We are in times of exponential change and in spite of the fear mongering, we can feel the need for a new solution that genuinely prepares students for the future. Peter Hutton

As is usual, there are plenty of topics being covered in press items with a specific link to education. In fact, there are probably more than enough not to even try listing them here. Some of these fall within specific topic areas. Sometimes these are linked with a specific school, system or area within a particular state or territory. Others cover a single state or territory. Then come the biggies, those aspects which have a national impact.

Again there are a number to choose from among these. Some continue to stand out - rural education, mobile phones in schools, cybersecurity, quality of research, “costs” of teaching [and security], the role of the ATAR, the role of NAPLAN, university rankings, and funding as always - especially relating to universities and international education in Australia.

We could probably add several more that are worthy of further conversation which hopefully will achieve this in other venues. Two of the above have arisen on multiple previous occasions, have been selected from this wide choice of options, and some thought as well as links to research and other media are provided below.

  • Funding, international students, declining Chinese student numbers [with a further potential decline], concerns over foreign influence and more seem to be building concern in the tertiary sector, especially at universities. The demand-driven system has been a financial safeguard but it no longer operates as such and the role of international students is one they can ill afford to lose.
  • In addition, states previously not overly active in this area are now looking to have a greater role, e.g., South Australia which, if successful, will put further pressure on other sectors. And, while some other countries are being negatively affected, others are pushing harder to attract international students [e.g. Britain].
  • The loss of Chinese students would have the greatest impact. There are many factors which could exacerbate this - the events in Hong Kong have already had some impact here. Concerns over foreign influence is another factor [also 24/Sep/2019 16:30here]. This also applies particularly to some specific universities and/or locales e.g. Melbourne.
  • Some universities are already taking steps to safeguard against such losses by targetting other sources such as India. However, this is no guarantee. It has also led to commentary posing questions such as Australian universities can’t rely on India if funds from Chinese students start to fall, and even How many international students are too many ?
  • This leads into concerns over the funding process. A fairly recent review suggested Uni finances – ok[ish] for now. Not negative, but it does include a warning. Some consider Universities are carefully managing international risks, though others may not be as positive. Meanwhile a ‘Baby boom’ could lead to a surge in home grown students in coming years. What happens then ?
  • Perhaps in the face of all the uncertainty and numerous possibilities, it may prove beneficial to respond in a positive manner after an address by the Minister, Tehan pitches a partnership to “get things done” [also here]. After all, he will be there for some time. With good will on both sides, some of the more hazardous of the potential situations could be avoided. At present, there are indications this could eventuate but it will take commitment and doses of realism to do what is essential for achieving the best possible outcome.
  • Maybe then we will be able to address other aspects such as keeping more international students who are trained in our universities so we maximise the talent available to achieve the best for both our country and all ex-students who wish to remain.
  • If you had to select the one event in the school education sector which is guaranteed to arouse passion every year, few would go past NAPLAN. From its inception, it has been a love/hate scenario. It has also been touted as achieving many things for which it was perhaps not well suited.
  • Headlines such as NAPLAN : $20bn flop, NAPLAN tests are not tough enough for the level of maths students are studying combined with concerns over the switch [partial this year] to online testing plus more have finally led to a review [see here and here]. Some suggestions along the way seem somewhat strange [here] but hopefully there will be positive action that leads to the best, most effective use of the test.
  • One interesting proposal was to cut the amount of NAPLAN data published on the MySchool website and this may actually be a positive. But perhaps some other aspects should also be considered. One commentator suggested the declines on the part of the Year 9 cohort may be due to a lack of interest, rather than lack of capacity, which is particularly worrying.
  • There has always been a proportion of students who, for many reasons, do not take part. However, if the above comment is accurate, then one would have to query the validity of having the test at all.
  • Numerous questions need answering as part of the review. Already, we have seen experts weigh in on the NAPLAN review and it is such people allied to quality research which are essential. Along with this comes the need to decide, and let everyone clearly understand what is the actual purpose of the test. One hopes the effort being made results in a conclusion which solves the vast majority, if not all, of the difficulties it currently faces.
  • Better support for students [Ministers’ Media Centre] is ‘a series of toolkits to help parents and educators better support students that are called “Gearing Up for Parent Engagement in Student Learning”. The government provided funding for Catholic School Parents Australia to develop them. It is said ‘the free online resources will help parents, teachers and principals work together to support students at school and home’. They apply across all school systems. Why not have a look and see what you think ?

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There seems to be an unending supply of documents being produced about all aspects of education. It proves difficult at times to select only a few for inclusion [‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’]. Several recent items are listed below that are felt to warrant at least a brief mention. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. Most items are Australian in origin. Follow each link that piques your particular interest.

Attracting high achievers to teaching
‘A Grattan survey of nearly 1 000 young high achievers [aged 18-25 and with an ATAR of 80 or higher] found that more bright young Australians would take up teaching if it offered higher top-end pay and greater career challenge. A reform package should have three parts’. Download the report; Download the Chart Pack; Watch the recording; Listen to the Podcast.

Reskilling Australia : A data-driven approach
‘Work and workplaces in Australia are changing due to new technology, globalisation, changing demography and consumer preferences. The Future of Work Taskforce, identified that moving towards a skills-based approach to labour market analysis could help Australia respond to this changing demand for skills. This report summarises our work to-date developing the first Australian model to map transferability between occupations in the changing labour market of the future’.

Rich school, poor school : Australia’ s great education divide
‘An ABC News investigation has revealed for the first time the gaping divide that separates the capital expenditure of Australia’ s richest and poorest schools. It is based on school finance figures from the My School website. The investigation, which encompasses more than 8 500 schools teaching 96 per cent of students’, reveals a number of amazing facts.

Risks and rewards : when is vocational education a good alternative to higher education ?
‘Higher education has expanded rapidly in Australia over the past 20 years, but vocational education has flat-lined. This has led to concerns that students, especially lower-ATAR students, are being encouraged to enrol in higher education and to overlook potentially better-paid vocational education alternatives in fields with good job prospects. A good tertiary education system steers prospective students towards courses that increase their opportunities and minimise their risks. Australia’s post-school system does not always achieve this goal’. Download the report.

The China Student Boom and the Risks It Poses to Australian Universities
‘Australia’s universities are taking a multi-million dollar gamble with taxpayer money to pursue a high-risk, high-reward international growth strategy. This report establishes the scale of the universities’ China risk, assesses the difficulty of addressing it, and proposes steps to reduce it. The report warns that the financial risks of over-reliance on China are very large and cannot be mitigated or diversified by greater recruitment in India’. Download the report.

The Demand Driven University System : A mixed report card [Productivity Commission]
‘The study explores what happened to young Australians during the demand driven system using administrative, population and longitudinal survey data. The study addresses two research questions : Who are the additional students who enrolled in university under the demand driven system who would not have had the opportunity in earlier periods, and what are the academic and labour market outcomes they achieved ? and To what extent was the demand driven system more accessible to people from under-represented equity groups ? And what factors predict the under-representation of these groups ?’ Download the report here.

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