academic progress] data analysis and integration are identified as key growth areas for the EdTech industry in
the coming years.” By way of example, Thompson referred to the Australian National Schools Interoperability
Programme (NSIP), a joint initiative of Australian state, territory and federal ministers for education. The initiative has issued schools with a list of standardised software and dataset products to be used. The list includes 13
commercial vendors, including assessment and reporting software, cloud-based student identity management, learning apps and learning platforms. The CIP report predicts that the needs and functions of schools over the next three to five years “will be subtly shaped by the provision of software”.

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