Aussie Educator

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Albert Einstein

Welcome to a new page. There seems to be a miscellany of topics to consider. These range from the New child care package through to Gonski Funding [as if it ever went away], student dissociation from their studies, people not wanting to be at the university they are attending, concerns about vocational education, international education and those perennial favourites - NAPLAN and the role of the ATAR - to name just a few. Of course, financial consideration always puts its head above the parapet whenever education is mentioned, and this continued to be the case over recent times.

At the same time, gifted education and selective schools, in particular, were given a right going over from many quarters, and for a host of reasons. Some of the comments ranged from too far for students to travel, only elites could attend, coaching to ensure entry was wrong, social cohesion was being destroyed, ... . More on this below. In addition, we note the following specific reminders for your information.

  • The New child care package will come into force from 2 July 2018 and ‘the child care fee assistance your family receives will change’. If you have not already dealt with this, or want to find additional information visit this site.
  • The National Review of Teacher Registration is under way and you have the opportunity to make your thoughts known. However, the closing date for submissions is 7 May 2018. If you are interested, you need to get moving.
  • Wikispaces has been around for some time and has been used by numerous education personnel to produce quality resources which are used by many in the profession. Regrettably, Wikispaces is about to close. Classroom and free wikis will end on 31 July 2018, while other types will end at later dates. If you value them, now is the time to ensure you have copies and perhaps to thank those whose work has helped you over a period of time. Perhaps people will be shifting content to other sites and this could provide valuable information for you as well. More information from the site.

We have also included new articles in the relevant section. Some of these are also referred to in the commentary. There seems to be an unending supply of documents and articles being produced in this area and it often proves difficult to select only the few that appear. As someone said - ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’.

Among major talking points were ...

As has occurred for some time, ‘Gonski’ has been in the news for multiple reasons over recent times. Financial concerns are always raised and for a variety of reasons. Why is the funding of Catholic schools so controversial ? takes a long look at this and raises a number of valid points about one aspect. Another recent article titled The School Funding Wars looks at what is happening and what the future might bring. The political ramifications are well covered. An earlier occurrence of this particular funding is covered by Chris Bonnor, the title of which ends with the word ... again ?. A second article by Chris Bonnor is also included in the next paragraph. This Fairfax article is also quite dismissive of the case for additional funding for the Catholic sector. The Public school lobby was similarly prepared to speak up against what they saw as a Labor promise to increase funding. Trevor Cobbold continues looking at this area with a number of articles. Finally, a specific Conversation article looks at the fact Catholic schools [like government schools] are all different, have different needs and should be supported as to their needs not because they are included in one system.

Of greater importance is the fact that the government has now received the second Gonski report [not yet publicly released]. Chris Bonnor poses the question, Has Gonski stepped outside the square ?. He indicates, Gonski asked us what students need to learn at school and how their achievement can be measured; Gonski also asked what we can do to improve learning for all students; Gonski has asked us to be specific about what works and what gets in the way. Hopefully these are questions answered in the report and are then implemented in such a way as to ensure they have real impact in helping all who need it, for as he says ‘School leaders and their peak groups especially need to remember what happened after the first Gonski review, how an opportunity to create a far more even playing field for all students was substantially lost. We can’t afford to make the same mistake twice’. What he says is also reflected in many ways in this article in The Educator Online. It will be fascinating to see where we go.

Gifted Education and Selective Schools
Since an article by Rob Stokes earlier in the year, this topic has festered along quite nicely, especially in NSW. In recent articles they have well and truly been put to the sword for a wide range of things. These include [but are probably not just limited to] Selective school students miss out on broad education; Sydney students travelling ‘phenomenal distances’ to get to school every day; Selective schools are ‘part of the problem’ [selective schools debate]; they condemn other students to second-rate schools [how would you feel if you were one of the other schools?]; one asks Are selective schools catering to the privileged ?; people being coached so they can gain entry and suggesting it’s time to reintroduce zoning restrictions for Selective schools. Everyone seemed to want get into the act - individuals, associations, unions, pundits, the public, ...

In response, I doubt there are few of us who could have responded as well as Yan Zhai, a Year 12 student at North Sydney Girls High School. Her opinion piece needs no one to speak up for it. It could easily cause many others who take an opposing view to consider whether there is an alternative to what they espouse. It comes highly recommended.

A review of the NAPLAN writing test by Les Perelman has found it to be ‘ one of the strangest writing tests I have ever seen’ [commissioned by the NSWTF]. It is also covered here. This brought support from the Australian Education Union and groups such as the WA Principals’ Association, all calling for time out and a review of the testing process.

The current process wasn’t helped by headlines such as Holiday Classes to cram for NAPLAN. At the same time we saw an Australian author sitting the test in similar conditions to students and providing her reaction to the difficulty level encountered. One school was even going to use Paw Power to offset stress during the tests. Even the Illawarra Mercury managed an article entitled NAPLAN’s days numbered [paper edition]. Perhaps it really is time to a] clarify what the test is actually designed to do and b] look at whether the tests are the most appropriate for purpose.

A number of people have questioned the role of the ATAR in recent weeks, not least in areas such as maintenance of HSC languages and in Engineering [Chief Scientist]. This can also link back to a report from the Mitchell Institute. They feel ‘It is time to look across our education system, decide what we want it to deliver for young people, for communities and for our future economy and rethink what role, if any, the ATAR should play’. An interesting piece of information from this is that only one in four undergraduates actually were admitted based on this measure.

A variety of people began commenting in relation to its use. These included Andrew Norton [The uses of ATAR] who provides a good background descriptor of its use. Linda Kristjanson [Vice Chancellor, Swinburne] suggests ‘unis should develop ATAR alternatives’. Campus Morning Mail carried several items, probably the most interesting of which is perhaps It’s not over for the ATAR. Check the last sentence in particular, even if it may not end with the same title. Others can be found here, here [opinion] and here. Interesting times, but don’t expect any change too soon. It is more likely to simply evolve into something different over a period of time..

Unis seem to be in the news for all sorts of reasons at the moment. Record numbers confirm Australia as international education powerhouse and Chinese defy warnings and flock to Australian universities are positive, even though one Australian academic suggests Unis fear offending Chinese [government]. This dichotomy is going to be one of the major problems needing to be dealt with by Catriona Kackson the new Universities Australia CEO.

She will also face the ongoing discussion about where universities might go in the future. A most recent view is Get agile or prepare to fail. Other recent articles include An opportunity for unis to embrace change and To get government and unis talking focus on what middle Australia wants. Is this something new ? No, you only have to go back a while to see similar articles and thoughts being presented for consideration. We are even being told to learn from the UK. At least one university is holding a discussion on the The future of Australian Universities. This is one area that will not go away.

Meanwhile money raises its head again with the Student loan bill passing through the Reps though it will not be going to the Senate until May. Success will depend on convincing enough cross benchers to support the bill. There seems to be some chance of this at the moment. For an interesting discussion on similar programs in four countries, you might consider this New York Times presentation.

Vocational Education
The ‘poor cousin’ of the tertiary sector continues to suffer. Recent news does not seem to hold out great hope for a return to the better days of the past. VET in real danger is only one of many items surfacing in the last month alone. Link this with reports such as Vocational education enrolments ‘in free-fall’, Skills shortage fed by weakness in vocational education and Sinking VET levels spell trouble and you begin to realise how dire the situation must appear for what was once a thriving, essential and student and community supported entity.

Ally this to the continuing saga of fee abuse as evidenced in Australia’s vocational education system is still creating victims and Hundreds of ‘students’ complain about debts they did not know they had, even though there has been considerable work in this area, and the situation only gets worse.

One potential glimmer of hope comes from the recent Halsey Review of Rural Education where he indicates ‘It is clear that the issues of adequate funding for TAFE, access to and the costs of programs for students, designing new flexible offerings and enhanced qualification scaffolding and recognition with universities must all be included in a “root and branch” review’. This is supported as well in a piece titled TAFE and Uni - it’s time to reset the funding model in entirety. At last ! Now if only it can be implemented, some degree of sanity about the comparative [supplementary ?] values of these two components of the tertiary sector may finally be attained. One can always hope.

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There are recently produced items that 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 interests.

Dispelling Educational Myths
A fairly short ‘taster’ to start the section. ‘John Hattie has looked at tens of thousands of studies involving hundreds of millions of students worldwide to analyse a number of myths versus reality in regards to teaching and learning outcomes. Some of those are outlined here’.

School education : a quick guide to key internet links
Authored by Marilyn Harrington for Parliamentary Library. ‘This quick guide provides links to essential resources relating to Australian schooling, policy and administrative frameworks, and numerous state and territory government websites’. Available to download.

The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2017
We mentioned this report recently and noted the reaction to it from a number of sources. This is the data used to reach a range of conclusions. ‘The aim of this research project was to conduct a longitudinal study monitoring school principals and deputy/assistant principals’ health and wellbeing annually. Principals and deputy/assistant principals’ health and wellbeing in differing school types, levels and size will be monitored along with lifestyle choices such as exercise and diet and the professional and personal social support networks available to individuals’.

Crunching the Number ...
Exploring the use and usefulness of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank [ATAR]. ‘There is a growing disconnect between the role ATAR plays in schools and universities. Only one in four domestic undergraduate students were admitted to courses based on their ATAR in 2016, down from one in three in 2014. This is at odds with the message reinforced by schools, families and the media – that the ATAR is everything’. This discussion paper may clarify aspects of this for you.

The Piccoli Prescription
An essay in Inside Story by Tom Greenwell. There is a further statement - ‘The former NSW education minister says Australia has a cultural problem when it comes to schooling’. Rather than provide a summary, the piece is short enough, and easy enough, to read to appreciate what was involved at the time and what his actions and beliefs meant.

The Lessons Students Learn
This piece by Sarah Bruch and Joe Soss is one article that is not Australian based, but is still worth reading for what it contains. While some of the basis of their writings does not specifically apply in Australia, one could argue there are some similarities under different titles. It makes for interesting reading.

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