Aussie Educator

The central job of schools is to maximise the capacity of each student. Carol Ann Tomlinson

With North Korea a dominant force in world news, and electricity and same-sex marriage tending to dominate national news, educational activities, changes and occurrences have become almost a secondary news level at best over recent times. This does not mean nothing was happening. In fact, there was action across all levels from early childhood to tertiary. From federal government action in relation to tertiary funding and Gonski submissions, information about Vocational Education from multiple groups including NCVER, through to concerns about costs, effectiveness and availability of childcare and early childhood education, there was plenty to consider. A number of these are covered briefly below.

There are probably others readers will consider may have been worthy of inclusion. We regret we are simply unable to cover everything much as we might like to. We hope what has been included either opens up new areas or helps to clarify those about which you may have only a limited knowledge.

We continue trying to update information and adding new material where this is possible. However, there will continue to be disruption to this due to ongoing medical factors. We will endeavour to maintain the process as best we can, but as we indicate in our auto-reply to emails received, there will undoubtedly be some delays as the process continues on its course. We hope you can bear with us and, at the same time, find only a minimum of disruption and delay.

And then there was ...

Gonski 2.0 is back ...
Gonski is back, but who noticed ? is a fascinating piece by Chris Bonnor. As he says, “Gonski was about money and equity, this review is about what schools should do”. In saying so, he raises a number of indicators and questions. He states that it can be a game changer, done properly. However, there isn’t a lot of time in which to make submissions and we already have the AEU indicating it is not long enough. However, people should have taken into account that everyone knew there was going to be the opportunity to make submissions from very early on. If you wanted to be involved, then that would have been the time to start planning and creating your submission so it was ready, irrespective of the formal time allowed. There is still time. All details, especially closing date for submissions can be found on the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools and Public submissions call to achieve educational excellence in schools pages [you have until 2 November 2017 for submissions]. As Chris Bonnor so rightly says - things “won’t happen unless we think differently - and allow schools to do the same”. Why not consider a submission making your point of view ?

Year 1 Tests
Irrespective of what you call them - tests, checks, tests with a “light touch”, it was always likely they were going to raise the ire of many and the doubts of an even greater number about the necessity for them. The Minister released the Report on 18 September, with the basis being to “ensure students don’t slip through the cracks”. The response was immediate. Teachers ‘infuriated’ by proposed year 1 literacy and numeracy tests was one headline. Parents react to phonics testing proposal [video news] was another. Experts outline Year 1 skills check was a third. We even had another titled The Facts about the Phonics Screening Check. There was certainly discussion. Among the many articles and commentary, New phonics test will do nothing to improve Australian children’s literacy provided a well-presented, well thought out look at what was involved, what was being targeted and whether it was really of any specific value. In my view, it is the best of the lot if you wanted to give serious thought to the option. There are also several impediments to its application, not the least of which is that a number of State Education Ministers have already indicated they are not planning to take up the option.

Universities, money and students
It is unlikely that 2017 will go down as a blue ribbon year for universities unless there is a dramatic change in the next few months, and this appears unlikely at present. First and foremost is the higher education funding changes, presently stalled in parliament and with little apparent chance of passing in their current form. Universities Australia has already called for the suggested starting date [should they be passed] to be pushed out from the planned 1 January 2018. There are even reports that Voters oppose uni cuts while Birmingham finds an extra $2 bn in savings from students. Added to this, news that Chinese students question Australian education sends chills through industry is not something they wanted to hear. Whether it is only a small reaction, or the beginning of a larger response, it could have dire effects on the existing system. This would be compounded if other large groups who make up the international component of tertiary studies began to exhibit a similar attitude. China may be well in advance in this area, with Chinese universities showing significant rises in rankings over recent times. Staying at home and attending local universities whose reputations are improving dramatically could be a game changer. This is an area that certainly needs monitoring in the near future.

Early Childhood
Cost and extent remain the major concerns in this area. Why is child care so expensive ? looks at the downside, even after considerable support has been provided for many. Early learning report card : Australia is improving rapidly, but there’s more work to do gives some kudos but indicates that much more is required, especially in specific areas. This will be an ongoing problem. Trevor Cobbold also presents information on a Study [that] Shows Beneficial Effects of Increased Expenditure on Pre-School and Schools. At the same time, one state has closed a loophole. Unvaccinated children [are] banned from childcare across NSW as conscientious objector loophole closed. The loophole, for conscientious objectors, will cease to exist as from 1 January 2018. They join Victoria in taking this position.

Teach for Australia
The concept behind this program is quite good. If you read several commentaries by Trevor Cobbold who looks at reports on varying topics, in this case the Teach for Australia Program evaluation report [Department of Education and Training, Australian Government] you may well come to the conclusion that the concept is not being achieved to a satisfactory level. While there have been successful placements, he expresses concerns about the actual placements, retention rates, impact on students and cost effectiveness to name a few. You can read two reports he has written in late August and early September. The second of these looks at the responses from Teach for Australia. Related articles can be found here [The Australian] and here [ABC]. Interesting reading.

Vocational Education
NCVER is a prolific fount of information about this area and recent times have been no different. All this information is not restricted to research articles, however. While this is an important area, with topics such as Apprentices and trainees 2017 : March quarter, they also provide opinion pieces which are of interest, such as Busting myths about VET : ... [why it pays to do your own research before making education and training decisions] and many infographics delivering a wealth of information [e.g. Total VET students and courses 2016. Even a media release such as Engagement with the Australian VET sector continues to grow contains not only a summary of information but links to further research to expand on the information provided. VET in Schools is perhaps among the least recognised in the wider community, but it also has positive outcomes as this media release with multiple links indicates. Success figures are really high and to be applauded. If you want to find quality information about every aspect of this area, this is the only place to go.

Ditching Books ...
For whatever reason I have been an inveterate reader for as long as I can remember. This is still the case to this day and will be well into the future. I have modified to some extent my reading processes to take into account other formats [audiobooks and ebooks] but still prefer the feel of a book in the hand. This applies whether it is fiction or non-fiction. To then read a piece by Michael Wilding titled University libraries should preserve printed books was not something which made me leap with joy. It is an interesting discussion and as his final paragraph says “I am not opposed to digital books. Some of my own books are available digitally, some not. I would happily have them all digitised. But it seems irresponsible to purge books holdings when far from everything is accessible digitally. It would surely be more sensible to maintain both physical and digital books on ready access until everything is available digitally. Indeed, there is no reason why both systems could not coexist for years to come”. I would certainly agree with him.

There are recently produced items that warrant at least a brief mention. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. Follow each link that piques your particular interests.

Charting Uncertainty
‘With higher education in the spotlight and legislation before the federal parliament, the Whitlam Institute has released this paper, which offers a bold and personal account of how universities have “fallen from grace”’.

Developing appropriate workforce skills for Australia’s emerging digital economy
‘The first publication coming out of a project investigating the role of VET in developing digital skills in the Australian workforce. Findings raise questions about whether employers are making assumptions about the digital skills of potential employees’. NCVER.

Education will be the engine room of Australia’s future prosperity
Price Waterhouse Cooper. ‘There are five steps that are critical to successfully bringing about constructive, concrete reform in Australia’s education system’.

No Mind Left Behind ...
Building an education system for a modern Australia. The McKell Institute. ‘Piecemeal solutions to tackle the growing problem of inequality have been tried and tested, and have so far come up short. This report calls for coordinated action by all stakeholders to tackle one of the greatest moral challenges of our time, and to restore Australia’s education system to one where every child, regardless of background, is given the best possible start to life’.

Perceptions are not Reality : ...
Myths, realities & the critical role of vocational education & training in Australia. ‘Australia’s vocational education & training sector continues to deliver excellent results and outcomes for its students, industry and the economy at large. Yet, among the Australian public, perceptions surrounding vocational education continue to be widely out of step with the reality of the sector and its achievements ’.

The State of Early Learning in Australia 2017
“Early Learning : Everyone Benefits”. ‘Provides a high-level snapshot of quality, participation and affordability of early childhood education and care in Australia. The report builds on the first edition : State of Early Learning in Australia 2016 Report’.

Top of Page