Aussie Educator

Education means inspiring someone’s mind, not just filling their head. Katie Lusk

Welcome to the latest update of this page. Over recent times there have been a number of educational events, discussions, reports, claims, counter-claims, suggestions, opinions and much, much more. To cover all would be, if not impossible, a mammoth task. Some will have a minor effect [if any] on education. Others, if taken up, or even responded to, may have long term effects of a significant nature. Several are covered in commentary below. Meanwhile ...

  • Having continued to maintain the site through this year, we will be taking some time to look at where we stand in terms of whether we are able to maintain the site into the future and if so, what shape the site might take. We will look at the analytical information compiled through 2018 as a basis for this, review the commitments that would be required and all other relevant factors.
  • Once a decision about the future of the site has been finalised we will include a notification on the home page.
  • If the decision is to continue providing the service, we will look at presentation aspects we will implement. The site will remain as up-to-date as possible during the transition period. It may continue to cause some delays in responding to requests, so please take note of the detail included in the auto-reply if you have contacted us, it was created for a reason.
  • ‘The Australian Parents Council want to hear what are the education and school issues that most concern you including : What do you really care about ? What education choices have you made and why did you make them ?. Whatever your opinion and wherever your child goes to school we want to hear from you. Please share this survey with your friends and networks. The more responses we get the better. Our survey should only take a couple of minutes to complete, but you are very welcome to add more detail and comments’. You can find the survey at this link.
  • Recently, we made note of Robert French, Former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, who gave the Eighth Austin Asche Oration in Law and Governance at Charles Darwin University which was titled ‘Free Speech and the Law on Campus – Do we need a Charter of Rights just for Universities ?’. At the time we did not have a connection to the transcript. If you are interested and have yet to access a copy, it can be found at this link.
  • The Australian Computer Society will be running a Global ICT Educators Event in Sydney on 6 November 2018, Brisbane on 7 November 2018 and Melbourne on 8 November 2018, in conjunction with Lego Education. Registrations close on 1 November 2018 for all three sites. A major bonus is the presence of Mitch Resnick as the speaker. All other details are available from the relevant pages listed above.

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

Among interesting talking points are ...

Pre-school Education

One of the recent announcements by the Opposition was the allocation of a $1.8b plan to educate Australia’s toddlers. As one would anticipate, this was greeted warmly by many groups. It will provide 600 hours over two years [ages 3 and 4] prior to formal schooling. This varies from the present system which only covers the final year before school. In addition, it will also be claimed to be ‘as much an investment in national productivity as it is in children’. This reflects the information in an article titled Australian children ‘lose’ two years of their education.

Among groups welcoming the announcement were Early Childhood Australia and the Australian Education Union. Labor also believes the States will support the preschool plan following the support offered by the Victorian government.

While there appeared to be a high level of support, several other sources raised a number of concerns and sought clarification. Among these were Labor preschool plan fails to add up on many levels and Preschool claims not convincing. Both articles raise a number of concerns from value for all children through to costs, the ability of parents to provide much of the learning being suggested [quoting from one report - ‘skills and behaviours that establish the foundations for future skills and success are provided in most, but not all, homes’] and a suggestion for more targeted use of the funding.

One of the articles raises Finland as a comparison, but in this case it is probably not seen as a good match. The Finnish National Agency for Education for example states, ‘Basic education encompasses nine years and caters for all those between 7 and 16 years ... Pre-primary education as part of the ECEC is the systematic education and instruction provided in the year preceding the start of compulsory education ... Participation became compulsory in August 2015 ... Nearly all 6-year-olds were, however, enrolled already when pre-primary education was voluntary’. Ages are different, one year is being mandated as opposed to two, though we are similar in regard to the last point.

While the intent appears good, perhaps there is a better way of committing the funds that will do greater good than the whole approach. Perhaps it could be targeted for those who are disadvantaged and will gain the maximum impact ? That would be needs based funding wouldn’t it ? Some might also go to raising salaries for people working in the sector and helping them to improve their qualifications. After all, quality teachers are equally important in this sector as in any other.

“Free Speech”

Free speech is becoming a significant topic of conversation, not only in Australia but also in numerous places around the world. Indeed, some aspects are not even what might have been considered part of free speech in times past. While Australia has yet to reach some of what could be seen as inanities in other parts of the world, there are some aspects now raising their heads here in what has always been seen as a bastion of free speech - universities.

At the same time it is amazing to see where discussion of “free speech” occasionally occurs [as part of this speech for example] and even a conference in the near future, something one would not really expect. Nor do I remember any suggestion there should be “trigger warnings” for lectures [see here as an example].

While not everyone is approaching the solution in the same manner, people are speaking out about the necessity to ensure the use of free speech and exchange of ideas [as long as it is done in an acceptable way]. Among these were Leading university heads who ‘warned of the urgent need to take a stand against encroaching threats to free speech across Australia’s tertiary institutions ’.

A separate statement formed part of a speech by Gareth Evans [scroll down to the appropriate section]. Others included the Human Rights Commissioner who talked about a possible ‘code of conduct’. Others suggested University Freedom Charters. Others felt Universities should tolerate ‘offensive’ ideas, presenting a good discussion of what they meant by this.

Others took a different approach after a number of protests about specific presentations. These included the Education Minister who suggested those wanting to protest should pay the costs of security rather than those who were presenting the event. This position was also discussed in an article from Campus Morning Mail.

One of the most recent presentations is Four fundamental principles for upholding freedom of speech on campus. This is well thought out and presented. Basically, it should come down to being able to present ideas which not everyone may agree with [while remembering ‘there is no context in which freedom of speech constitutes an absolute right to say anything at all’].

There is also a right to protest about things with which you may disagree. Everyone has a right to disagree with something others have said. The main problem for many is the methodology which is sometimes adopted in doing so, and which is not seen as acceptable by the majority of the population. Hopefully, the worst cases from overseas will not surface here and the responses to the concern expressed by so many will allow for the widest range of speech possible.

Funding arguments are sometimes fascinating [or not !]

We didn’t have long to wait to see the result of the funding package for non-government schools. And it has not gone away, though at times it may be overshadowed by other factors. When the announcement registered with the wider community the reaction arrived very swiftly indeed.

This included Morrison Puts More Nails in the Coffin of Gonski; Who wins in new funding model ?; a bad deal for taxpayers; funding deal abandons 2.5 million public school students; Coalition recycles old nonsense with business-as-usual schools deal; Hush money for private schools leaves public schools behind; even international reporting such as Catholic school funding deal invites backlash in Australia; School funding deal betrays states, Labor says; and more.

Mind you, there was an odd comment or two in favour - More choice for Australian families and Funding Catholic schools adequately won’t deprive public schools.

There were, of course, requests by some bodies and commentators for more for government schools, and steps on behalf of some of the states for additional money. Others promised more funding if elected. Still others said private schools [are] ‘leeching’ money off public students. Allegations of a funding ‘threat’ broke surface.If one was cynical, you would have to say none of the actions above were unexpected. In saying so, there an interesting series of other comments which perhaps demonstrated a different approach to the matter.

Some decided to re-visit history and provided links such as - How a Catholic school’ s fight over a toilet evolved into high-stakes political warfare while another described School funding wars [as] a long and sordid history while others indicated the Impasse threatens to rekindle funding wars.

Some looked at specific, but different, political aspects. Public schools losing out in political power plays; Special deals for special interests; and Education is now “political football”. Others simply posed the question Private school funding : Should the Government pick up the tab ?

Then there were several one would not have expected. NSW government over-funding private schools by $160 million; State Govts Evade Commitments to Public Schools and Latest OECD Education report should spark a reality check [Lyndsay Connors]. Even more unusual and unexpected was one titled Private schools don’t pay rates and taxes, [fascinating reading].

Then there were the following - School funding is a journey, not a destination; School sectors should unite around needs-based funding : Top headmaster; We need to celebrate the ‘publicness’ of public education; while one went on to suggest Five steps to fair school funding.

Is the uproar likely to disappear and leave us with a genuine solution to a complex problem ? I suppose anything is possible but I really can’t see it happening at this point in time. Sadly, my expectation is the situation will continue with the problem remaining a “political football” rather than an educational program.

Top of Page

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.

Focus on Soft skills employability education
‘This issue of Focus on... presents a snapshot of research that explores soft skills for the 21st century, soft skills and vocational education and training, and examples of soft skill teaching and learning practices. With the world of work changing, the demand and need for soft skills and their impact on education has become a significant focus for governments and industries around the world. [Sometimes referred to as employability, generic, transferable, or more recently, 21st century skills, soft skills encompass a range of non-technical skills]’.

Fostering Our Next Generation of Teachers : Induction & Mentoring
With a continuing loss of teachers during their first five years in the profession, this is a timely Australian report. ‘Professor Debra Panizzon spent the past 12 months researching what constitutes quality induction and mentoring in supporting teachers move from the Graduate to Proficient career stage of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Findings highlight the components of quality induction and mentoring, which are articulated in seven case studies of teachers and schools’. Report available for download [PDF] from the site.

In a class of their own [A creeping Indigenous separation]
‘The evidence presented in this discussion paper suggests that the capacity of our school system to act as a catalyst for inclusion, equity and opportunity for Indigenous students is weakening. Rather than being places which bring people and communities together, evidence suggests that schools are yet another place where children grow further apart’. Chris Bonnor and Christine Ho.

Mapping Australian Higher Education 2018
‘Mapping Australian higher education 2018 provides an overview of higher education policy and trends. Since its first edition in early 2012, the report has established itself as a widely used one-stop source of information on higher education’. Chapters cover ten major areas from student trends to graduate employment and income. The report has provided the basis of considerable discussion over the recent period. You can access a podcast discussing the report via this page.

One Teaching Profession : Teacher Registration in Australia
‘Registration is one of the most important mechanisms to assure the safety, competency and quality of a profession. Its design is underpinned by a clear intent to set and uphold high standards of professional practice. The Review considered how the current national registration framework is operating, including all elements of the framework as they relate to consistency and best practice, as well as challenges and barriers to successful implementation. The extent to which the Teacher Standards are used within regulatory arrangements to drive teacher quality was also explored. A number of broad themes for strengthening registration emerged during the consultation’. Only completed in September.

‘What does it mean to be educated ?’
This is the 2018 Campion Lecture, presented by Geoff Gallop. He begins by saying ‘In tonight’s lecture I’m going to argue that education has become a most important battleground not in the normal ways in which we might think, ..., but rather in the way we think about questions like: What counts as evidence when we are considering different options ? Are good qualifications enough ? If we claim to be educated what does that mean for our role as a citizen ? What’s happening to the way education is being viewed today, and should we be concerned about it ?’ An interesting approach.

Top of Page

Top of Page