AUSSIE EDUCATOR

The changes that are needed in schools will take root more readily if local and national policies actually support them.

— Sir Ken Robinson

Covid has had a significant impact on all aspects of life and, in Australia, this has most certainly included the education area. Disruption caused by a wide range of factors [lockdowns, infections, international border closures, ...] have had a significant impact. At the same time, they have led to a wide range of options coming into play such as, for example, the broader use of online learning.

This has applied across every learning level - early childhood to tertiary. We are beginning to see some signs suggesting a potential move toward what was considered the norm previously. There is no certainty as to when this will actually occur. Optimists might suggest by the end of this year. Pessimists will undoubtedly look much further into the future.

Whenever we make that movement, what sort of normalcy will we return to ? Will it be the same as before ? If it is changed, how has it changed ? Were adopted changes shown to be for the better or not ? Are there changes we should ensure we retain ? What changes were not beneficial and should be rejected ? What can be adapted and perhaps used differently ?

In other words, what have we learnt about all our education systems over the last six months or so. What can we use to ensure we have the best possible systems for all students, at all levels, into the future ? If changes are seen as having been of value, then we must begin considering their retention, even their greater implementation, now, rather than later. Remember, no system is [or has been] perfect. Carefully selected options can only improve what we already have.

In assessing potential changes, we need to consider not only how they help but where they can help the most. We also need to be creative, for there may not be significant financial support available - recession, other demands, ... . Remember, as Andreas Schliecher said - ‘You can spend a lot of money on education, but if you don’t spend it wisely, on improving the quality of instruction, you won’t get higher student outcomes’. The same applies even more so for smaller amounts of money.

Finally, all groups should be able to have an input into what is decided. It should not be left to “experts” or bureaucrats to decide we should implement options A, Q and Z but not consider G or W. Input should come from a wide range of people who have a vested interest, especially those primarily involved in its implementation.

Over the next few months we will have a look at some of the potential changes based on adaptations made during the Covid period and see whether they worked, how they could be implemented more widely [and even more effectively ?] and what would need to be done. Some of these will be sector specific, others will apply across the whole sector. It should be an interesting exercise. We know there are often widely varying views about many of these.

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A fully updated version of the Education History page is now available. If interested, we hope you find the update much more useful than what it replaces. Any information regarding history sources for early childhood education in Australia would be appreciated.

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We have retained the list of resource links from earlier this year. The page will be retained until the end of the year and then reviewed as to whether it is still of value. Use this page to access both Australian and International links.

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There is a continuous supply of documents produced about all aspects of education both here and overseas. It is difficult at times to select only a few each month [‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’]. Several items listed below are felt to warrant at least a mention. Many are from this year so are genuinely current. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. Most are Australian in origin. Follow links that pique your particular interest.

Attendance lifts Achievement : ...

Building the evidence base to improve student outcomes. 2018; The Smith Family, Australia. ‘Australian children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are at risk of poor educational outcomes from their first year of school. Improving the life outcomes of disadvantaged young Australians relies on providing targeted and timely support to those most at risk of not achieving educationally. Critical to a more efficient allocation of educational resources is a sophisticated understanding of the early flags for poor educational outcomes that go beyond financial disadvantage alone’. Information and suggestions are still applicable today and into the future.

Equity in Australian Education Policy Brief : ...

Achieving a bright future for all young Australians. 2020; UNSW Gonski Institute for Education. ‘Although Australia offers children a world class education it is not available to everyone - and the evidence proves that boosting equity is the best way to achieve excellence in education for all students, whatever their circumstances’. Access the Policy Brief and Recommendations as well as a Background Paper [NSW Adults’ Beliefs and Attitudes about Educational Equity] from the above page.

Increasing adult learning participation : learning from successful reforms

2020; OECD. ‘This report aims to understand the factors that make adult learning reforms succeed. It identifies lessons from six countries that have significantly increased participation over the past decades : Austria, Estonia, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands and Singapore’. While it does not use Australian experiences, we can always learn what does or does not work from other countries as well.

Looking to the Future

Report of the Review of Senior Secondary Pathways into Work, Further Education and Training. 2020; Peter Shergold [Chair], Tom Calma, Sarina Russo, Patrea Walton, Jennifer Westacott, Don Zoellner, Patrick O’Reilly. ‘The Review will provide Education Council with advice and recommendations on how senior secondary students can better understand and be enabled to choose the most appropriate pathway to support their transition into work, further education and/or training. In undertaking the review the expert panel will give consideration to the different contexts faced by disadvantaged students, including students with disability, those in regional, rural and remote areas, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’. Very detailed, but well worth taking the time to read and understand what the panel are suggesting.

Skills for recovery : The vocational education system we need post-COVID-19

2020; Sarah Pilcher, Peter Hurley. ‘The sector has faced a range of enduring challenges and is not currently equipped to respond effectively to many of the questions and issues posed by COVID-19. Sustainable and coherent reform is needed, to build on the sector’s strengths, empower providers to deliver high quality and relevant training, and address these persistent challenges. The Mitchell Institute’s new report describes these key issues and charts a way forward to create a VET system that will effectively support a strong recovery from the pandemic’. Relatively short document. Be sure to check the 10 ways forward.

Spotlight Report 2 : Implementing an Integrated STEM Education in Schools - Five Key Questions Answered

2020; Debora Corrigan. ‘This report responds to five common questions about STEM education : What is STEM education ? Why is STEM education important ? How do we include STEM education in school education ? What impact is STEM education likely to have on students ? What will be the indicators of success of STEM education ?’. Download the full report and the Research Brief from the site.

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News Headlines

Universities :

HELP debts recovered from Australians overseas [21/10]

Financial return of a university education impacted by a nation’s income inequality [21/10]

Thousands of university graduates to face worst job market in 30 years [19/10]

Uni overhauls business degree to make it more work-oriented [19/10]

¬†University annual reports : information way too late [18/10]

Elect the vice-chancellor ! [15/10]

NTEU lodges Federal Court action over wage theft and sham contracting - National Tertiary Education Union [16/10]

The real ‘free speech crisis’ at Australian universities is the crackdown on protests [16/10]

Universities accused of ‘sham contracting’ as wage scandal in Australia’s higher education sector deepens [16/10]

Cash-strapped universities want to offload $2.2b share investment [15/10]

Keeping PACE with skills during and post COVID-19 [15/10]

COVID-19 exposed ‘distorted’ uni research funding model : Group of Eight [15/10]

Larkins warns : ERA not so excellent [15/10]

International Students :

Dirk Mulder crunches the numbers : down, down, internationals are down [21/10]

Could Australia be the student mobility comeback kid ? [17/10]

Pilot plans to bring international students back to Australia now in final stage [16/10]

Australia hopeful that safety record and flex on student visas will bear fruit [15/10]

Schools - Teachers & Students :

How teachers’ workloads impact classroom management [21/10]

New partnership boosts internet access in NSW public schools [21/10]

40 000 disadvantaged students to receive free vision screening [Vic.] [21/10]

Insight into Student Wellbeing [Tas.] [20/10]

In a year of enormous challenges, the HSC has become smaller [20/10]

PALS program promotes reconciliation in WA classrooms [20/10]

Valued teachers make for better students [19/10]

How to turbocharge tutor support in schools [19/10]

Schools get $1.3bn funding boost to support students [19/10]

Our clever country deserves better than two-speed education [18/10]

Explainer : University fees are changing. How will it affect you ? [17/10]

Lockdown forces schools to find new ways to welcome Kinder kids [Vic.] [16/10]

Video-conferencing lessons effective in helping children read : study [15/10]

Disabled students face exclusion from education [15/10]

Early Childhood :

New modelling finds investing in childcare and aged care almost pays for itself [20/10]

Amendments to SA Teachers Registration Bill sees ECTs represented for the first time [16/10]

What women want out of childcare [14/10]

Vocational Education :

Vocational training leaders fear new subsidy at risk of being rorted [21/10]

A five-point plan for lifelong learning [21/10]

Other :

Covey Bear to help children share their voices and record experiences through COVID-19 [21/10]

Disability Royal commission : People living with disability paint a bleak picture of education exclusion and neglect [21/10]

A new “post-COVID-normal” for the Australian tertiary education sector [20/10]

What is Developmental Language Disorder [DLD] ? [20/10]

What happens when students are poorly prepared to write in school ? [20/10]

Scholarships to support vulnerable students [NSW] [19/10]

More than $4 million boost to turn some of our brightest minds into teachers [WA] [16/10]

Merlin Crossley on facts, expertise and opportunity [15/10]

Screentime in the age of COVID-19 - how much is too much, and what to do about it ? [15/10]

Problemo - an online platform helping teachers make maths more meaningful for students [15/10]

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