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I pose that the primary reason why education quality and teaching in Australian schools has declined is not teacher performance. It is the ineptitude and experimentation by Australia's state and federal education Ministers and their bureaucracies. These people may have high tertiary qualifications themselves and may be experts in their field but the politicisation of our primary and secondary education is a cancer eating at the heart.
One government such as Labor spends a lot of money on a review called the Gonski. In come the Liberal Party who have another agenda. They eschew the Gonski recommendations. However there are political risks in dumping a programme like Gonski, so the Australian government, has engaged in undermining and defunding the previous government's actions and policies.
Australia's senior politicians (Labor and Liberal) are immature, egotistical, people, who appear to enjoy the gladiatorial nature of Australia's politcal duopoly.
They clothe themselves in mutterings, and displays, of public interest. The evidence shows they pursue, at all costs, their personal views, beliefs, policy agendas and interests regardless of the impact and long term outcomes. POLITICIANS, IN MY OPINION ARE THE REASON WHY AUSTRALIA SLIDES DOWN INTERNATIONAL OECD RANKINGS.
Australia's cavalcade of inept (there are some exceptions) State, Territory and Federal Education Ministers, direct how our teaching professionals should deliver whilst having no experttise in the profession themselves. Australia's Education Ministers demotivate the front line professionals. If anyone dare criticise or oppose these Gladiators of Australian politics they will ridicule, retaliate and even blackmail every educational institution within the Australian system.
Tge bureaucracy is a dead hand on the teaching profession. Public servant is an oxymoron. They are government servants. Career people who serve the governments of the day across the Australian nation. They do not serve the teaching profession, the students, the parents or the public interest.
"Australia's poor school results spark fresh debate about education funding Coalition seizes on decline in test results for Australian high school students in maths, science and reading since 2009 Daniel Hurst, political correspondent, theguardian.com, Wednesday 4 December 2013", ustralian high school students have gone backwards in the latest international test results in mathematics, reading and science, sparking fresh debate over the worth of education spending increases and how resources are distributed. Significant achievement gaps remain in Australia based on gender, Indigenous status, location and wealth. The difference between students from the highest and lowest socio-economic categories is equivalent to two-and-a-half years of schooling, according to an analysis conducted by the Australian council for educational research (ACER). Australias biggest decline in the OECDs programme for international student assessment was in the mathematics section, in a finding immediately seized on by the Abbott government as evidence more money for schools did not improve results. The government also portrayed the figures as a repudiation of the long-running education union policy to reduce class sizes. But Labor and the Greens argued the results were a wake up call showing the importance of fully implementing the needs-based funding system outlined by David Gonskis review, ensuring the aim was not undermined by freedom for states to cut their contributions." (source: as cited)
Did you notice that the writer is a political correspondent? Might I suggest that education in Australia is politicised for political party interests and agendas. (Kevin Beck, March 2014)
"The Federal Minister for Education, Mr Pyne, has made an inglorious start to his time in office, according to most pundits, with clumsy attempts to (re)frame the educational debate in Australia. I will not dwell on the Gonski backflip debacle, late last year, where the government held three policy positions in one day but the most recent announcements cannot pass without comment. Minister Pyne has established a review by two men, Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire, into the Australian Curriculum. Readers not involved in education in NSW should know that the first year that the Australian curriculum needs to be implemented (but only for Year 7 and 9 students) is 2014. Yes, thats right, before the new documents are formally implemented they are being reviewed for partisan bias. Most commentators see this government education strategy as one designed to reignite the culture wars, (Source: The 21st Century Education Debate in Australia Posted by Darcy Moore, Published on January 12, 2014, Darcymoore.net)
"It has become clear that any debate about productivity in the education sector is intrinsically linked with teacher quality.", The productivity debate and quality education, Australian College of Educators, austcolled.com.au
Let uis look at proposition through Holroyd High.
Dorothy Hoddinott is Principal of Holroyd High School (in the Sydney suburb of Greystanes) a small, comprehensive co-educational high school, with a focus on successful, high quality learning in a safe, well-disciplined and supportive environment, enabling all students to grow and progress as learners and develop the skills for active citizenship. The school has an intensive English centre for newly arrived students of language backgrounds other than English and a support unit for students with special needs.
Holroyd Intensive English Centre provides English language courses for newly arrived ESL (English as a Second Language) students in preparation for further study in a mainstream high school. Students learn English through the wide variety of subjects they will encounter when they exit to high school. Presently, the languages the centre can offer assistance with, through staff support, include: Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, Thai, Burmese, Kurdish, Farsi, Dari, Vietnamese, Krio, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Turkish and Polish.
"Something extraordinary is happening", December 1, 2012, Rick Feneley, Sydney Morning Herald Newspaper, Australia
"If you look around," says Hoddinott, "six out of every 10 students here are refugees. A third have been in Australia for less than three years. Most arrive with no English at all; many are illiterate. And yet 40 per cent are going on to university. Compare that with a national average of 30 per cent. Something is happening here that is quite extraordinary. Advertisement "We have children who have seen their parents murdered; we have children who have been raped; we have children who have been forced to live in poverty and fear in refugee camps. So our first task is to normalise lives - coming to school on time, having books, wearing uniforms. The semiotics of that are very powerful." Hoddinott will talk all day about the bravery of her students, the dedication of her staff and the transformative power of education. ..... The year she joined Holroyd High as principal, in 1995, senior students "trashed" the school. "I vowed we would never again have a muck-up day. It showed disrespect. So, in 1996, I abolished all the school rules; masses of rules that were just irrelevant. You know, 'club someone to death with piece of wood' is about the same as 'chewing gum'. "In their place, parents, students and teachers came up with a core value: respect. It is palpable today as we wander the playgrounds. These kids are remarkably polite, and happy. So are the teachers." (Source: as cited)
"Holroyd High School is one of the schools the Institute examines for having the right ingredients for success: strong leadership that raises expectations, effective teaching with teachers learning from each other, development and measurement of student learning, development of a positive school culture, and engagement of parents and the community. Holroyd's success is impressive given almost half its students have been in Australia for fewer than three years, two-thirds are refugees, more than 80 per cent speak little or no English and some are living in community detention without parents. "Some of our mid-teen arrivals have never been to school." says Dorothy Hoddinott "and we work very, very hard with them." Nationally, the average rate of school leavers entering university is 30 per cent, and yet despite a background disadvantage, 40 per cent of Holroyd students go onto to university study. "It's not just a culture of expectations, we don't believe in a sense of entitlement in our school... we build the idea that you are a member of society and you put back into society." (ABC Radio National Australia, Thursday February 27, 2014) Access the full story
Look at Holroyd High
"Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of the colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, (s)he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." Robert F. Kennedy
You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation. Brigham Young
Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. Walter Cronkite
The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn. T.H. White, The Once and Future King
The outcomes are all too often dependent on the resources you have been given, or denied, and the conditions under which you must teach. In some countries you may not be able to teach what you want. The curriculum may be managed by local community and state governments who weave religion, bigotry and managerialism into a mosaic of bitter, and twisted, deliverables.
Review of School Funding in Australia
by David Gonski: December 2011
Beyond Gonski - Education
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Prior to the Victorian state government election, want to be Premier, Ted Baillieu, promised to make Victoria's teachers the highest paid in Australia. True to form for graduates of the "Bald faced Liars College", he renigned, Instead his Minister for Higher Education and Skills and Minister responsible for the Teaching Profession, the Honourable Peter Hall, popped out a 2.3% offer for ordinary teachers and the hoary bonus incentive scheme for better teachers.
He also likes the concept of School Council parents and the Principal assessing teacher performance. Now, having had these thought bubble terrorise teachers for decades and despite them being discredited globally, it seems that our erstwhile education Ministers in Australia's governments do not do exhaustive research and appraisal of their ideas before launching them.
"Offering big bonuses to teachers failed to raise students' test scores in a three-year study released Tuesday that calls into question the Obama administration's push for merit pay to improve education. The study, conducted in the metropolitan Nashville school system by Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives, was described by the researchers as the nation's first scientifically rigorous look at merit pay for teachers." (Source: "Student test scores unaffected by teacher incentive pay, study finds", September 21, 2010, report is here
"Teacher Performance Pay is Another Stunning Joel Klein Failure, Monday March 14, 2011"|
(Australian Prime Minister) Julia Gillard's hero, former New York City Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein left a legacy of failed school reforms. His school reporting scheme, which Gillard drew on as a model for My School, was claimed to be a huge success in improving student results. However, it was revealed last year that the improvements were a sham, being driven by lower pass standards. Now it has been revealed that his $75 million teacher performance pay scheme which he described as "transcendent when introduced in 2007 was also a stunning failure. A new study published last week by Harvard University economist, Roland Fryer, found that it failed to increase student achievement. Fryer says in the abstract to the paper: I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behaviour. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools.
The study concludes:
Providing incentives to teachers based on school's performance on metrics involving student achievement, improvement, and the learning environment did not increase student achievement in any statistically meaningful way. If anything, student achievement declined. [p.5]. The program also had no impact on whether teachers stayed at their schools or in the city school district and how teachers described their job satisfaction and school quality. The program had only a "negligible effect on a list of other measures that includes student attendance, behavioural problems, Regents exam scores, and high school graduation rates. http://www.saveourschools.com.au/)
The above programmes offered up to $15,000 in bonuses to the "special teachers" and delivered no discernible difference in outcomes for students. I take account of the human tendency of superior ego that dictates that the people above, in the quoted experiments, may have failed but "I won't" egotism that resides in many of our Australian politicians, but I wonder why they persist with confronting proven investigation and outcomes?
Let us now look at an example of how well parents may manage their school. |
"THE financially stricken Mowbray College will shut its doors to most students on Wednesday...Administrators yesterday advised that with the exception of 276 students currently studying VCE or International Baccalaureate subjects, all students from prep to year 10 will need to find another school after June 6." (Source: $1m injection buys time for Mowbray College VCE pupils Nathan Mawby From: Herald Sun June 02, 2012 12:00AM)
Run by a parent's board this school amassed $A18,000,000 in debt. The administrator points to mismanagement by the board members and the school may even have traded insolvent.
However let's look on the positive side and assume that a scheme can be out in and parents can be trained to assess teachers. Will they have the time and ability? well....|
Here is a set of references that may be suitable. They are a selection of ERIC digests on the topic of professional development and care of teachers. The articles had been re-formatted for easy viewing and links have been updated but the contents remain unchanged. Each title is followed by an overview or paragraphs taken from the actual article itself.
Then of course we have to deal with the myths.
"The term "merit pay has gained a prominent place in the debate over education reform. First it was D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee trumpeting it as a key to fixing the D.C.'s ailing public schools. Then a handful of other cities gave it a go, including Denver, New York City, and Nashville. Merit pay is a big plank of Education Secretary Arne Duncans reform platform. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has just launched his own version of merit pay that focuses incentives toward principals. There's just one problem: educators almost universally hate merit pay, and have been adamantly opposed to it from day one. Simply, teachers say merit pay won't work." (Source:The Debate over Teacher Merit Pay: A Freakonomics Quorum, FREAKONOMICS, 09/20/2011)
"A substantial literature documents large variation in teacher effectiveness at raising student achievement, providing motivation to identify highly effective and ineffective teachers early in their careers. Using data from New York City public schools, we estimate whether subjective evaluations of teacher effectiveness have predictive power for the achievement gains made by teachers' future students. We find that these subjective evaluations have substantial power, comparable with and complementary to objective measures of teacher effectiveness taken from a teacher's first year in the classroom." (Source: Evaluating Teachers: What About Doing it the Old-Fashioned Way?, FREAKONOMICS, 10/20/2011)
Every change of government in Australia results in a recycle and representing of the same old policies and ideologies. They never go anywhere and we have strikes and disruptions and bitter debates. It is all short term gladiatorial stuff. The education unions cannot allow a non standard hierarchy because they charge each teacher a union fee for a commodified service.
Everyone is a loser in this type of ratty public governance environment. Mr Hall is bringing on another "back to the future" debilitating debate and confrontation. Can someone actually agree on something and move forward? (Kevin Beck, "Same old ideology in education policy and ratty administration" Melbourne 2012)
Evidence seems to show that teachers are not held in high regard by Australia's governments and politicians
The governments of Australia would hotly deny the above statement but like all things related to politics their denials should be treated suspiciously. Unfortunately the prevailing community view may well be that politicians are not to be trusted. Education is the mandate of the state governments of Australia. They spend a large a large sum of money. The majority of the funds do not go to teachers salaries or conditions it goes to back room bureaucrats, dead wood administrators, and other inanimate objects. The states receive federal funding for schools, further education training institutes (Tafe) and universities. based on this Rudd and Gillard use funding persuasion to try and get what they want. Being naive and inexperienced in government with very average Ministers at the federal helm, they are stonewalled. Thus one cannot particularly blame Kevin Rudd, and Julia Gillard ,for the declining performance in education and training in the nation.
Kevin Rudd came into office with poor advisory staff, and for some ill informed reason stated that the way to improve educational performance was to put a PC on every child's school desk. The dream has never been achieved partly because the quality of education Ministry, and leadership, in state governments, across Australia, is more focused on self interested parochial, and nepotistic, political objectives than cooperative development. There is a farcical theatre called COAG (representatives of state, territories and federal jurisdictions) that is supposed to, according to the PR blurb, arrange concensus. The state's took great delight in whingeing about who would cover internet connection, maintenance and software upgrades, for the PC's, which the federal bureaucrats either left out of the funding equation or maybe they thought the states would have to take it up once the kit was installed?
The Australian Labor Party has long prided itself on its "education credentials" but like most other things, in Australian politics, this is largely delusional spin, shallow media adornment of title, babbling year after year about outdated theories driven by a focus on skills and competencies. Blue collar values infest Australia's education planning and delivery, instilled by major "craft trade unions", who have contributed extensively to the decline in the nation's education quality and performance. Industry compounded the issues, in the nineties, with a determined mission to take control of skills, and competency training, and the state government's stupidly gave out training accreditation, willy nilly, to any comer with a good story. Government Tafe institutes had to compete with good and dodgy private sector training enterprises and industry owned facilities. Short sharp certificates ranging from a few days to fourteen weeks. Then the Tafe Institutes rally pushed the envelope and now a student can do one year at a Tafe and articulate into university as if the curriculum is rigorously inspired.
The "Education Revolution" slogan was coined by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and billions were spent, not on improving educational performance for both teachers and pupils, but on keeping the construction industry employed during the GFC. Labor began its litany of lying as to the objectives, and motives, of its "education revolution" modifying it to "building the education revolution", and still continues to flop out boring and ill informed policies.
Now Julia Gillard has moved on to another slogan - "the new economy". Into this she weaved her favourite topic, education, a passion for a discipline, about which it seems she has demonstrated little real understanding of. Ms Gillard recently talked of getting people skilled up for jobs in the new Economy. You can imagine the jobs that the labor Prime Minister and the dills of her education advisory units have come up with. Apparently the careers of the future are electrician, plumber, clerks, receptionists, aged care and child care personnel. The future, according to our governments, is an education system focused on low grade, quickly delivered competency skills training.
The Australian federal Minister for Schools is Peter Garrett, a lack lustre labor crony occupying a number of Ministry seats without ever delivering many things other than confusion and mediocrity. I am yet to learn if Mr Garrett's grasp of education goes any further than basic literacy and numeracy adhering to the labor flawed education revolution template. The PC roll out programme probably impresses the hell out of him.
Instead of spending billions on teacher selection and training, teacher salaries and lifting the status of teachers our federal, and state governments, focus on the fringes, the bureaucracy, the controls, the dollars, the low grade fast track solutions that cost a lot and deliver little by comparison to what is possible.Is there an education Minister in Australia who teachers' believe contributes value to their working lives and the pursuit of excellence? One could opine that States do not want well educated, and well paid teachers, because the teaching profession, like nursing, is the punching bag for the challenged Treasurers, and state government cabinet members, who seek to cut teacher numbers every new state government cycle to achieve the most important of objectives - the surplus. They dance to third party free market orchestrated, parasitic tunes. The pursuit of political self interest is paramount to the public good. The amount spent by governments on PR companies, and spin doctors, is obscene and could fund a rise in teachers' salaries. Some state governments have now given us the fourteen week trained teacher. Added to the teachers' burdens are the weak "nanny" shackles regarding disciplining students which are in favour of disruptive, and often undisciplined students, teachers are hamstrung by a Department and government afraid of their own shadows. Under these restrictive conditions, with bureaucracies and governments that do not support teachers publicly, why would anyone want to become, or continue being, a teacher? The answer must lie in dedication.
There is a plethora of research as to what makes great education systems across the world. Almost all of it says that the billions spent on halls and facilities is not as effective as a mix of well founded strategies that first train the teachers effectively, teaching them how to discern the level of ability and the circumstances of their pupils, coupled with good, pay, prestige and ongoing development with good basic infrastructure. So why is it that the bureaucrats, and the politicians, are blind to these truths?
State Education Ministers, federal and all of Australia's government cabinet Ministers, could wake up and take the essence of the system - teachers and educators- to heart and do something of value, founded on life long learning not just isolated basic competencies, creating a great education system.
Working Projects for Teachers
|"Peer review in academic promotion and publishing: Its meaning, locus, and future, Diane Harley and Sophia Krzys Accord Centre for Studies in Higher Education, University of California: 24 March 2011 - This report recommends creating a wider array of institutionally acceptable and cost-effective alternatives to peer reviewing and publishing scholarly work to relieve the burdens currently stressing the peer-review system.... The challenges of assessing the current and future state of peer review are exacerbated by pressing questions of how the significant costs of high-quality scholarly publishing can be borne in the face of calls for alternative, usually university-based and open access, publishing models for both journals and books. There is additionally the insidious and destructive "trickle down of tenure and promotion requirements from elite research universities to less competitive and non-research-intensive institutions." Go to: source and full article|
I assume that most of you want to teach, and educate your charges, without all of the
hoo hah. You do not want to be in the politics of it all.
Do not abrogate your options, and disengage, because in the end
you will be the loser. So carefully select your champions, your union officials, your bosses and your politicians, |
You can, despite what you think, influence, and change, your world of professionalism. Ultimately your bosses have no power without you, the collective, and their success is linked to you. Similarly your Education Minister, and education bureaucrats, actually remain in their office at your pleasure. You do not know how to use your power.. Reach out to influences beyond your world of work, and let us take up your challenge. with our compliments. We will not disappoint and there are no charges for this support.
WHERE'S THE EDUCATION REVOLUTION?
When Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and labor came to power they trumpeted an Education Revolution. They upsized the federal agency to cope with this and the smoke and mirrors style of spin used by the federal labor party and its key senior politicians was put into play at a cost of billions. You can read the spin and see it here... click
Now the very good, and dedicated, public servants and those (external and keen people) given a jumper to play would probably take umbrage and offence at my description and to them I apologise. They are doing their jobs and/or trying to make the best out of the situation. The fiasco of over cost (billions) buildings, state bureaucracy incompetence and despot style management, the failed delivery of computers to every child in school by the promised date and other annoying quirks of fate have plagued their world.
As time went by all has not gone well
"Julia Gillard, when minister for education, repeated the mantra and boasted that her education revolution, involving national testing and the MySchool website, computers and trade centres in schools, a national curriculum and Building the Education Revolution infrastructure program, would strengthen schools and raise standards. Why has the expression disappeared? Simple, in addition to being flawed in concept, such has been the mismanagement and failure to fulfill promises and meet deadlines, the ALP's education revolution is now an electoral liability." (Source: Australian Conservative, "Gillard Govt's education revolution fails the tests" February 3, 2011 by Kevin Donnelly)
Then there are those not given a jumper and some might opine that they are sucking on a lemon yet they have a strong argument to point to many glaring failures and flaws.
"Kevin Rudd's slogan education revolution' has long since disappeared from the federal government's political lexicon and Julia Gillard no longer touts herself as the minister for education and productivity but it's clear that the ALP is refocusing on education in an attempt to salvage its political capital. Evidence includes last night's budget commitment of $1.7 billion to reform the nation's TAFE system, $22 million for apprentices, $222 million for school chaplains and $18.1 million for Teach Next. In the week before the budget Prime Minister Gillard also announced a $1 million performance-based plan to reward successful teachers, argued that mothers on welfare should be compelled to return to school and, according to an AAP report detailing a speech give at given at a Canberra primary school, stated that education and training is a budget priority on the basis that "there is nothing more important to the nation's future that what is happening in schools today. That Gillard is playing the education card should not surprise......
Gillard's record when education minister and the policies associated with the ALP's education revolution have done little to strengthen schools, raise standards, help students or ensure that teachers are better resourced and supported. The Building the Education Revolution (BER) program has been costly, inefficient and wasteful as schools have been forced to accept off-the-shelf designs delivering over priced and, in may cases, useless buildings. The promise to give every senior secondary student a computer and all schools access to high-speed, broadband internet access remains unfulfilled, as does the 2007 election promise to give every secondary school a trades centre." (Source: 11 MAY 2011, The Drum, "Time to revolt against Gillard's education revolution" by Kevin Donnelly)
Meanwhile the Prime Minister has made many speeches where she focused on education as her great love and contribution to the nation all the while avoiding the telling question, where is the revolution and what is it?. Ms Gillard is proven to be simply hopeless at delivery of her words into action except action leading to fiasco, mass waste and disruption.
Julia apparently was very impressed by education wizards in New York adopting many of their ideas, and policies, into her suite of revolutionary concepts. How borrowing from others is revolutionary I am not quite understanding.
Mr Rupert Murdoch wants a slice of education too, "Meanwhile, in the last little while he has recruited the former chancellor of the New York City education department, Joe Klein, as CEO of News Corporation's education division, bought up an educational software and technology company, and a couple of weeks ago announced more poachings from New York City and other US education departments, charged with "working with school districts to implement the divisions programs. The potential significance for Australia is that Julia Gillard embraced Klein's ideas when she was education minister, and was involved in inviting him to Australia. The controversial My School website, and the increased emphasis on measuring school performance, are in part inspired by the New York model." (source: Crikey.com.au, Thursday, 23 June 2011, "Rupert Murdoch ¦ coming to a classroom near you soon", by Margaret Simons
One aggravating and destructive policy is the national testing system (Thursday, 23 June 2011 Rupert Murdoch ¦ coming to a classroom near you soon, by Margaret Simons.
Then we have the destructive national test system (NAPLAN) where students are regularly tested for literacy and numeracy independent of circumstance and a table of performance is created. Now isn't that just the most obvious way to create dissension and illusion including parents trying to pick winners from a league table? How absolutely morale boosting it must be for disadvantaged, and challenged, schools and pupils, to be publicly humiliated.
"IT might not have been ACARA's intention, but the fact is schools are devoting more and more time each year to preparing students for the NAPLAN tests. Time that could be better spent on several other subject areas and creative lessons, so argues Save Our Schools national convenor Trevor Cobbold. He claims some teachers have even renamed the tests NAPALM' because of their destructive nature. Indeed, it is a mark of just how important the annual literacy and numeracy assessments have become that they have stirred such debate. The 2011 tests had not even begun when Queensland's Education Minister Cameron Dick warned teachers not to bend the rules or compromise results by allowing students favours or special treatment. He was quick to add that it was a very small percentage of teachers who had chosen not to do the right thing in previous years, but his warning certainly set the early tone of what was to come. As test week progressed, there were the usual stories of students becoming stressed out and ill with worry and problems with administration a spelling error in one of the instructions caused some confusion. One of the most common complaints from teachers is that the NAPLAN results are released far too late to be of any real value. They have long argued that they don't need a series of high-stakes tests to tell them exactly where a student is at. However, love it or hate it, NAPLAN is here to stay and the cycle of cheating accusations and My School controversy has begun for another year." (Source: MORE NAPLAN NIGGLES, Australian Teacher Magazine, OzTeacher.com.au, date and author not stated on the web site)
Then there is the National Curriculum another pet project of Ms Gillard. It resides in the typical labor straight jacket theory "one size fits all" and "we know best" and the most arrogant of all labor party propositions "those who came before us simply did not know and the current lot are predominantly lazy and should be monitored and compared". Under Ms Gillard and labor everyone marches to the same engineered system. Creativity, outside of the framework mandate, is not to be tolerated. Among other things the "Rudd - Gillard labor education revolution" has managed to take education and make it a football in the debate about Western Civilisation, Christianity and other ethereal topics.
"The free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs today welcomed the decision of the O'Farrell government to delay implementing the Gillard government's national curriculum until 2013. 'This delay is welcome. But the O'Farrell government should go further- New South Wales should withdraw from the national curriculum completely' said the IPA's Chris Berg, the editor of The National Curriculum: A Critique'. The National Curriculum: A Critique was published earlier this year by the Institute of Public Affairs and Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, as part of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program. "Our research found that the National Curriculum was biased against the values and principles upon which Western Civilisation was founded. "Julia Gillard's national curriculum ignores the central role Christianity played in the history of Europe and Australia. It ignores the development of liberalism and democracy by excluding critical events like the English Civil War and the writing of the Magna Carta. And it treats important developments like the Industrial Revolution with disdain, blaming that event for slavery. "The National Curriculum's hostility to Western Civilisation is a serious problem if the next generation of students are going to understand the origins and strengths of their own society", said Mr Berg." (source: Institute of Public Affairs, "New South Wales should scrap national curriculum, not delay it", MEDIA RELEASE, Chris Berg, Research Fellow)
"The national curriculum has of course been plagued by problems right from the very outset. Perhaps the root problem with the draft curriculum is the decision by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, ACARA, which has been tasked with developing and drafting the national curriculum, to weave three so-called 'cross-curriculum perspectives' through all the subject areas and all the national curricula no matter how much these perspectives and overarching themes are relevant to each subject. These cross-curriculum perspectives are: the Indigenous perspective, a commitment to sustainable patterns of living, and an emphasis on Asia and Australia's engagement with the region. These are the so-called cross-curriculum perspectives that weave their way through the national curriculum. It is important that students learn about Aboriginal culture, their way of life and their impact on Australia's history. It is also important that students learn about the contribution of non-Western science towards the building of the body of modern knowledge. However, it is a matter of emphasis and a matter of priority. The coalition's initial reaction to the national curriculum is that once again the importance of the basics in education are downplayed in favour of the more trendy elements favoured by our educational and cultural establishment." (source: Australian Senate debates, Monday, 19 September 2011, Bills, Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011; Second Reading, Senator Brett Mason)
However we can all have views about the value of a National Curriculum and there should be a guide as to what knowledge is expected to be taught and hopefully learned. Perhaps the most important views are not those of politicians, bureaucrats, academic theorists and others with an axe to grind, the most important are those of the front line educators.
"FOUR Queensland teachers give their views on the overhaul of teaching that will bring all states and territories under a single curriculum.
"Redcliffe State High maths teacher and president of the Queensland Association of Mathematics Teachers Jim Lowe I have worked with teachers from every state and territory and contrary to some reports I believe that the existing state programs have a lot more in common than they have differences. This is confirmed when we look at the mathematical content specified in the new curriculum. The five strands plus the Ways of Working as described in the Queensland Essential Learnings have been incorporated into three new strands. Nearly all of what we currently include in the Queensland curriculum seems to have been retained but there are some major changes to when topics are taught. The statements of learning for each year level and the descriptions of the standards to be achieved indicate that significant realignment of programs will be required in some cases... more at the source,Teachers air their views on national curriculum The Brisbane Courier-Mail March 01, 2010"
"Science teacher Dr Sally Stephens from Brisbane Girls Grammar School The initial advice to those preparing the Science curriculum conceded that a knowledge-laden curricula encourages teachers to treat science concepts in a superficial way. I think that the draft overcrowds the curriculum for Years 7-10 which acts to (a) favour breadth over depth and (b) reduce flexibility, innovation, and spontaneity. This is a particular concern given the priority given to science inquiry skills as the preferred mode of learning. There is nothing new about this. The fact that seasoned educators are, after so many years, still calling for the prioritisation of effective inquiry at all levels of science education is testimony to the difficulty associated with integrating inquiry into classroom practice: inquiry-based learning is not easy to achieve. The reason it is so difficult to deploy effective inquiry strategies in schools is because it is time- and resource-intense. It seems that the national curriculum directly addresses only a few of the impediments to effective inquiry and I would have to have more information to determine if it has a chance of success in this regard. more: ibid"
"Indooroopilly State High English teacher Tim Kelly Queensland teachers, who have been immersed in the rewriting of their English programs in order to meet the requirements of the Queensland Curriculum and Reporting (QCAR) Framework, have awaited the National Curriculum with some apprehension. Fortunately, the Essential Learnings outlined in QCAR are not significantly different from the requirements of the National Curriculum and teachers should find comfort in the fact that their school programs will not require yet another major rewrite. Because the National Curriculum prescribes what is to be taught rather than how this content should be taught, Queensland schools will retain some flexibility in their teaching and learning. This will enable schools to continue to tailor their courses to the specific needs of their students. Some guidance as to how language works in various contexts would have been a valuable inclusion. This has been an important model in Queensland English Syllabuses for over a decade. Some teachers on either side of the grammar divide will be disappointed that neither a traditional nor a functional approach has been explicitly promoted by the National Curriculum." more ibid
"Somerville House history teacher and president of the Queensland History Teachers Association Kay Bishop, "The new curriculum does not provide this kind of experience for students in the same way as the Queensland syllabus does and it addresses the concept of depth studies, so central to history in Queensland, in a different way. There is perhaps too much emphasis on content and not enough recognition of the time it takes to explore the areas of history that are recommended. more: ibid"
"TEACHERS believe the new draft national curriculum represents a step backwards for NSW students in science and English, little improvement in maths and is unworkable in history. In NSW the Board of Studies has established time frames for each subject, but the national curriculum has not been tailored to fit the number of hours teachers have in the classroom. Margaret Watts, the president of the Science Teachers Association of NSW, said the national science curriculum for kindergarten to year 10 was not as prescriptive as the NSW syllabus." (source: Sydney Morning Herald, "Teachers give poor marks to national curriculum", Anna Patty EDUCATION EDITOR March 12, 2010)
"I am on record as having serious reservations about a national curriculum. I want to make it clear at the outset: we are not starting to design the most appropriate system of governance for the whole of our country from scratch. We have had, in existence for over 100 years, three tiers of governments - Commonwealth, state and local. We don't have a clean slate from which to start. We have a history. The state and territory parliaments continue. We have a Constitution which specifies areas of responsibility for the different levels of government and there are well defined processes by which we, as a democracy, can change those constitutional arrangements. Most importantly, we have a history of education in each state; a tradition; an ethos. No matter what the Commonwealth government may wish, education is, by our Constitution, a state responsibility. That means that, whatever is done at the Commonwealth level, the reality is that any state government can - and is likely to - reject the work of the National Curriculum Board if the proposals do not suit the educational or political wish of that government." (source: "A national curriculum is not necessarily an excellent curriculum", By Jenny Allum - posted Tuesday, 12 May 2009, OnLineOpinion.com.au)
Ms Allum states fundamental truth. Federal labor under Ms Gillard embarked on this quest regardless of the Constitutional barriers. So what leverage does the federal government have, the purse strings and they wield it. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard over reach. This in itself might be okay if you have the nous and the strategy and capability to deliver and they are backed up by good advisers and strategists. These requirements appear non existent. Now in 2012 we have the Minister for Schools, Peter Garrett in charge. This in itself says a lot and is likely to ensure labor's continued failure given his record in Ministerial office. What are his qualifications in education policy, awareness and ideas?
"Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts from 3.12.07 to 8.3.10.
Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts from 8.3.10 to 14.9.10.
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth from 14.9.10.
House of Representatives Standing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs from 2.12.04 to 17.10.07; Communications, Information Technology and the Arts from 7.12.04 to 17.10.07.
Conferences, Delegations and Visits
Official visits to Indonesia, December 2007; Papua New Guinea, April 2008; UK, France, Belgium and Germany, April-May 2008; Chile and USA, June-July 2008; New Zealand, September 2008; Papua New Guinea, March 2009; USA, April 2009; Indonesia, May 2009; Portugal and France, June 2009; USA, September 2009; Solomon Islands, November 2009; New Zealand, January 2010; Morocco, June 2010.
Parliamentary Party Positions
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation and the Arts from 24.6.05 to 10.12.06.
Member, Opposition Shadow Ministry from 7.12.06 to 3.12.07. Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage and Shadow Minister for the Arts from 10.12.06 to 3.12.07.
Qualifications and Occupation before entering Federal Parliament
BA (ANU), LLB (NSW).
Musician, Midnight Oil 1977-2002.
President, Australian Conservation Foundation 1989-93 and 1999-2004." (Source: Parliament of Australia, House of Representatives, Members web site)
Oh goody, from the disaster of the pink batts (a programme managing to cost billions, rorted by thousands whilst causing death and injury) the Minister is now in charge of our most precious assets, our future. How does this appointment engender respect and security in the education profession? Is he approachable? Who advises the Minister?
"Far more worrying though is that Garrett's office and team of advisors don't seem to want to put him in the media spotlight even when it comes to talking to those people at the heart of education. This month Australian Teacher Magazine invited the Federal Education Minister to write our Hard Word column on the subject of teacher bonuses. The initiative to reward the best' teachers with a pay bonus has plenty of critics and, given that, we wanted to hear Garrett's argument in more depth. Despite contacting his advisors six times over a period of three weeks, sending emails, talking on the phone and leaving several messages, they neither accepted nor declined our offer sadly, they did not feel it necessary to respond either way. We contacted Christopher Pyne's office with the same offer and his advisors jumped at the chance to explain the Coalition stance, responding within one hour."
"As the Australian School Library Association points out in this month's Hard Word, it's no good having multi-million dollar BER facilities but no librarian to get the most out of them. Literacy is supposed to be a priority area, well, on this issue, you wouldn't know it. ICT is another boom area for schools, but spending millions on technology without at least one staff expert is a rarity, and there is plenty of professional development in this area for educators who want to upskill." DARLENE HILL, president of the Australian School Library Association (ASLA), (Overall Source: Australian Teacher Magazine, OzTeacher.com.au)
So here we are in January 2012 a few billion or so lighter in the public pocket and a lot of new and in some cases unwanted buildings and what about the revolution? (Kevin Beck, "Roger the Education Revolution", Melbourne Australia, January 2012)
AUSTRALIA: THE DEAD HAND OF POLITICS AND BUREAUCRACY|
I DO NOT THINK THAT COMPETITION IS CONDUCIVE TO A QUALITY EDUCATION SYSTEM
Australian Labor, and Liberal, Party policies are founded, to my mind, on ideology, theory, political interest. They rarely align with the public interest and that of those participating in, and using, the education system in Australia.
They are poorly constructed, blinkered' idealistic and are the design of a select group of powerful interests. Education is the play ting of politics because everyone in parliament and in government thinks they know something about it. Australia's education Ministers, and bureaucrats, too often think that they know something about education as do many parents and the "social engineering shapers of Australian society". Industry has too much say and influence in our education demanding competency training that is short term, over hyped and defectively dumbing down. Competency education (trades and skills) is a valid element of education, as is literacy and numeracy. However the political parties are seeing competency, literacy and numeracy as the future of learning rather than deeper, rational enquiry. Australian industry has been complicit in this dumbing down of curricula to suit their own prurient, short term, commercial interests.
The bean counters, economic rationalists and the senior bureaucrats in the Departments of Treasury and Finance and Education (state, federal and territory), across Australia, would all have us believe that competition in education is a great thing. Apparently competition will stymie the educator's penchant for extravagance, rampant cost explosion and over spending. This is ironic given what the Ministries, and bureaucrats, are responsible for in terms of waste and duplication. The Building Education Revolution (BER) of labor is a slogan. A euphemism for appearing to create modern learning environments through building "buildings". It is an example of this hypocrisy.
Competition reaches into crevice of the Australian education system including educational research. Governments try to pick winners selecting what can be likely the commercialised. They fund these programmes rather than pure research. They fund competency education rather than learning for learning's sake. If the ordinary person outside of the system challenges this the Government and the bureaucracy are dismissive. There is no life long learning policy or incentivisation at state, or federal, government levels in Australia and none (almost none) fostered in industry in Australia. Yet the political parties spin a lie to the contrary, according to them they are the innovators of great policy initiatives and quality education programmes.
Competition, in education (vouchers, constestability and performance tables) is a theoretical proposition at best and a cannibalistic degrader of education at its worst. At the state level the government politics (political reality versus theoretical notions of competition) dictates that competition has to be controlled, and massaged, because one cannot have a tertiary institution in a regional community, or in a suburb, disappearing due to the impact of competition (theory versus practicality). Tertiary institutions are a significant contributor in every aspect of a local community particularly in the regional areas of Australia. Where would Bathurst be without Charles Sturt University, Ballaratt without is university or northern Queensland without its own institution? What happens if William Angliss Tafe in Melbourne bids the price down for delivery of its programmes beyond its catchment area under the contestability model? They will be stopped from doing this, subtly and behind the scenes, because the Commonwealth and States have signed onto contestability and open competition. Only the ignorant would believe the diatribe that is put out about open market competition in education sectors.
The rise of private sector training, and education, (including certification of industry trainers within companies and associations) in a market gone mad, particularly chasing international students, has caused extensive problems in quality, certification, regulation and funding. Education in Australia in the years 1998 - 2009 became synonymous with immigration to Australia. Australia's reputation is slurried by the failure of the regulators to envision what occurs when scheisters enter the market and competition is rampant. Like the BER programme, the states failed to manage, watch and regulate. Immigration (visa) issues have arisen because education has been seen, and sold, by students and international recruitment agents as a front door for migration to Australia. Governments have continued to issue some quite stupid skills lists - hairdressing, hospitality and other erudition - that over time caused a flood of low grade programmes and graduates into a laissez faire employer market. Tertiary institutions, chasing the dollars, have developed some creepy, questionable, curriculums. Tensions have developed inside tertiary institutions, among students and also educators, as perceptions of bias, racism, over crowding, favouritism and different assessment standards develop and fester.
Competency training demands by industry, taken up by governments, has worked against quality, and depth, to "dumb down" education programmes. It has fostered the notion that one can get satisfactory education, and training, with little effort, low cost in a short timeframe. Couple this with a generation deluding itself that each individual is imbued with excellent communications and other qualities, endless options etc, and the nation has a serious set of problems.
Universities have lost their heritage as training grounds of hot bed activism and politics. Politicians particularly from the right have intervened (without thinking and without moral compass) into things like university student unions. It is ironic that parasites on the public purse (those in politics who took a free education under Whitlam) and who cut their teeth in the wonderful world of academic life, and institutional environments, would now demand that the ordinary citizen pay for their education. It is inexcusable that they would along the way denigrate and tear down the institutions that have made Australia a great place. The ordinary citizen stands dumb, and mute, oblivious to any of this. They perhaps think that "Master Chef" is an example of the possibilities and options. (Kevin R beck, Melbourne Australia
IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THE RUDD GILLARD DIATRIBE ON EDUCATION ...
Then vote a hung parliament
Australia, October 2010: Julia Gillard was Australia's federal Education Minister before she became Prime Minister. Then she was full of hubris and arrogant, she refused to acknowledge that as a Minister she was incompetent. She was, and is, protected by the gerry mander of Australia's political system. where adoration of the party, and adherence, will deliver the goods and the spoils and Gillard got them. Do you really respect that!
In a political world we cope across many who are nothing but parasites of the public purse.
They seem to think that everyone will cow tow to mediocrity, and lose their self respect. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's spin team created the Australian "BER (Building the Education Revolution)" AKA "Bullshit Expensive Rorts".
The federal Minister for Education has taken $A16 billion of tax payer funds and given it to the states and territories to build things at schools. When challenged over the cost over runs, anomalies and rorts, by the states, and territories, who are stealing the funds for their own use and when asked why it costs three to four times what it should to build things, as the private sector rorts yet another federal government programme, Ms Gillard becomes haughty and dismissive. She has a single defence for her ignorance, it was done to save jobs. Bloody expensive jobs are they not some would say?
Perhaps the fundamental problem is the lack of project management skills in the federal public service (Education Department) and the trust that the federal bureaucracy has in the states and territories to hand over management, assessment and control to them. The private school sector seemed to get better value. Poor value for money and a bloated bureaucracy underpins the operation of education at state levels across the nation, and not just in building things. The bureaucracy can stifle creativity and it takes a strong Principal and staff to counter the dead hand of Ministries.
Since coming to office Ms Gillard, and Mr Rudd, spruiked an "education revolution (ER)" and all that they have delivered is an "expensive rort (ER)" and a new curriculum that is not all that innovative and thrilling. The $A16 billion could have been used for all levels of education delivery, in Australia, but instead these two decided to be idiotic with the money. Ms Gillard actually said, some time back, that she knows the importance of education. Really? She extolled the value of universities. So why is this awareness This not apparent in her management of the portfolio. The government's allocation to university investment as part of the gross budget is 0.68%. Not even 1%. Like Mr Rudd she has set goals that will never be met, and promises that will never be kept.
If Ms. Gillard had taken the $A16 billion and invested it in education she may well have contributed to an enhanced growth in our national productivity of say 6% - 10%. Instead communities have gotten unwanted infrastructure and the majority of that $A16 billion has been taken by others and it is not being used on education. Gillard took funds from affordable community housing and science and language. How competent do you think she is as a money manager of her expensive portfolio and champion reformer of Australian education? ms. Gillard now has no credibility, and is existing as a celebrity politician. Her education revolution is where? It is about bite her on her political arse.
The Australian media loves gladiatorial stuff and rarely examines the substance.
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and Minister for everything else, Ms. Julia Gillard, unleashed a devil within Australia schools. Not surprisingly she, in her political aggression, sets a course that, (inadvertently) may damage the fabric of deeper, broader learning. Ms Gillard is yet another politician that will act in favour of narrow, shallow objectives pushing political interest. Ms Gillard is a lawyer and a creature of the Australian Labor Party political machine so why would you, as a thinking educator, trust her judgement and her theories on learning and education?
We are in the days of the twilight of Australian labor and probably the Australian liberal party. We have little choices left to us.
Ms Gillard, has in her tenancy as a Minister of government, said that we will face down the Australian unions in a Hollywood created confrontation. To my perception she is an actor and should be judged with alacrity and pragmatism.
Why? Because Ms Gillard told us in the election she had thrown of the factions and the spin. This will prove to be not the case. She is a creature of politics, and is suspect.
It may excite, and titillate, the average Australian voter, and the challenged media commentator, but thinking people surely are not fooled a lot of us. The ethically challenged politician wants power, and public office, at all costs.
Below I commented on some of the likely outcomes of the labor government's proposition to publish school comparison performances on the web.
In February 2010 Julia Gillard launched the "My School" web site. This Australian government funded, and maintained, web site lists the comparative NAPLAN (numeracy and literacy) test results for every school in Australia. My School demonstrates the narrow focus of successive governments and their preoccupation with competency based learning. They are oblivious to the reality that competency based focus actually dumbs down the thinking and creative capacity of a nation. Thus now state governments, and other vested interests, will want to ensure that schools in their districts perform well at these two annual test benchmarks, regardless of the impact on the general curricula and the study units that lie outside competency for employment, namely literacy and numeracy. Directives are already issuing, from regional offices, of state education tying funding to satisfactory NPLAN performance. The impetus is for a school to focus on performing well in this narrows spectrum so that they do not look as if they are poor educators. Ignorant parents are making decisions based upon spurious assumptions.
Expert educators, and human behaviouralists, know that individual performance at tests is an individual circumstance of both intellectual and physiological factors at the time of the test completion. If the child has not eaten, not slept, has had a bad experience or is stressed their performance will be hampered. The ignorance of ms Gillard and her department in pushing forward with this stupid narrow minded and ignorant approach to education is astounding. Ms Gillard argues that this web site is an invaluable tool and part of the Rudd government's Education revolution. She has absolutely demonstrated a poor understanding of the complex foundations of education. This is a political show of strength whereby Ms Gillard states that she will push ahead regardless. ms Gillard is being ably supported by the similar ignorance of associated labor Ministries and agencies within the states. This is a government with a highly questionable grasp of effective policy, apparently preferring glossy media stunts to the harder tasks of developing the nation's talents and potential.
There is no revolution unless we count stupidity in policy and action. One may well wonder if the policy makers within Australia's governments (state, territory and federal) were born stupid, or they just grew into the roles?
Ms Gillard is yet another spruiker of competency based education, demonstrating the political propensity of obtaining a senior role whilst seemingly lacking knowledge, and good advice, in a very important (critical) portfolio. She pontificated that the My School web site would provide invaluable information to government, not available before, for planning and decision making. If it was not available in that or any format then where did it come from? It is frightening that policy, and funding allocations, would be determined on the content of a web site. If Ms Gillard wants to improve educational performance then she should start at the very foundation. Telling her department to produce a life long learning policy first. Then promoting a regard for, and valuing, education, at the society level, in the home where the children live. She might notice how many people have limited education in Australia and to others who do study do not go on to expand their knowledge. The performance of primary school children rarely reflects their later performance in secondary school. This is not to say that literacy and numeracy are not important or that there is no merit in testing to see what differing performances there are. To propose that there is a correlation between the LAPLAN performance scores of children and the perceived socio economic disadvantage of a certain demographic area is simplicity that provides no deep analysis of individual circumstance.
| Australia November 2009: DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD'S INITIATIVES |
MAY ULTIMATELY DIMINISH SOME CHILDREN'S SELF ESTEEM
Like sheep the mediocre follow the (anointed) mainstream experts. The arrogance of self assuredness, and well meaning social engineering, is on display, in Australia's management of education. Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Education, Ms Julia Gillard is about to mandate school performance comparisons. She is doing this based on some false, ideological belief, that parents have a right to measure their child's education against others. She is doing this under the belief that all teaching environments, resources and a myriad of other circumstances are on a level playing field. There is no life long learning policy in the education agency and they are required to serve and implement government policy. This agency, November 2009, employs 100+ within the communications and parliamentary division of the department.
Kid on a tram in Melbourne shouts to the ethnic kids, travelling to Footscray and Maribyrnong, "my dad says your school is crap". He read about it in the comparison tables. This is the likely outcome that the Deputy Prime Minister will deliver the school kids of Australia, humiliation. What of the parents who cannot afford to send their kids elsewhere? To describe the Rudd government as ideologically deluded is to be too nice. They are a dangerous lot who, either do very little, or when they get a set on it and do something, have the capacity to do great damage.
"Gillard urges parents to confront schools - Article from: MARK KENNY November 11, 2009 12:01am, EDUCATION Minister Julia Gillard is pushing her "Education Revolution", urging parents to confront their child's school and demand improvements if standards slip.
Announcing a controversial new website that allows parents and funding bodies to compare school performance on reading, writing and arithmetic across the country, Ms Gillard, who is also Acting Prime Minister, said the information would give parents not only greater choice, but the evidence they need to insist on improvements. "Parents shouldn't have to go to hell and back to get that information, it should be there, in front of their eyes and it now will be," Ms Gillard said. The website, myschool. edu.au, goes online at the start of next year and will provide information on almost 10,000 state and independent schools. IS IT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS TO RAISE SCHOOL STANDARDS? Have your say in the poll to the right of this page and in the comment box below. The information is drawn from NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) testing from last year and this year in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. "If your school is falling behind schools that teach similar kids then you should go down to your local school and you should say: `Look, this isn't about the kids because this is a comparison of schools teaching similar kids'," Ms Gillard said in Canberra yesterday." (Source: Adelaide Now, )
" Schools' report cards unveiled DAN HARRISON November 11, 2009
JULIA Gillard has lifted the veil on the long-awaited school report cards that will reveal unprecedented levels of information about every school in the nation. The Deputy Prime Minister showed off the controversial report cards - which will be published on a website called My School - to 150 principals, in Canberra to discuss the Government's education agenda. But the website, which will publish test results, staff and student numbers, attendance rates and socio-economic data for each of the country's 10,000 schools, received a lukewarm response from some principals, who maintained their belief it will demonise struggling schools and pressure teachers to ''teach to the test''. While real data will not be published until January, Ms Gillard yesterday showed a sample version of what information will be included and how it will be displayed. " Each school's profile will display its average performance in national literacy and numeracy tests that students sit in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Literacy includes reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar. The same page will display the national average score, and the average score for about 60 schools with similar student populations - as defined by the income and education levels of the areas in which the school and its students are located. Another page on the website shows what proportion of the school's students fall into each of the six so-called ''achievement bands'' that measure results in the literacy and numeracy tests, and compares these with the national average and the average of schools with similar populations. (Source: The Age Melbourne, Australia)
" Gillard urged to ban league tables, DAN HARRISON, CANBERRA , March 23, 2009,
TEACHERS and principals are calling for new laws to prevent the media ranking schools in "league tables" based on student test results. Before a meeting of the nation's education ministers later this week, professional organisations have written to federal Education Minister Julia Gillard and her state and territory counterparts demanding assurances that data collected as part of a push for greater transparency in the schools system will not be misused. The letter, signed by 15 groups including the teacher unions and principals' associations for public, independent and Catholic schools, says: "We write to strongly urge you to take legislative action prohibiting the creation and publication of league tables." One signatory, Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos, said schools had no problem with being accountable, but there was no evidence league tables improved outcomes. Mr Gavrielatos said the tables would increase inequality, as parents deserted schools that were seen as low quality and high-scoring schools took only the best-performing students." (Source: The Age Newspaper, Melbourne, Australia, http://www.theage.com.au/national/gillard-urged-to-ban-league-tables-20090322-95ow.html)
COMPARING SCHOOL PERFORMANCE, Ken Boston urges principals: embrace "rich" school performance reports, Justine Ferrari, the Australian, August 10, 2009
LEADING Australian education policy maker Ken Boston today called on primary school principals to embrace "rich" school performance reports, arguing better schools were worth the "greater external scrutiny". Dr Boston, the former head of England's curriculum authority, said league tables ranking schools according to the performance of students in national tests were not a transparent means of reporting results to parents. They left off contextual information needed to make sense of test scores, Dr Boston told a forum hosted by the Australian Primary Principals Association. Dr Boston, a former director general of education in NSW and South Australia, urged his former colleagues to accept the extra scrutiny that comes with national testing and reporting as a way of improving the school system. "If it's a choice between parents believing what there is on a scoreboard, or a league table, or believing material produced by a school, which has very good reason to be self-serving, the public will run with the league table, he said." (Source: AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION DIGEST Volume 3 Number 29, 11 August 2009,)
"If it's a choice between parents believing what there is on a scoreboard, or a league table, or believing material produced by a school, which has very good reason to be self-serving, the public will run with the league table, he said. "If the price of avoiding league tables ... is greater external scrutiny ... in the interests of the young people in your care and in the interests of the future of Australian education, I think that price is well worth paying. Australia had the chance to avoid the mistakes of England in its pursuit of league tables, which had resulted in a much narrower curriculum being taught in schools.
"The English league tables are far from transparent. They are opaque. They talk about absence rates and have no depth, he said. "We need rich reports which explain why a school may be performing less well, not just simplistic league tables. Don't massage the data, no jiggery pokery, no smoke or mirrors, just present the data as it is. My belief is this would offer greater public accountability than league tables.
Dr Boston advocated expanding school annual reports as a way of providing more detailed information than set out in league tables, suggesting they be drafted according to a national template to ensure consistency of the information presented, and be verified as accurate by an independent authority such as a school inspection body." (Source: The Age Melbourne, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/) Personally I think the people who advocate performance comparison are those full of hubris and a view of their own self importance. The rich, the well off and the prestigious. They are the ignorant, larger demographic, who like sheep will follow the mainstream ignorant opinion. They are the people who failed to see the global financial crisis. They are the members of the club, the bureaucracy without the intestinal fortitude to say to the Minister, and their respective governments. shove it where the sun doesn't shine. Because ms Gillard and Mr Rudd are in the class of decision makers who borrow other's ideas without any real ability to determine if they are worthwhile or not.
"Gillard inspired by failed NY schools
Finland regularly tops international comparisons of how well students are doing at school. Kevin Rudd repeatedly tells us he is a great believer in evidence- based policies. So Finland is where he and his education minister Julia Gillard must have got their ideas for improving Australian schools. Wrong! Most of the "reforms" announced by Rudd at the National Press Club last Wednesday simply extend what John Howard and his education minister Julie Bishop wanted to do. The main difference is that Rudd insists he will be a lot tougher about making the states implement his changes. There's nothing wrong with copying Howard, provided schools really improve. Rudd and Gillard show no sign of drawing inspiration from the success of the Finnish school system. Contrary to what Rudd and Gillard want, the Finland's National Board of Education says its system has "no national tests of learning outcomes and no school league tables. Pupils and schools are not compared with each other". There is not even an external exam until age 16. Nor are there are any fees or charges for teaching, learning materials, daily meals, health care, dental care and school transport. Although funded nationally, Finnish schools are run at the local level. There is no central government interference. Teachers are encouraged to develop their own interpretation of the core curriculum objectives in what officials describe as a system of "intense delegation". Although the pay is relatively low, teachers are so highly regarded in Finland that the number of applicants far exceeds vacancies. Reports on the Finnish system stress how the government refrains from criticising teachers, focusing instead on giving more support where internal surveys show some schools are facing difficulties. The schools reportedly are relaxed places with an emphasis on "student centered democracy". There is no streaming. Students start school at age 7 and go through until age 16, before beginning secondary school or vocational college. All schools have to take all students who want to attend, regardless of their ability or behaviour. Which is one reason that Finland has few private schools, even though they get a government grant equal to the payment to the state schools. Private fees are not allowed." (Source: The Canberra Times, Brian Toohey)
LIFE LONG LEARNING. AUSTRALIA'S GOVERNMENTS, AND EDUCATION BUREAUCRACIES
DELIVER MEDIOCRE POLICIES
Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Education, is judged by the media, and political commentators, predominantly for her political abilities, and oratory manner, rather than the depth of her portfolio performance.
Mr Gillard is in charge of the government's "education revolution" which, like Kevin Rudd's dissertations are nothing more than rhetoric and government spending for economic purpose dressed up as something else. The building of new gymnasiums and the like does not enhance education performance. The Commonwealth is throwing billions at building (construction) projects across Australia via moribund, corroded and inept state and territory public services. The objective is to keep local construction companies, tradespeople and apprentices in work. It is dressed up as a major education reform agenda by the Rudd department spin doctors. In Queensland, a labor state regime mired in corruption, the Queensland education department has placed a ban on principals talking about the expenditure and where it is going and their thoughts and views. This despite Julia Gillard stating that she wanted a rigorous debate. So much for democracy under labor. The federal department of education, under Ms Gillard ministerial hand, is a bloated multi - portfolio, bureaucracy managed by senior officers with a clear lack of innovative thinking and action. Where is the Australian policy platform for "life long learning"? The department's web site does not mention life long learning and instead focuses policy on economic and social engineering objectives.
Extracts from the home, and subsequent, pages of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
"Several programs have been migrated into the new site:
Digital Education Revolution
Forward with Fairness
New Employment Services
OECECC (Office Of Early Childhood)
Office For Youth
Review of Australian Higher Education
Trade Training Centres
Training and skills summary
" The training and skills sector, also known as vocational education and training or VET, gives Australians the opportunity to gain the skills they need to enter the workforce for the first time, to re-enter the workforce, to retrain for a new job or to upgrade their skills for an existing job. Australian Apprenticeships are available in traditional trades, and in a diverse range of emerging careers, in most sectors of business and industry."
"There is growing recognition that career development skills can help individuals to meet the constantly changing needs of the labour market and maintain their employability so that they can achieve their aspirations and participate in the community."
The policy, issues and web reviews page (http://www.dest.gov.au/) does not mention life long learning.
Career Education Quality Framework
Career and Transition Services Framework
Employability Skills Framework
Framework for Vocational Education in Schools
OECD Review of Career Guidance and Public Policy - Australia Country Note
National Youth and Careers and Transitions Advisory Group
The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century
Issues Feasibility Study into the Establishment of a National Institute for Career Leadership
Professional Standards for Australian Career Development Practitioners
The Australian Blueprint for Career Development
Vocational Education in Schools
Reviews Review of Career Development Services in Tertiary Institutions
Career Guidance and Public Policy: Bridging the Gap
Footprints to the Future
House of Representatives inquiry into Vocational Education in Schools
OECD Review of Career Guidance and Public Policy - Australia Country Note
Senate Inquiry into Skills Shortages
Structured Workplace Learning Student Destination Survey, 2003
Young Visions 2003: A follow-up study of Young Visions participants and their destinations one year later
Most people need support to help them take advantage of opportunities that present throughout their career.
Higher education summary
The Australian higher education system is seen to make a fundamental contribution to the future of Australia and plays a vital role in Australia's intellectual, economic, cultural and social development. The higher education sector educates our future professional workforce, creates future leaders, provides jobs for Australians, drives much of our economic and regional success, and facilitates cultural and trade links with other countries. The sector plays a key role in the growing knowledge and innovation based economic health of Australia. It enriches our social and environmental landscape and promotes the tolerance debate that underpins Australian society." End of extracts
Commentary by Kevin R Beck: Isn't that just dandy. A focus on being employed. Why is it that a person who wants to continue study and learning, in an Australia, higher education institution, has to pay exorbitant fees to further their learning? Where is the rigorous debate that should be nurtured by a proactive bureaucracy and a penchant for engaging in,earning for learning's sake? Is learning, if not for work, a hobby under Kevin Rudd or for that matter any government before or after at state or federal level. Policy is all about education for employment, short shallow minimum competencies.
The State Government of Victoria (April 2009) has decided that the annual vocational education fee for studying, if you have an existing qualification, should rise from $950 per year, to $1,500 and then to several thousand by 2012. All state governments in Australia are shallow and myopic when it comes to education and life long learning.
The federal Department of Education has enunciated the policy in a trite statement that rings hollow against actual action by governments.
"The lifelong learning policy agenda is built on assumptions about the importance of skills in the new economy. Almost all industrial sectors are increasingly knowledge-based' and economic returns are obtained from a range of intangible' inputs, one of which is workers' skills. Participation in education and training is increasing and economic rewards are flowing to people with high skills." (Source: Australian government, Department of Education)
There is a history of "not so influential Ministers" occupying the education portfolios, within the federal governments, states and territories, having the least performers which explains the Victorian government decision. If a person already has one course then they must pay for all others. This is a very disappointing but not surprising decision. The Brumby labor government, along with other governments and Australian industry and employers, are not all that innovative in thinking and human talent development in Australia.
One might think that the Prime Minister's "education revolution", touted during the election might have some substance behind it and that it might influence the states but not so. In Australia the states have the control of education the federal government only has the money.
One might think that having the Deputy Prime Minister as the federal Minister for Education might mean that education is a focus and that life long learning could be an objective. Not so. Th\e stupid labor governments of Australia, in 2009, want to levy charges on the people of Australia of tens of thousands of dollars in debt loans to educate themselves. This makes the statements about a competitive Australia and en education revolution mere hollow words and drivel.
VOCATIONAL TRAINING IS THE ANSWER TO UNEMPLOYMENT
The myth continually trotted out for two decades
October 2008, the Australian government has been confronted with the awful truth. Projected unemployment according to the government not three weeks ago, would be at about 4.8& in the new year. However now this is not likely to be the case. The economy is falling into a hole and unemployment is expected to rise.
So what is the policy response of the government to meet this rising unemployment? Deputy Prime Minister; Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; Minister for Education; Minister for Social Inclusion, Ms Julia Gilllard, has again resorted to the hoary labor proposition that the provision of training is one of the major ways to solve the problems of people who have just become unemployed as a result of the world economic crisis. The government is allocating an immediate $148,000,000 for training. The annoying thing about this is that training has not delivered, to the Australian nation, the claims made for it by the Australian Labor Party since 1998. Yet they collectively persist in offering it up as a solution when confronted with economy, society and lack of work availability opportunities.
"Training is an important adjunct to employment in a technological and rapidly-changing society, but of itself it does not solve unemployment. Structural changes are required, many of these uncomfortable to the majority who are in profitable employment. Various partial remedies are reviewed but none of them on its own is found to be a full solution, neither is a reform of income distribution methods found satisfactory. The conclusion is that there are many aspects of unemployment and the solutions to it are complex and many-faceted." (source: Long-Term Unemployment, R. A. B. Leaper)
"Training will not solve the unemployment problem." (source: Work and Idleness: the Political Economy of Full Employment, by Thomas I. Palley Series on Recent Economic Thought. Edited by Jane Wheelock and John Vail. Boston/Dordrecht/London: Kluwer, 1998)
" Vocational education and training (VOCED) continues to be a favored instrument of social engineering for achieving a series of objectives, such as accelerating economic growth, reducing youth unemployment and benefiting from economic globalization. This is in spite of a great deal of scepticism regarding its effectiveness. The article examines the arguments underpinning the great hope on VOCED as a panacea for many social ills, and offers a series of alternative or complementary actions that would make VOCED more relevant to the world of work and increase its effectiveness. Many of such actions lie outside the sphere of traditional VOCED provision, pertaining to the macro-economic environment, the general demand for labor and, paradoxically, to general (rather than specialized) education and training." (source: Vocational education and training today: challenges and responses1 Author: Psacharopoulos, George1, Source: Journal of Vocational Education and Training, Volume 49, Number 3, September 1997 , pp. 385-393(9) Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group)
The labor party theory regarding the proposition that training solves unemployment, was first enacted during the initial years of John Dawkins and Paul Keating period in federal government, in the late eighties and it accelerated in the nineties. It was embodied in Labor's Working Nation. Training has been the stalking horse of the Australian union movement for twenty years. Industry Training Advisory Boards (ITABs) were created across the nation in the nineties. Every state, and federal labor government, state, and federal, labor opposition has made this a focus of their election pitches and their policy when in government, year after year after. According to the theory people can be quickly trained to take up skill based jobs in industries where there are vacancies. Never mind that the jobs are not in the localities where people live and the greater number of Australians are not prepared to move. Ms Gillard repeats herself ad nauseum when questioned about the likelihood of unemployment rising in 2009. The government is allocating more training places. She tells us that the government has immediately allocated another $A148 million to new training places. So what? She does not demonstrate how this proposition will perform differently to the past twenty years?
Vocational education has been the hobby horse of both governments and industry over and over. Decades ago industry complained that Tafe (Training and Further Education) was not meeting their needs and the curriculums were detached and disjointed. So a new regime was embraced. It was called Competency Based Training and it took root in the nineties in Australia. In some ways it was return to the Technical College model. We have had everything from Tafe and Industry co working programmes to assist the unemployed, specially created private sector Tafe enterprises, School, and industry, cooperative programmes, embedded job training in high school curricula, new facilities where kids learn to do a job while at school, transition to work, revamped curriculums and internal registered training provider status within factories and businesses. Still we have not gotten the right outcomes.
Workers have to be imported because we either have the wrong skills, insufficient skills or people who do not want to do the work that business needs - e.g fruit picking. Curriculums have been denuded of any deep learning and challenges, replaced by shallow, narrow competency programmes and short generalist skills courses whereby providers can attract a government fee payment for each completion. We have had privatised job search training and placement programmes where billions have been spent.
One outcome we have achieved in Australia, from all of this reform, and public spending is the casualisation of some 20% of the labor force and another 25% as part time workers. A second outcome is that we have invited into the vocational training sector all sorts of players whose primary motivation is to get some of the billions on offer.
Ms Gillard does not state how a new allocation for training programme of indeterminant length and content deals with the individual problem of being unemployed. She does not explain what evidence there is to show that this policy of allocating training money worked to solve unemployment for everyone, the last time we had large slabs of unemployment and a crisis? Ms Gilllard does not explain why there are still, in October 2008, so many unemployed on Centrelink's books despite vocational education training being made mandatory requirement for the receipt of benefits for the unemployed in the mid nineties? There is a mountain of evidence to show that the labor party policy, at state and/or federal levels, has not addressed skills shortages since 1990. Yet hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.
All education, and training, must by its nature contain elements of competency training. If one is to be an electrician, a computer programmer, a brick layer or whatever obviously one has to learn the fundamentals. But there are other skills that are required to prepare an individual for life long learning, work and transportability of skills. Language, thinking and conceptualisation, communication, problem solving. Australia is served well by a plethora of training, and education, courses of various type and depth. Billions of dollars are poured in at state and federal level every year. These programmes have existed for decades. So why is another $148 M supposed to be impressive and what is the objective here? One may read into this that there is some nebulous link between training and employment? You are suddenly unemployed so join a training programme. Why is it that after two decades Australia still does not have a well trained, articulated workforce capable of moving from one type of work to another? Why is it that every time someone becomes unemployed they need to do a training programme? Where are the jobs? They are getting ready to be employed. They are honing their skills, they are being productive, they are ... they are.... When the people who enter Ms Gillard's new training places programme graduate where will they get work in a nation where jobs are shrinking? Why is vocational education the panacea to unemployment and not a university course? How does a short vocational training competency based course assist those who have had their livelihood taken away?
" The political decision to implement competency-based training widely throughout vocational education systems in Australia, before rigorous evaluation through adequate pilot programs, was made because it was viewed as essential for increasing skill levels and work productivity. Recent data indicate that Australia's relative international competitiveness actually declined during 1994-97, suggesting an urgent need to reassess underpinning policies. Despite the marked reluctance of the Australian National Training Authority to commission studies specifically assessing the effectiveness of competency-based training, several independent studies have been carried out. These and other commissioned studies indicate some major problems with competency-based training which has not achieved stated objectives of increasing skill levels. Research also indicates that competency-based training has not been adopted widely by business and industry. The appropriateness of using public agencies to implement innovations which are untested, and may not be supported by the wider community intended to benefit from their introduction, is queried. Revue / Journal Title, Australian journal of education, ISSN 0004-9441"
"Competency-based Training: Evidence of a Failed Policy in Training Reform. Examines whether competency-based training is working in practice in Australian vocational education and whether it is producing superior skill performance. Explores the ideological nature of the competency-based training policy framework and the nature of related research commissioned by government agencies. Reviews the empirical evidence that show problems with competency-based training. (SLD)" (Source: EJ618238 Title: Competency-based Training: Evidence of a Failed Policy in Training Reform. Authors: Cornford, Ian R.)
The Deputy Prime Minister may well not know of the inability of the market to allocate labour nor to clear labour inefficiencies. Hundreds of people are losing their jobs in manufacturing in Victoria. They tend to live in predefined locations.
" A disturbing feature of the labor market is its seeming inability to clear. At each instant in time, there are both workers without jobs and jobs without workers. How can it be that productive resources are left unemployed in a well functioning market economy? Economists attribute the failure of the labor market to instantly allocate workers to jobs to various "frictions. These frictions arise because labor, unlike gold or oil, is not a homogenous commodity. The services provided by a plumber are different from those provided by a lawyerand even lawyers differ in the services they offer; some specialize in constitutional law, others in private law. To match jobs and workers is far from a trivial problem. The heterogeneity of labor services also makes it hard for employers to distinguish productive from unproductive workers. And to complicate things even more, the mere process of moving labor services from one job to another is not cost less." (Source: The Economist's View: October 19, 2006, The Search-Matching Theory of Unemployment)
Author: Kevin R Beck, Dip. Teach 1980, Grad Cert Ed & Train 1997, Grad Dip Voc Ed 1999, MEd 2004)
THREATS, THE BIG STICK TO IMPLEMENT IDEOLOGICAL POLITICAL POLICIES ON EDUCATION
(August 2008) The Deputy Prime Minister, of Australia, Julia Gillard, has announced the Rudd government's objective to measure the performance of our public schools in Australia. Never mind that education is the province of the states under the Australian Constitution and she is showing contempt for it. Ms Gillard as the purse strings. She is doing what the Howard government did. Teachers, and Principals, are the target of her policy statements and arguments. They can be sacked if they are in under performing schools. The fact that this is abominably hard, if not impossible to measure and discern why, appears of little concern to her and her bureaucrats who dream up the measurement systems. Teaching is a complex discipline.
Rather than target teachers, and principals, the Deputy Prime Minister might look to the "dead hand" of bureaucracy within her own department and that of the states and territories, the curriculum boards who put out over loaded and sometime tripe ridden requirements, and the experts, none of whom are to stand in a classroom and deal with the individual personalities of students and their parents. Why do we not test the performance of each and every public servant and board against every state and territory? She might also look at how much money each school is actually getting for what.
The highest performing schools are those that are funded well, that have quality resources, and facilities, and that reside in socio economic locations that support, and value, education. Every Labor government, state and federal and territory, has for the last twenty years blatherd on in their election campaigns about education. They deal in rhetoric and hollow bullshit basking in vapid theories and new ideas which are actually failed ideas proved stupid, internationally, yet embraced by the myopic "arse end" of the world. Ms Gilllard is to my mind another bender and shaper of one of Australia's governments who hopefully will have a short career before she does irreparable harm to motivation, professionalism and communities. Alternatively she might consider sacking bureaucrats instead of teachers, and principals, and giving control of the money directly to schools and not the decrepit governments of states, such as labor NSW.
We have a federal government that is, so far, spewing out policies that are the private, or collective, fantasies of the benders and shapers.
| APRIL 2008: Australian Labor Party
Talks Big Rhetoric
on Education With Little History of Delivery|
"Critics say politicians are failing to commit to ending years of poor funding, writes Anna Patty: Sydney Morning Herald, March 22, 2007
"WHEN Melbourne University's former dean of education, Brian Caldwell, said last year that hundreds of schools across NSW and Victoria were in such poor condition they should be bulldozed, Steve Bracks acted speedily. The Victorian Premier pledged $1.9 billion to rebuild or modernise public schools within 10 years. But north of the border, neither party has been so bold.
NSW Labor says it will spend an extra $280 million on capital works and $120 million over four years on school maintenance. The Coalition has pledged to clear a $114 million maintenance backlog over two years, but has made no commitments for new buildings. It will look at private/public partnerships to build new halls, gymnasiums and libraries. But public school advocates say neither major party has made a sufficient commitment to righting a 12-year record of leaky roofs, threadbare carpets, smelly toilets and crumbling classrooms." (end of extract).
"Schools promise hard to fulfill, Anna Patty, March 26, 2007, Sydney Morning Herald:
"THE (NSW) Government will be under pressure to fulfill the bold promise it made last week to clear a quarter of the school maintenance backlog by the end of July this year. The Minister for Education, Carmel Tebbutt, said the Government would spend a total of $857 million, including an extra $120 million announced in the lead-up to the election, on school maintenance over the next four years.
Schools across NSW said they have been complaining for up to 10 years about unrepaired leaking ceilings, threadbare carpet, blocked toilets and cracked playgrounds." (end of extract)
"Bulldoze ageing govt schools, says expert, article by Chee Chee Leung, July 5, 2006, The Age, Melbourne
"AGEING public school buildings across Victoria must be "bulldozed" and replaced by cutting-edge facilities to help stem the flow of students to private schools, according to an education expert. Professor Brian Caldwell, a former dean of education at Melbourne University, warns that unless urgent action is taken to improve public education, the majority of Victorian secondary students could be at private schools within a decade.
"Across the country, and certainly more so in Victoria ¦ we've got hundreds of schools that simply need to be bulldozed and replaced by schools that are suitable for teaching and learning in the 21st century," Professor Caldwell said. "You can visit schools in the state, and whether you are looking at toilet facilities or classrooms, they are appalling."
He estimated at least $4 billion would be needed to get Victoria's public schools many of which were built in the 1950s and '60s to an acceptable standard. Professor Caldwell's comments come as he launches his book Re-imagining Educational Leadership, in which he argues that leadership in public education has "hit the wall". (end of extract)
Rudd vows education revolution, Phillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent, January 23, 2007, Sydney Morning Herald:
"IN HIS first big pitch for the prime ministership, Kevin Rudd today will identify education as the most important economic policy issue for Labor at this year's election. The Opposition Leader will call for "nothing less than a revolution in education" and warn that Australia's prosperity will hit the wall unless the quality and funding of education - from childhood to adulthood - is raised substantially." (end of extract)
Editorial comment on policy, and action, conflict by Kevin R Beck, Dip. Teach, 1980, Grad Cert Education and Training (Melb, 1997), Grad Dip Voc Ed and Training (Melb. 1999), Master of Education(Melb, 2004)
Education in Australia's governments is generally a soft portfolio, usually given to lower level members of the state, and territory, governments with little clout in Cabinet. They tried to gloss up reality now and then with higher profile senior party members but generally budgetary allocations came behind the Premier's pet projects. When Steve Bracks (an ex teacher) became Premier of Victoria in 1999 there was an expectation by the union and profession that things might change. They did not. There was fanfare about rehiring the teachers sacked under the myopic reign of the state liberal and national party prior to his election. John Brumby succeeded Mr Bracks. He made education a priority in his state of the union message. Little effect.
So can we expect any different in the near, or medium, future?
Education at the federal government level under Kevin Rudd, falls within the portfolio interests of the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Kevin Rudd has promised an education revolution. There is little tactical, and directed funding, substance to that rhetoric. The promise is problematic given that education is the province of the state, and territory, governments. The only clout that the federal government has is in money handouts.
Labor has a rich history of spruiking education reform and training as key to our future. Yet they are tight fisted on the money spend. They appear to be of the opinion that if the curriculum is glossy and "smart state" packaged (under the "spin" guidelines) all else naturally follows. Never mind that shitty, and dangerous conditions, rotting schools, sweltering class and freezing cold venues are a deterrent to learning.
Studies about student academic achievement and building condition conclude that the quality of the physical environment significantly affects student achievement. 'There is sufficient research to state without equivocation that the building in which students spends a good deal of their time learning does in fact influence how well they learn' (Earthman, G 2004:18). Desirable designs include having 'friendly and agreeable' entrance areas, supervised private places for students, as well as public spaces that foster a sense of community, with particular attention to the colour used (Fisher, K 2000 in McGregor, J 2004:2). Today's schools must create spaces that students want to go to, similar to the way cafes attract people, rather than the space being purely functional (Bunting, A 2004:12). Other research has acknowledged that 'student achievement lags in shabby school buildings' but go on to say that this research 'does not show that student performance rises when facilities go from ... decent buildings to those equipped with fancy classrooms, swimming pools, television studios and the like' (Stricherz in Higgins et al 2005:36). In one study the significant improvements in the learning environment were attributed to the better attitudes to teaching and learning the improvements in the physical environment created amongst all users (Berry in Higgins et al 2005:14)."
"There is a plethora of research that examines the effect of the physical conditions of teaching spaces (which includes seating, furnishings, spatial density, privacy, noise and acoustics, climate and thermal control, air quality, windowless classrooms, vandalism and play-yards, light and colour) on students' engagement, attainment, attendance and wellbeing (Keep, G 2002; Higgins et al 2005; Lackney & Jacobs, 2004; Gump 1987; McGuffey 1982; Earthman 2004; Sundstrom 1987; McNamara & Waugh 1993; and Weinstein 1979). Some interesting contentions about the physical aspects of learning spaces include: ¢ Temperature, heating and air quality are the most important individual elements for student achievement (Earthman, 2004: 1116). ¢ Chronic noise exposure impairs cognitive functioning, with numbers of studies finding noise-related reading problems, deficiencies in pre-reading skills, and more general cognitive deficits. (Higgins et al, 2004:18). ¢ 'Colour remains the topic of some of the most optimistic claims about morale and efficiency' (Sundstrom, 1987:751). According to some research, the choice of the best use of colours is dependant on the age of children (brighter for younger students, more subdued for adolescents), as well as differences between males and females (males bright colours, females softer). Much research findings about colour is conflicting, and remains hotly debated (Higgins et al, 2004: 2122). ¢ Using visual displays in classrooms breeds success because 'students are provided with specific examples of how success is obtained' (Culp, B 2006:14)".(Extracts from: "The Effect of the Physical Learning Environment on Teaching and Learning, Victorian Teaching Institute)
The research dates back decades and yet all Australian state, and territory, governments have continued to impede student progress through their neglect. Private schools and elite government schools are well catered for. The majority are forced to endure conditions more inclined to developing world nation states. Governments waste a fortune on bureaucracies, glossy advertising, spin and misrepresentation whilst their own policies, and budgetary spending, create conflicts that serve to neutralise the public investment overall.
Given the evidence, the greatest impact that Australia's Prime Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister, can have on the Australian system and on academic performance, whilst delivering a revolution, is to provide $A10,000,000,000 direct to Australian public schools for their facilities in the May 2008 federal budget.
There are a number of editorial type commentaries below on significant issues in Australia. These may have resonance with international educators and local scenarios where you teach or where others interested in education, teaching and training may interact. Below in the body of this site are links and resources for educators anywhere in the world.
It is my opinion, for what it is worth based on my very limited scope of awareness, and experience, that most western nation governments, and their state public agencies, may overstate the quality of the education systems in their respective countries. These are politically driven motives for doing so. In the debate about the "dumbing down of curricula" and the quality of teaching in Australia, we may tend to lose sight of whose fault it is that the Australian position in the world ranking of educated nations is not what it should be according to those who are impressed by rankings. Similarly it may be the case in your country that governments and agencies adopt a blinkered approach and claim that all is well. These measures are largely irrelevant. The politicians refuse to state plainly that the real blame lies with the individual citizen, the parents, the child and even the teachers. It rarely lies with a bloated and overblown bureaucracy, out of touch, nor with the always, protective teacher union officials. Denial is everywhere except perhaps in the classroom
In Australia a large number of people are simply lazy, with regard to their self education and life long learning. They appear to want, at every age, primary, secondary and tertiary learning, to do it on the cheap and quickly. On the cheap being a focus on less effort and less discipline. Shallow, quick and not too taxing. If they are paying, it must be as cheap as possible.
The nation is besotted with "consumerism", with technology trinkets and the notion that their lives should be comfortable and easy. They worry more about their mobile phone and their aspiration for "wealth" than about the value, and health, of their mind. Too many believe that they can get rich without having to put in and study and educate themselves. They want to be self employed doing beauty, aromatherapy, food, sales engaged in a range of industry sectors that are not the foundation building blocks of society. The stock market, the telephone, companies the merchant bankers and a totem pole of parasites on the economies of the globe, moving money from one place to another never leaving it there long enough to build sustainable and valuable enterprise, that employs many and grows the talent base. We meekly accept that there is no longer just a job for life. We are at the mercy of paper money. Systems created by people who are totally consumed with guessing when the bubble of the market may pop.
The political proposition that the voters usually get it right, and the market usually gets it right, is quite simply clap trap when it comes to education. The potential customers of deep education are disengaged, fickle and literally unable to distil the complex policies and propositions with which our governments dabble. A marginal number of people study for more than one deep qualification. The focus of our education system is on technical - competency skills for human endeavour at work.
The curriculums at all levels have been hijacked by vested interests. Yet this itself can be irrelevant also. What is relevant is that many western nations, especially Australia, have no culture of life long learning. From the very that a child enters our school system they are in a world which is narrowly focused on preparation for work - as quickly as possible. This fundamental failure to build such a culture is jointly owned by parents, citizens and the politicians. Thus they can squabble about whether one government or another has failed, they can argue about the science of teaching and then spin these arguments into vested interested campaigns, but the truth is we are predominantly myopic and lazy as to how own enquiry and and the politicians are cowardly in not stating this emphatically to our faces. How can they accuse us of being lazy, when so many of them set such bad examples in their own self development?
Meanwhile the student brings home her/his school report. It is quite simply a document of fluff. A paragraph or two of drivel, a diagnostic description of how well he/she participated. There is no indication as to whether she/he was, by the teacher's assessment at the top, middle or bottom of the grade in comparison to any realistic measure. There are glimmers of information such as he/she cannot write coherently or makes too many spelling errors. The rest is useless social commentary. It may well be a document about a particular place in time describing human behavioural capabilities amongst her peers. She communicates well. By whose definition because that is one of her major weaknesses. She cannot get to the point and cannot use large descriptive words. His/her communication is as lucid as text messaging. The theory that underpins our economy, markets and society, extolling the virtue of competition as the river of performance seems to have no place in the world of Australian education. Competition inherent in human behaviour is muted down to theories of equality and nurturing.
This is a style often ridiculed by commentators as one of left wing leanings. The proposition that the world is full of unequalness. A curriculum driven by political correctness. Rigour is replaced by social engineering. The three "r"s are no longer taught by rote even though it is proven that such rote learning engineers the brain for complex thought and reasoning. He/she wastes precious minutes trying to discern, whilst screwing up the features, what might be the answer to 9 times 8? Instead he/she is invited to discover the answer in his/her own time and methodology. After all the aim of every good curriculum is to address the imbalance of power and resources - capitalism. The problem is that on their own, without the co-operative group assisting them they are dumb as to the answer. They need to call their facilitator teacher and be given a real life problem which involves working out 9 times 8. They cannot simply jump their brain to the high order response level. The teacher, driven by the faceless people below, is shackled to a "dumb theory of how we learn".
One of the most annoying aspects of the education debate in Australia are the rats in the dark. The Education bureaucratsrats, who are never accountable. They are the ones who dictate the style of learning in our schools. In doing so they neuter any real chance of creativity. I can write to them and if they deign to answer I will get shallow, and off topic, response as if they cut the response from one of their senseless brochures that pass for an annual report. They are invariably insulting for the letter will presume to lecture me at the basic level of assuming I have no knowledge of the topic at hand. Further they assume that I have not had the foresight to read and examine their clap trap web sites, publications or myriad of papers that purportedly justify why they have adopted the approaches they have.
These people (a mere handful) hide from justification, and forensic examination, behind the impenetrable walls of state bureaucracies. They have embraced "outcome education philosophy" and in doing so have collectively contributed to the dumbing down of Australia's education curriculums. They manage their respective Ministers with a mastery. These political puppets, instead of challenging the bureaucrats, publicly to justify their offerings, meekly trot out sub standard policy founded on ideological theory. There is no commitment from the political class. Just a gladiatorial positioning for self interest. Imagine the proposition of holding the office of Minister for Education, as a political career, in order to add real value to those who voted them in. We do not get to choose our Ministers and there is no rigorous test for such important office. The state Premier makes a choice based on factional interest and political self interest. The Minister for Education in Victoria was transferred in 2007, after the state election, to the Transport portfolio. This is particularly inept on the part of the Premier, Steve Bracks. One might presume that external parties interested in education might ask a question or two. What does that say about the political leader, Premier Steve Bracks', commitment to education, longevity of vision and the notion of building a solid foundation for education in the state? It doesn't say much even though in a previous career he was a teacher.
We are in a "progressive education model" student centred, process driven and definitely non competitive. The outcomes are at best hazy and there are measurements based on rigorous and common foundation. every sate and territory in Australia has its own education recipe and system. This quite simply is stupid, ego driven parochialism. Given that most people understand a number (your child got 74% of the test right) it is far more preferable for the education bureaucratsrat, assiduously avoiding accountability, to write a short essay. There is a high probability that the recipient of the school report has poor language, and cognitive, skills.
Based on statistical analysis of the nation's education pass rates and holdings, the parents, as the children, are invariably poor readers. The progressive approach to reading and language is one of "looking and guessing". Thus when a teacher told me that it was acceptable that a student chose the word "street" rather than what was written "road" because they had gotten the gist, I laughed at them. It would all come with time I was informed. Stuff the progressive, whole language, approach and teach rote spelling, phonics, phonemics and direct letter identification, sounds and syllables. Teach them how language shapes a nation from the past to the present. Let them see through this window, just how dumb, and ignorant, they are by comparison to those who have gone before shaping civilisations. The whole language approach presupposes that reading and writing is as easy as learning to speak. Listen to the modern generation and to some of our business, community and political leaders. Have they learnt to speak intelligibly? There are few intellectuals in our parliaments. Intellectualism is frowned upon in Australia and is derided through suspicion.
Give them decent books to read that tax their brains, and minds, rather than just letting them pick on the basis that they can learn to read themselves. They will choose magazines, comics and other such lazy instruments, if they are permitted. Popple cock the notion that the curriculum is immersing them in "rich contextual environments". They can read, write and spell when they arrive in my place of work. The majority, particularly males, regardless of age, cannot talk intelligently at school, at the pub, at the dinner table or in any multi-social environment. They cannot read and write when they arrive at the training institute or on their first day in university.
There is an essential body of knowledge they must acquire if we are to be a learning nation of the future. On balance, the majority of Australians are not well educated, and culturally, literate which is one reason why politicians can get away with having a values debate.
What we learn involves both content and process, not just process. We need to imbue discipline and hard work into our curriculums as they were in eras past. The basic skills of numeracy, literacy and communication are subject specific. They are objective, structures of a disciplined education system. Something the handful of bureaucratsrats, and mediocre politicians Ministries of State Education), have eroded.
Professor Bob Birrell, a Monash University demographer, published research in February 2007, pointing out that almost fifty percent of international (fee paying) students obtaining degrees through our universities could read or speak English to the basic level required for such degree completion. This sent shock eaves through the bureaucrats and the Ministers of Education. They immediately challenged this claim. This was farcical given their propensity for spin, and generality, versus Bob Birrel's life long learning model for deep and critical research. Professor Birrell had outed the universities, the bureaucrats and the Ministers of our governments, for their lies, and misrepresentations, as to the quality of Australia's higher education. They bleat that such statements damage our reputation. It is not the statement that does. It is their collective action over time, eroding quality that will do the damage. The Ministers for Education and the Premiers of our governments, during the period 1990 - 2007, have forced universities to prostitute themselves to get money to survive. Under federal, and state funding, models and the policies of competition and globalism, we sell degrees. Let's not coddle the issue in cotton wool to protect the guilty. The universities, in respect to under graduate degrees, and the training institutes similarly, for certificates of competency, are down to survive. The universities do not test students for English prior to entry. So they have no idea as to the quality of the applicant and this affects quality assurance. A test for every applicant would expose the level of quality (or not) of our primary, and secondary, education systems.
The politicians will not fund tests because that would expose their role in the degradation of Australia's failing system. Professor Birrell's contentions from his research, are supported by Professor Miles Lewis from the University of Melbourne. The governments of Australia do not measure quality. They measure process. Their reports are like the primary school report, I criticised ion the opening. "Sets of standards are not prescribed, externally". If they were then those who are interested could measure them. The current pursuit of a standard curriculum and of basic measurements by the federal government is dangerous for the stats. If such standards were introduced we would be a much closer step to knowing full well that our Ministries of Education are a dangerous, and under performing, lot offering little value, but lots of negatives, to the development of Australia as a "knowledge nation". (Kevin R Beck, M.Ed (Melb 2004), Grad. Dip (Voc Ed(, (Melb 1999), Grad Cert (Voc Ed IT), (Melb, 1997), Dip Teach (MCAE, Charles Sturt, 1980), Cert. Teach (Bathurst Teachers College, 1970).
The Australian federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop has followed the path of former Minister Brendan Nelson in challenging the quality and management of education in Australia largely in the primary and secondary sectors, which operate under the control of the state and territory governments. The new federal government funded Technical Colleges. Curriculum content in tertiary institutions and higher education are a cooperative regime between the Commonwealth, States and Territories and self registering entities such as Universities which operate under state legislation but with majority federal funding. The Prime Minister John Howard has questioned the quality or lack thereof in history and other curricula. The Australian government is playing an ever increasing role in the funding of all education including to public and private schools where fees are paid by parents. The funding of public versus private school education is a long running debate.
Joining in the debate on quality, and performance, but adding little relative value is the federal labor party spokesperson Stephen Smith: " In a TV interview, Mr Smith indicated that "we are entitled as a nation to make sure we get value for money out of that [Australian Government funding] and we are entitled to get the highest possible educational outcomes. So obviously I want to be looking at the standards of education throughout the nation, both at primary and secondary and tertiary levels. The Commonwealth is entitled to have a view about those things, but that is obviously best done in cooperation with the States. The States have traditionally run primary and secondary education and there is no point in coming in with a sledgehammer. These things are always best done by talking with the State colleagues and doing that in a cooperative and intelligent and sensible manner.' Mr Smith has also claimed that he supports the rights of parents to choose the best school to meet their children's needs, regardless of whether the school is a government or non-government school. He claimed that I'm much less concerned about the label on the archway on the school when they walk in than I am about the quality of the education when they walk out¦ I'm very [sic] strong believer in choice whether kids go to private schools, religious schools or secular schools. My very strong belief is that the commonwealth [sic] must fund schools on the basis of need and on the basis of fairness.' Mr Smith has also indicated that he support the ideas of merit-based pay and of the introduction of a nationally-consistent curriculum. Source: The Advertiser, Xanthe Kleinig, 12/12/06"
The education debate is hotting up, fuelled in part by the Australian Newspaper and Professor Donnelly. Mr. Smith's comments would no doubt rile the Australian Education Union and the Independent Teachers' Association. My first response is that Mr. Smith, like many politicians, may not think about the import of such statements. Is he saying that school Principals are not doing their job. Are they not the first line of a teacher's performance assessment and learning culture? Smith would deny he implied such criticism. Perhaps he simply let his mouth run without having put his brain in sync with his verbal commentary. Grasp the moment regardless of the implication. A golden rule in the Australian political handbook of gladiatorial, and inflammatory, contribution to national debate. A textbook for the unthinking politician. Of late these guides are published by the respective political parties at state level. Mr. Smith may be more suited at that lower level of politics,a where damage can be inflicted to a greater degree in valuable portfolios such as school education.
Sydney Morning Herald, Anna Patty, 11/12/06, says "Research has claimed that school principals have a key responsibility in helping to raise the educational standards of the students in their schools. A study conducted by the University of Woolongong found that school principals who are able to play an active role as educational leaders were able to influence student results more than those who were bogged down in management and administration tasks'. The study claimed that good principals were open to change, were informed risk takers, were friendly and approachable and were able to develop a positive school culture. According to the study, they constantly remind students, staff and the community that the core purpose of the school is teaching and learning"
How would this assessment of performance touted by Mr. Smith be done? Externally and by whom, and at what intervals, in what depth and at what cost and imposition? It is all very well for the uninformed to blather but what about some substance instead of theory and populism?
"International assessment expert Professor David Andrich has recommended to the Curriculum Council that "Levels" and the "Direct Levelling" method are useful ONLY for broad administrative purposes. They are invalid for the determination of students' Tertiary Entrance Rank, and are unsuited for reporting to students and parents. Professor Andrich has also determined that the use of "Bands within Levels" is totally invalid statistically. A subsequent report by Professor Jim Tognolini agreed. We call on the Curriculum Council to accept and implement all of Professors Andrich's and Tognolini's recommendations, fully and immediately." Source:
People lobbying against teaching outcomes
debate on education quality in Western Australia"
"While most parents, employers and students like to have a clear idea of standards and where students are placed according to ability, the AATE (Australian Association for the Teaching of English) believes otherwise. Not only does the English teacher body consistently argue against ranking students, but the AATE also argues against state-wide or national literacy testing. The Australian Council of Deans of Education also argues against tests and examinations on the basis that it is wrong to make students learn correct answers and to put students in a situation where they have to compete, one against the other" (Kevin Donnelly, 12 August 2004). " If ever there was an example of double standards in politics, then the recent announcement by Education Minister Lynne Kosky about establishing an elite sports academy in the western suburbs of Melbourne takes the guernsey. Kosky is reported as agreeing to establish a specialist sports school, to be opened in 2007, on the basis that such a school would allow sports-minded students to train at the highest level. One can only assume that existing government schools fail in this regard and that the Bracks Government now agrees that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to school education has failed. So much for the ideal of comprehensive secondary schools where the needs of all-comers are met with the same curriculum," (Kevin Donnelly, April 7, 2005).
"Indigenous educational outcomes in the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria are very poor compared with regional, state or national averages according to a new University of Melbourne study. The study by Dr Katrina Alford, a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Population Health, is to be published in the International Journal of Learning (Denying Aboriginal Identity in South-East Australia: the failure of the assimilation model in schools. Volume 10, 2003-04).
"In Victoria the system is failing our children. There is significant evidence from the experts on the front line (parents, teacher and primary school principals) that Victoria fails to deliver universal access to quality preschool education - the critical first step of our children's formal education," Parents for Preschool Education , 31 March 2006)
"Australia's education system is currently dumbed down, politically correct and under-performing. While those with a vested interest in the status quo pretend that standards are high and that parents and students have nothing to worry about, the reality is that our education system is in crisis," (Education, the way forward)
"Labor's Building Tomorrow's Schools Today' program has become the Building Tomorrow's Schools Tomorrow' following the withdrawal of the sale of the Snowy Hydro, the Shadow Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, said today," (Martin Dixon, parliamentarian
"Particular attention is paid to our promotion of legislation that is relevant to and inclusive of disadvantaged communities, who continue to face multiple and diverse barriers to education and training participation and achievement. This focus is concomitant with The Smith Family's dual generational approach to education and community support, whereby we consider learners within the wider context of their families in order to strengthen the social cohesion and interaction between the generations," (The Smith Family, May 2005)
"Bruce Wilson, the CEO of Australia's national curriculum body (Curriculum Corporation), freely admits that Australia's approach to designing curriculum is inherently flawed and represents an unsatisfactory political and intellectual compromise',
¢ a commonwealth government commissioned survey'4 concluded that almost half of the academics interviewed agreed that the standards of first year students had declined over time,
¢ a 1994 ANOP survey of civic knowledge found a high level of ignorance of citizenship issues among young people'5,
¢ the 1996 national literacy tests showed that approximately 27% of year 3 students and 30% of year 5 primary school children were illiterate6,
¢ as outlined by the Australian educationalist, Ken Gannicott7, the 1975 the literacy test; by 1995 the figure had risen to 30%,
¢ politicians, such as NSW Premier Bob Carr8, applauding the favourable results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (2000) test, even though students were not corrected for spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes (if students had been corrected, many Australian students would have failed), and
¢ the rise in remedial courses to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills at our tertiary institutions.
The impact of the culture wars and the political correctness movement
¢ a 1998 commonwealth government survey10 related to teachers teaching civics and citizenship showed that 60% of parents expressed concern that teachers are either not well-enough trained or professional enough to teach this program (civics) without bias',
¢ such was the public outcry against the left-wing bias of the Queensland Studies of Society and Environment syllabus that the government was forced to establish an independent committee to evaluate it, and
¢ impact of feminism on boys' education and the world of men; evidenced by lack of male role models, low self-esteem, behavioural problems, high drop-out rates and poor literacy. Low staff morale
¢ a survey of Australian teachers' morale11 discovered that some 50% to 60% of teachers said they would change to a different career if they could (the international average was 10% to 25%),
¢ a 1999 survey12 of some 20,000 Australian teachers, of whom half replied, highlighted that some 26% intended to leave the profession. 24.8% of those surveyed also said they would seek
retirement at the earliest possible age of 55 years, and ¢ according to a survey13 of NSW teachers carried out as part of the Vinson Report, 60% of teachers responding expressed moderate to very low satisfaction ratings with teaching, and
¢ on surveying Victorian teachers who had been in schools for five years or less, an Australian Education Union (Victorian Branch) survey14 reported that 21.4% saw themselves leaving the profession within five years." Source: A nation at risk
By comparison to the Kennett liberal government of the mid nineties, which cut teacher numbers and the education budget dramatically, the Bracks' labor government has spent a fortune. They had to recover the lack of maintenance and capital funding made by a liberal government obsessed with ranting about labor's debt burden from the labor Cain and Kirner years. All very good for the media but pretty lousy for children particularly from disadvantaged areas. So we might reduce liberal Shadow Minister for Education, Martin Dixon's claims, above, to scepticism for their political objectives rather than altruistic care for the education system and the children. However spending mega dollars on teacher numbers (note that Bracks did not reinstate tenure for teachers, new ones get short term contracts and have to beg for their jobs again the next term or year. This is the policy of a labor government obsessed with surplus and economic conformance to a rigid ideology. Premier Bracks, and Treasurer Brumby, like the liberals, are captive to narrow minded market theory and greedy fools in the investment sector. The government is also captive to a fat and self assured bureaucracy and the hacks of its parliamentary wing and administrative structures. There are a lot of closeted workers here some of whom are former teachers. Steve Bracks is a former teacher, so he probably thinks he knows a bit about education. He obviously did not find it a rewarding career and there are no stellar reports of his time in that vocation.
Quite a number of fifteen year olds in Victorian public schools cannot count their tables, spell and read with any precision and accuracy. They have no grounding in history or geography or classical literature. They have however been grounded in studying the shopping centres of the city, as part of their social studies programme. They interview people about how much they spend on retail, in what shops. They learn to read a tram and train timetable. They study television and print advertisements to discern target audiences and manipulation. They do a lot of froth and bubble work that is not too taxing for them. They are semi literate and lack rigour through Victoria's low grade secondary school curricula. Mr. Bracks, and Education Minister Lyn Kosky, who know a bit about education do not like to be told it is sub standard. They and their bureaucrats, advisers and the hangers on, who would not be fed in the private sector, dismiss the body of evidence above and more. They create curriculum and programmes that have as much challenge and the 4Rs as a magazine.
Steve Bracks, and the mediocre ;labor party of Victoria, go to an election in November 2006. Such is the state of Victorian politics and democracy that a government mired in corrupt electoral practices with worthless members sitting on the benches of parliament will get back in. This security of tenure breeds hubris, and disdain, for contrary opinion and makes the government lazy and easy as she goes. Build bridges and have Commonwealth games, roads and simple things, but the hard stuff well that is a problem, particularly when the parliament is mired in mediocrity. The voters of Victoria should give both sides of parliament (labor and liberal) a fright and vote in a mix of independents and choose their representatives carefully and wisely. For example only people totally uncaring of the quality of their democracy, public policy and administration, would vote George Seitz and Peter Batchelor back into parliament. The existence of these two and others in the peoples' house, supported by Steve Bracks, should lead Victorians to wonder what sort of person the Premier and what standards and values he has? The quality of education in the state is reflective of the quality of governance of the Victorian labor party.
In 1996 the liberal party, lead by John Howard, came to government. One of their first acts was to abolish the labor party's Working Nation initiative, closing the Commonwealth Employment Agency offices across the nation. They privatised the operation of employment services to Employment National and the Job Network agencies. The government appointed board of Employment National, under direction of Minister Tony Abbott, did not perform well and Employment National went broke. The Howard government does not allow economic, and social, evaluations of its performance by the public service or any public agency and controls the office of the Auditor General through contracting out and limitations on funding. Thus, there can be no strong independent critique of their administration by anyone who has access to real information. Job Network has similarly gone broke on a number of occasions.
Apart from the substandard performance of the government's planning and administration of public agencies and monies, the additional negative impacts have been a loss of training focus and degradation of Australia's skills base. The government stripped out the $1,000,000,000 allocated by labor to training people. It also stopped state further education and training agencies from participating in employment services delivery. It was ideological bastardry, not a decision based on careful evaluation and thought. It is typical of the Howard government. Incompetency is masked and results fabricated until the truth is out. A government of continual lies and hypocrisy that is abusive of its oath of office.
Then it created the masterful idea of Technical Colleges. These twenty four newly created institutions, run by private enterprise, industry and quasi community partnerships, would solve the problem. They would compete against the state and territory owned institutions. Guess what? There were no takers, industry was not interested because the government assumes that it is the party of entrepreneurialism. The technical colleges have all but failed to materialise and they have definitely not delivered.
"New technical colleges in crisis
Samantha Maiden, Political correspondent April 25, 2006, The Australian
JOHN Howard's vision for 24 federally funded technical colleges to tackle the skills shortage has unravelled, with the Government threatening to strip some regions of the training centres promised at the last election. The vocational colleges, which fall largely in marginal electorates held by the Coalition, from Darwin to coastal Queensland and regional Victoria, are being set up in competition with state-run TAFE colleges."
The government minister Gary Hargreaves was told that the initiative would fail, as was Minister Peter McGauran and other senior members of Australia's federal government. The thing is they do not take any advice that contradicts their view on board. They dismiss criticism, or alternative, opinion. For them critics are coming from an opposing political side, not from knowledge or experience. They see bias where it does not necessarily exist. Their dismissing of others, tells us so - "plain wrong" is the common phrase of a federal minister, in retort, regardless of the ministers own capacities to present a coherent argument. They are not swayed by well researched argument or by people more experienced, and intellectually capable of reasoned analysis, than they are. The public service has learnt to tell the minister what she or he wants to hear and they do so accordingly. Despite evidence to the contrary pointing to ultimate failure, they go ahead, lose a million, tens of hundreds of millions. Then then they will roll out the spin doctors to tell us lies as to the intention and the outcome.
The bureaucrats used to rig the Job Network figures, to please their political masters, till they were caught and then they simply stopped reporting the statistics. Without statistics of worth we cannot critique policy in action and demand accountability,. The early warning signs are taken away because they add risk to the world of politics and government. Statistics can be manipulated and so are often treated with scepticism. What is in their place, nothing! As a result ten years on, Australia's skill base is fragmented and the nation importing skills. The government's training agenda has been lampooned by education experts and now by industry. Still they persist incredulous that everyone does not embrace their ideological stupidity. (The author Kevin R beck, is a Master of Education, University of Melbourne 2004 and holds to other post graduate qualifications in education and training from the same University, 1997 - 1999 and a Diploma of Teaching from Mitchell College of Advanced Education, Bathurst Australia, 1980).
Teachers, like nurses, are paid a pittance by comparison to some pretty average careers, that add little social value. Take for example the computer geek, the boring accountant, the anal retentive lawyer, among many others, including the low value bureaucrat, and politician.
For their miserly wage they have to put up with the parent who thinks their kid is an angelic genius, rather what they really are. They have to teach all types including the disadvantaged, in overloaded class rooms with resources, if they are lucky, set by mean spirited bureaucrats, and suspect politicians, who spend more on their own salaries, benefits and advertising their own prowess than on actually educating.
Teachers have to assist children, and youth, whose parents cannot be bothered or cannot cope. They have to put up with a pompous, and rather worthless bureaucratic structure above them, that is distant, and disengaged, from the coal face. They have to tolerate the self opinionated expert who is flavour of the month with the politician. They must remain silent least they be prosecuted, and sacked, if they speak out when a Premier, Prime Minister or President or Minister of a government, with little credibility and a (criminal) spin meister at their side, talks drivel about education, quality, curriculum whilst denigrating what they are teaching and their efforts. These ignorant parasites, on the public purse, destroy teachers' motivation. The teachers do not set the curriculum the "experts" do. Teachers have to put up with pompous professors, deans, principals and some very average academics and colleagues.
Teachers have to put up with hormonal life changing situations, drugs, alcohol, deviance, bullying, thuggery and violence in the student population. They have to tolerate tantrums and the wonder of puberty. On top of this is the sanctimonious politician who undervalues their efforts, criticises their output and takes every opportunity to point score for some political gain. The comments are hardly worth the space the media gives them.
For some inexplicable reason teachers love their calling. Their reward is the respect, and performance, of their charges. Teachers are worth a lot more than governments, and local authorities, pay them. What a weak, and ignorant, lot we the voters are, to allow teachers to suffer this crap and be treated like this. Do we own the governments, the politicians and the bureaucrats or do they own us?
Kevin R Beck, owner of the Mosaic Portal on the web, Master of Education (2004, Melbourne, Australia), Grad. Dip. Vocational Education & Training (1999, Melb), Grad. Cert. Ed. & Train (IT),(1997, Melb), Dip. Teach (1980, Charles Sturt, MCAE, Australia), Teach. Cert. (Bathurst Teachers, MCAE, Australia, 1970).
Professor Kevin Donnelly is an Australian education "expert" who has come to public prominence under the Howard federal government particularly during Dr. Brendan Nelson's time as federal Minister for Education, Science and Training. Mr. Donnelly writes in Australian print media and an article appeared in the Weekend Australian, February 18 - 19, 2006, where he theorises that parents want their values taught and not the values of teachers. This is an interesting proposition. What if teachers taught the "values of executives" who are parents, such as those at One Tel, Australian Wheat Board, Commonwealth Bank, Enron and the "politicians and people at the Australian Department of Immigration" to name just a few.
Mr. Donnelly claims, as to others that teachers are under the thrall of the Australian Education Union and politically correct and obsessive new age curriculum and methods designers. I would put another proposition that might go some way to explaining the more complex world of the Australian teacher. International practitioners might find some relativity with their own situation.
At the heart of the matter is a teacher's preparation for, and capacity to sustain, personal identity and integrity in a world that demands radical shifts in roles, and in emotions from moment to moment. (Adapted from Berquist 1995)
In this paper I am not implying the way we teach is only fraught with danger. There are extraordinary rewards and personal satisfaction. However, teachers can be placed in adversarial positions by parents, administrators, politicians and experts. The standard of education in many countries, Australia, United States, United Kingdom and so on, is as an average of the population, quite low. In Melbourne Australia, on a weekday morning commercial radio show, the talk back commentator reflects the educational ignorance of a great number of the listening audience and the population. The tone of the commentary is a carping and cultural one. The radio host seeks to justify his failure in personal educational pursuit not completing university by arguing that education too often imbues arrogance. Why bother to educate yourself if you can earn a very large salary being ignorant? The radio jock is intellectually lazy. He denigrates "academics" and his opinions are not isolated from the norm. They are not informed by learning but by perception and feelings.
External parties ever seeking an interest or advantage may seek to implement change, or raise issues, that threaten the security of habit of an institution and its people. In this case the institutions are the sate, and territory, departments of education and training and the primary and secondary schools sector. There is some relevancy in the higher education sector. Actions could have wider implications and impacts depending on the practitioner and may question the relevance and commitment of bureaucrats, their own institutions, ministers of governments and the very foundations of the system.
In an era beset with rapid change and upheaval the self interested, the well prepared, the skillful and the resourceful may come to enter, even for short periods, and bring an ever lasting change to the very nature of the institution of education. Teachers, grappling with their own inner conflicts and doubts are caught up in cultural and political battlegrounds, often not of their making.
THE PITFALLS OF REFLECTIVE ACTION
A Shift from Paternalism
Berquist (1995) postulated that teachers find it difficult to relate laterally with colleagues, vertically or upward to outside regulatory and accreditation groups. There are many reasons for this. The structure of the modern organisation consists of tenured teachers, contract teachers, sessional teachers and other visiting lecturers from industry. Teachers are organised into schools of disciplines and organisations appear to be vertically rather than horizontally organised. Teachers may also be at variable levels of maturity within the system and at various cultural points. They are focused on their charges (students). There is a tendency for academics to tolerate the system rather than risk their students being disadvantaged by internal power plays and ruckus. Concentrating on these of their students can result in the teacher being focused there rather than on inter personal collegiate relationships.
Over the past decade there has been a shift from paternalism to more autonomous forms of authority, exerted not through personal power and influence but through rules, procedures and standards derived by consensus. There are many players and bibles in the field of rules. These rules are slanted towards maintaining the power of the bureaucracy and the creators. Such bodies are the Victorian Institute of College Directors and Administrators (VICAD). The National Framework for Training (NFROT) and the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) now abolished, the Office of Training and Further Education (OTFE) and of course the ever present Department of Employment Education Training and Youth Affairs (DEETYA) abolished and replaced with the Department of W9orkplace Relations and Education, Science and Training, to name but a few. Each has its own agenda, politics and regulatory regimes but some, like the Victorian OTFE and Schools departments, also control the conditions of employment
The policies delivered and enacted upon us, by the above bodies, force us, as administrators and teachers, to become introspective. Government policy is that (institutions) will be funded on quality outcomes. This is a difficult dilemma given that all of the administration and navel gazing within institutions is geared to measure inputs and not outputs. There is a fundamental premise from state and federal treasury that education, as it exists, is too expensive. Institutions and teachers are psychologically shamed and must examine their institutions and its internal operations to determine the nature and extent of their flaws. This shift from external constraints and punishment, under the old paternalistic models, to intense control and shame, through such mechanisms as the published comparisons of institutional costs by OTFE, provokes internal ambiguity, anxiety and fragmentation within institutions. (Sennett 1981).
I believe that this is no less demonstrable in the general society at large and the models of government within Australia. The nation must do more, make more sacrifices and pursue social and economic reforms. We must accept what we are told from those who know better than us. Governments are elected with mandates. The mandate, as they seem to interpret, is to change and restructure. Teachers and the nation are exhorted to conform, creating uniformity of standards and curricula, equity and funding, at the expense of diversity, creativity, professionalism and identity. There is a move to mass customisation of curricula for unit costing and for ease of conversion to multimedia. Since the bureaucrats and the governments seem to be bereft of creativity and invention to deal with the ever increasing complexities they seem hell bent on destroying the foundations of our creativity, by starving the institutions of funds, resources and even the physical premises in which to work. They enforce social experiments upon us in education and employment, and remove our own self worth through shaming us, creating feelings of isolationism and insecurity.
On the one hand the government bemoans literacy levels and on the other demands more training is needed to address unemployment. All while reducing the tools we use to address these things. The implementation of short-term contracts of employment is one example of this measure of isolationism and reduction in security and self esteem. Fear of loss of livelihood mollifies our resistance. The feeling of isolationism in professional practice can be extreme, and opposition from administration and from the bureaucracy, grows to our enquiries and our viewpoints. Retention of status quo arguments abound. Teachers are at different stages of awareness, maturity and power. Things may become too hot to handle as administrators respond that they did not expect all of the upset, the reaction, the cost, the time and the effort involved in the reflection of our professional practice. There is a schism between roles. Managers have a perspective of implementing policy and meeting budgetary targets. Their agendas are different. Being career public servants they are not likely to challenge the status quo. Issues raised by teachers can be contentious and Councils may have a strategy, which appears to ignore teachers concerns.
Teachers are at the coal face. For them the imperative is to deliver learning and support. Those teachers who have been in the system for an extended period and who may have tenure are more likely to peruse issues more doggedly. The size of the Institution is also relevant and its industry support. For example the government sought to amalgamate William Angliss Institute of Tafe, a small single purpose tertiary education entity of 3,500 students. The Council mustered strong and influential support from industry for independence and succeeded. Colleges such as Northern with 60,000 students were extremely influential in the Victorian system.
But it is not just from management and bureaucracy that we meet hostility and resistance. The very people that teachers seek to help and empower, to advantage through their efforts will not necessarily be supportive to teachers. They often suspect the teacher's motives. They are products of the Australian community and there is evidence that they have anti-social values inbred from: home, ethnic (community, political and media) labeling, poor basic education and family and social circumstance. Mr. Donnelly does not tell whether it is these values that teachers are to embrace?
In searching for answers teachers often reinforce the fundamental epistemological distortion. This distortion holds that someone, or something out there, has the knowledge that constitutes the answer to our problem. (Brookfield 1995) And thus we engage in endless search for the solution to our problems, as we perceive the or for the secrets of success. Talking to colleagues about what we do unravels the shroud of silence in which our practice is wrapped. It exposes our frailties and our concerns. Participating in critical conversations with peers opens us up to their views (Brookfield 1995). We begin alone and then discover there are others with the same experiences. We might even reinforce the myth that `everything depends on the teacher' (Britzman 1991).
Teachers who subscribe to this theory believe that students lassitude or hostility is the result of lack of enthusiasm on the part of the teacher. Practitioners, the like of Dewey and Kolb, have referred to the moral, cognitive and experiential learning that suggests students realise that they are experiencing things that they may prefer to leave untouched and therefore they resist and rebel. They actively oppose learning. We may translate such plausible arguments to our teaching experiences. Descarthe conceived the mind as being hidden or private - a realm of consciousness totally divorced from the physical world. Descarthe implied the futility, which prevents those who work in our field from understanding the very problems they try to solve because our charges actively keep the reasons or their motivations hidden.
Teachers are caught at points of political contradiction. The inner worlds of institutions have their own political frameworks and these are impinged upon by external political forces and agendas of self interest, which practitioners are often at pains to reconcile and understand. Politics uses up our emotional energies and diverts us from our fundamental cause and goal - the education of our charges. `Being critically reflective may well bring us into direct conflict with organisational priorities and hierarchies of power. As we start to question institutional definitions ... as we suggest alternatives.. We are threatening a way of living and thinking that is comfortable." (Brookfield 1995, pp40-41) and threats to someone's position of power brings anger, punishment, retribution and the fight for survival. "In the dance of experimentation we are compelled to act and change our institutions and ourselves", (Brookfield 1995).
The operation of power dynamics is overlooked in the simplistic propositions that unions are controlling the system and what is taught. Human nature is fraught with dynamics and there are a myriad of interest dynamics at play not least the ego and self-delusion of politicians, bureaucrats and experts. A "power dynamic that is oppressive and unhelpful has crept in to influence the organisation, its... a dynamic that is submerged. The person that you (yourself) observe may not be as familiar as the one you imagine yourself to be." (Brookfield 1995). In dealing with students some teachers take the view that one of their tasks, in is to expose to students these processes and create space for them to become aware of how these processes work (Brookfield 1995). Critics argue that this is some form of left wing agenda. They argue that their values, of conservatism, or mainstream value theory, are faultless. Unfortunately under our models of institutional and government management this is hardly the case. In the daily lives of our politicians and in their belief structures there are no faults in the things they create. There are no faults in their social experiments such as the jobs network, the funding models, the higher education systems, the standardisation and the competitive market place. There is managed cooperation and consultation and even less evolution. There is overburdening micro management. According to Brookfield 1995, if teachers engage in action arising from reflective practice they risk cultural suicide.
Â· `Many of us go through our teaching lives fearing that at some unspecified point in the future, we will undergo a humiliating public unveiling. We wear an external mask of control, but beneath it we know that really we are frail figures, struggling to make it through the end of each day.' (Imposters from a text, Brookfield 1995, p230).
Those who engage in action may be
`labelled as subversive troublemakers, making life as difficult and uncomfortable as possible for those around them. Their raising challenging questions can lose them friends, harm their careers and turn them into institutional pariahs. Teaching is a political thing. And often our dilemmas have no solution within our scope of abilities. ( Jackson 1992).
In maintaining the impetus we must be cognisant of what Brookfield (1995) termed `incremental fluctuation'. The two steps forward, one step back, four forward one back effect. `When these apparent regressions to earlier ways of thinking and acting take place, they are felt as devastatingly final' (Brookfield 1995)
For many teachers there is no inner support. The stable assumptive clusters had evaporated, but no substitutes had solidified to take their place. This was the moment when his confidence drained away. (An adaptation of Brookfield 1995, p244).
Crashing is a predictable moment of critical process, not an idiosyncratic event. (Brookfield op cit, p 244).
Government, bureaucrats, policy makers, top management of educational institutions and the critics such as Mr. Donnelly, typically focus on the learning environments for students, but what of the learning environment for teachers? In institutions, critical conversation is tolerated, only to the point that it did not question the direction that the "managers" have set. It was under the Kennett Liberal government of the nineties that teachers faced sack if they spoke out publicly. Staff were told in mass meetings that it was expected that they get behind the agenda. 'Those who swim against the tide often find the current too strong' (Brookfield 1995). In the educational debates, teachers are not heard because they don't speak. And they do not speak because they are part of a culture that silences them by a set of oppressive mechanisms such as over work, class sizes, low status and a defined standard for performance. (Rickert 1992). If the union speaks out they are derided as out of touch, self interested, as reactionary dinosaurs. They are an impediment to the unhindered exercise of corporate power.
"If you want to change people's ideas, you should not try to convince them intellectually. What you need to do is to get them into structures where they will have to act on ideas not argue about them.' (Horton 1990). In today's education industry government and bureaucracy `hides' disclosure and stifles debate. They enact a culture of secrecy and actively discourage reflection that involves questioning. Knowledge is power and in the modern Australia, something that is to be privatised or purchased by the individual at a very high cost. Information is doled out or used to `garner allegiance' (Brookfield 1995) `Education does not exist apart from other institutions in our society. It is guided and shaped by societal forces and, often, can exert little influence on them. Education must often sit back as a force batters it. At other times it can respond while force is operating.' (Thompson 1973). These external forces are so great in times of rapid change. But for teachers the imperative is in the space of a small classroom, the day-to-day dilemma. Teachers are individuals and for many the system is crushing and the task soul destroying particularly when viewed through narrow prisms of ideology and theory, narrow mindedness, uninformed thinking, bigotry and mistrust. >br>
Harnessing the Winds of Change - Brochure, William Angliss 2000 Pty Ltd
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