Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

public education: looking backwards « Previous | |Next »
May 31, 2010

Australia's underfunded and neglected public education system seems to be stuck in the industrial manufacturing past, rather than becoming part of the knowledge economy of the future. Australia is lagging behind our international peers in educational outcomes, our educational system is becoming ever more unequal, and the policy approach of the Rudd Government is one of tough love.

Linda Darling-Hammond's judgement of American schools in Restoring Our Schools in The Nation applies to Australia:

we have failed to invest in the critical components of a high-quality education system. While we have been busy setting goals and targets for public schools and punishing the schools that fail to meet them, we have not invested in a highly trained, well-supported teaching force for all communities, as other nations have; we have not scaled up successful school designs so that they are sustained and widely available; and we have not pointed our schools at the critical higher-order thinking and performance skills needed in the twenty-first century.

Her argument is that though some states in the US are notable exceptions, America has not, as a nation, undertaken the systemic reforms needed to maintain the standing the US held forty years ago as the world's unquestioned educational leader.The Conservatives introduced a new theory of reform focused on outcomes rather than inputs—that is, high-stakes testing without investing.

National educational reform in Australia under Rudd Labor --and the Labor governments in the states---appears to be more about setting goals and targets for public schools and punishing the schools that fail to meet them, rather than investing in a highly trained, well-supported teaching force or ensuring that our schools teach the critical higher-order thinking and performance skills needed in the knowledge economy twenty-first century.

It is more about apprenticeships and trades rather than ensuring that students have the more complex knowledge and skills needed in the twenty-first century.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:22 PM | | Comments (7)


What is Gillard up to with her educational reforms? I'm puzzled. I cannot figure out what Gillard is trying to do or achieve with her "educational revolution".

The impression I've gained is that Rudd Labor assumes that Australia can become a high-achieving nation by sanctioning schools based on test-score targets and closing those that serve the neediest students without providing adequate resources and quality teaching.

How accurate is that impression? Is that what they are trying to do with their educational revolution?

Gillard seems to have coped her reform ideas from the Republicans in the US. The assumption is that what schools need is more carrots and sticks rather than fundamental changes.It is more about testing than investing.

Compared to the well funded private schools that offer expansive libraries, up-to-date labs and technology, small classes, well-qualified teachers and expert specialist and excellent facilities the public schools look in a bad way. They are under resourced.

They have crumbling facilities, overcrowded classrooms, out-of-date textbooks and a revolving door of less than well-qualified teachers. An "educational debt" is building up that is owed to working class students.

Yet education is essential in the 21st century knowledge economy, especially when the nature of knowledge is changing. What is increasingly required is a curriculum structured around students acquiring skills critical thinking, problem solving and defending their ideas orally and in writing.

"I cannot figure out what Gillard is trying to do or achieve with her "educational revolution".

The core is an accountability system with a narrow view of what constitutes learning. This system requires testing every student in math, reading and, soon, science and issuing sanctions to schools that do not show sufficient progress in these areas.

Australia has embarked on a program of cheap warehousing of young people via the school system.
Raising the school leaving age to 17 is OK for students who like school and like learning. It's absolute hell for students who can't keep up with the class work because they are inattentive, too stupid or plain just hate school. It's also hell for the babysitters[teachers] who have to control strong angry young adults if they are in a violent pique and the other students who want to learn who have wait while the teacher handles this crap.
Technical secondary education has disappeared in Victoria to be replaced by VET classes in years 11 and 12 that are taught by teachers with technical training rather than experienced tradesmen with teacher training. This strikes me as babysitting.

Do we need an educated workforce to work at McDonalds and work as bank tellers for 5 hour shifts or do we need meaningful jobs for our brightest young people.

If we continue down the American path secondary school is a fun waste of time and students start working at university in their Liberal Arts degree where the competition for marks is intense to get into the post graduate course of choice like medicine, law, accounting, engineering.

NAPLAN testing is just a stick to beat up on teachers to break the teachers unions so pay can fall behind and universities justify the introduction of Liberal Arts programs arguing that students are ill prepared for university. The universities can charge full fees for post graduate courses. Universities must provide HECS places in undergraduate courses to a quota of domestic students.

I think Gillard has been listening to the Vice Chancellor of Melbourne University because MelbUni has run the Teach For Australia model this year - 6 weeks theory then teach in normal classrooms for 2 years earning 40,000 pa - normal teacher graduates start on $58,000. [Victorian principals are responsible for school staffing & they get a bonus on savings achieved on their wages bill.] I think Teach for Australia will be successful because MelbUni has taught a compressed 6 week DipEd for many years to TAFE technical teachers and MelbUni graduates know their subject far better than graduates of any other Victorian university.

I blame the reliance on the Competency Based Training model. Students are taught to perform given tasks without he underpinning knowledge and experience to understand what they are actually trying to achieve. Sort of like RED DOT technology. You takea the reda wire and connecte it to the reda dot. Oops, this cable doesn't have a red wire, I need training in using this particular type of cable. The company I used to work for was a very successful and profitable company until it went down this road. There was a group of Sales staff who had no idea what they were selling followed by a group of installers who had no idea what they were installing. The same problem was the root cause of the insullation issues, and seems to be a similar issue with the Solar Power subsidy

Lindsay I am not sure that your company's experience should be used to judge the efficacy of all Competency Based Training.

The Army uses Competency Based Training. A soldier can either strip and clear and reload his weapon blindfolded or he can't. And he keeps practising until he can. It's a survival skill.

When CBT is used people can do it or they should keep the learning until they can. Normal academic teaching results in students with grades from fail all the way through to distinction. In fact academic boards know if a subject has been taught well because 8% of students fail, 3% get high distinction, 45% get a pass, 35% get a credit etc. Of course this grading scheme doesn't say anything about the quality of what has been learnt either.