Aussie Educator

It is not hard to learn more. What is hard is to unlearn when you discover yourself wrong. Martin H. Fischer

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

  • Take advantage of the comprehensive FREE Education Program held inside The Education Show which is part of the National Education Summit. Presented by educational experts, 2018 sessions are offered within four main themes; Professional Teaching Strategies, Technology, Techniques for Learning and Wellbeing. All sessions are eligible for PD hours. Full information can be found through the above link.
  • We seem to be entering a period where culture wars, curriculum components and other ways of developing a modern education are bringing out suggestions and recommendations from many sources. Some may be considered viable, others not. But an interesting opinion piece by Peter van Onselen may be worth considering before people get too excited. I don’t always agree with everything he writes, but there is a lot of common sense in what he advocates here. Perhaps others might also consider what he indicates.
  • It is that time of year again. Undergraduate applications open for the coming year. In addition, School Recommendation Schemes [SRS] also begin at this time. Check with the Universities Admissions body relevant to you and make sure you are aware of everything involved with these processes.

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 were ...

STEM Education

STEM education and ways of improving this has again come to the fore. Simon Birmingham has indicated he wants more specialist teachers in these areas ‘to enthuse students to stick with science and maths’. Stephen Matchett provides a factual background about the Minister’s intent. You can also read more in the Minister’s Address at the Conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association. Other reports are found here, with Push to get more science and maths brains into teaching and High schools to get specialist teachers who studied maths, science at university under Federal Government plan as well as with Schools to get specialist teachers.

In an age where technological and related areas are becoming more important, one would consider that support would be fairly strong spread across all educational areas. Regrettably some could only see the concept as, at best, a part solution. The Australian Education Union described it as a ‘thought bubble’ and could see it at best as only a partial solution. Here’s how to get more STEM teachers : end the uni funding freeze was the Universities Australia response.

At least Experts divided on Govt push for specialist STEM educators takes a more open approach. I suggest the process would at least be a start in addressing a problem which is not new by any means. Students were being taught by those not trained in their specific teaching area[s] from decades ago. I did it myself on a number of occasions. Surely a start now would be a positive thing and one which needs to be supported. Seeking more or related improvements can be a secondary action.

Teacher Stress [Part 2]

Concerns continue to surface around teacher stress and the causes behind this. The major factor in recent times has been linked to the workload, a topic we covered in recent times. Further articles have surfaced. New research shows NSW teachers working long hours to cope with administrative load and ‘We’re not being trusted’ : Teachers drowning in paperwork at expense of teaching are just two of these. As the first indicates, recent changes ‘mean that responsibility is lodged at the level of teachers, principals and schools for both educational success and their own well-being, so the state can step back into a role of monitoring and control’. The same article details a similar trend in a number of countries around the world.

At least, there appears to be some movement in regard to this. NSW looks to examine ways to cut red tape burdening teachers indicates initial consideration at least. Perhaps some should spend some time and read works by people with no specific links with education as such but who comment about getting the best out of staff. One recent example is Ross Gittins. While there is undoubtedly information available, more specific to education as well, it may well be a starting point for some who would benefit.

Gonski ..........

While the major emphasis at present is on the funding side of Gonski, there are still people wanting to discuss the value of the Gonski 2.0 report and direction, while others want to talk about re-shaping or the lack of change. Interestingly, while most articles and reports are done by educationists, several are community contributions. They include Gonski 2.0 misses education’s root problems, Let’s re-shape schooling from the bottom up and The lack of change in education is frustrating [but probably not for long]. Others have even suggested changing the school year and school times. Perhaps the author of The great schooling divide & why we’ll never see eye to eye on educational issues hits the nail on the head while suggesting a number of reasons for this.

Aah, money, money, money, ... If anything is going to raise the hackles of someone then money will most often be at the bottom of the problem. With Gonski, it will probably always be the main cause for alarm, disagreement, dispute, etc. by many groups. The Government has now released the review into private school funding. A Ministerial Media Release clarifying this is found here. If you wish to read the complete report you can find it here.

This review came after concerns, especially from the Catholic sector, which recommended an alternative funding basis. The previous SES [socio-economic status] methodology had been applied over a considerable period till this point in time. One titled Family size to impact funding in radical reform plan for private schools makes numerous points, including the important one that ‘the score is now based on income, education and occupation of a student’s parents [using powerful data-matching tools now available to government agencies]’.

The upshot of all this has been conflict between Catholic leadership and the government. There have been numerous reports covering this. These range from Birmingham got it wrong to PM to face Catholic fury, even a semi-positive one such as School funding review makes the grade and a positive outlook in Australia could boost funding for Catholic schools with new income ranking. The conflict was further heightened with a review by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission of an action by Catholic Education Melbourne during a recent by-election. The meeting with the PM and the Catholic leaderships is one to watch.

What will a university of the future be like ?

Universities have undergone significant change over recent years. No longer are they fairly staid institutions seen as catering to a privileged group of students. Consider the following - demand-driven enrolment, moocs, international student bodies, ATAR, AI, quality frameworks, online learning. Most of these did not exist, or only to a very limited degree in times gone by. Yet these are only the beginning of a wide range of terminology and processes which will likely exist in the future. While many positive aspects will arise, there are also some concerns about the future of universities as we know them.

David Myton in writing about this uses a sub-heading of ‘Convergence “of the worlds of education and work” will put new demands on universities’. He expands on the same topic in Why universities may need to broaden their ‘scope and purpose’. Part of the article refers to, among others, the writing of Andy Haldane [Chief Economist, Bank of England], and in particular, to his speech entitled Ideas and Institutions - A Growth Story.

While the concept of the ‘multiversity’ is starting to appear [though it is not a really new concept], other, related ideas about universities are also starting to be discussed. ‘Multiversities’ a new weapon in beating the bots is another recent article by Haldane covering this aspect.

A different more local response is Education : ‘Bite-sized degrees’, online-only students, the future of Australian universities. At the same time, the potential combination of two universities in South Australia suggest a move toward larger universities, while Selfish standards curb competition expresses concern over the limited possibility of increasing the number of local universities, and in doing so details a number of the obstacles preventing this.

While these are concerned with structures and roles there are also those showing links between universities [and other tertiary education] and life changes which will modify future learning processes. Lifelong learning and ways of achieving this are becoming a greater areas of concern than previously. Merging work and learning to develop the human skills that matter suggests ‘The future of work will require a more flexible, dynamic, and equitable system of preparation. A map of this system may look less like a highway and more like the iconic web of circles and intersections of the London Underground’. It discusses many of the concerns about changing work requirements, preparation, training and more - and how institutions and bodies will face up to these.

While universities have been relatively stable in structure, presentation and coping with the perceived requirements of the world of work over recent years, the above suggests this may not last for long. Already there are changes in structures and presentation beginning to appear. The above suggests we need to be aware of, and begin preparing for, the bigger changes that are certain to appear.

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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.

Challenges in STEM Learning in Australian Schools
‘Australian STEM education seems caught in a whirlpool of problems that are contributing to each other. It is not possible to break out of the downward cycle from within the current system and it requires policy changes that address the issues raised in this report. This report is informed by a literature and policy review undertaken by the authors in 2017, as well as by the key messages of the ACER 2016 Research Conference, Improving STEM Learning : What will it take ?’.

National Industry Insights Report
A first view this may not appear all that educational. In fact, though, it ‘provides high-level analysis of industry skills needs, and the factors and trends affecting the demand for skills at a national and cross-industry level’. In an age when skill requirements are changing rapidly and schools are often struggling to keep up and cope with these changes, some background information could be of considerable value.

Participation in tertiary education in Australia
‘Australia needs more people participating in vocational education and training [VET] or university studies to ensure our future prosperity. However under current policy settings, a smaller proportion of Australians will take up tertiary studies into the next decade, if recent trends continue’. Peter Noonan and Sarah Pilcher do a great job of looking at this and making numerous conclusions.

The State of Student Social and Emotional Health
‘The Report makes a valuable contribution to the expansion of collective knowledge on the topic of student social and emotional health. It unveils groundbreaking findings into the social and emotional well-being of more than 10 000 Australian students from Prep through to Year 12, as perceived by both students and their teachers’. Importance, definition, Important Findings, variation between teacher and student perceptions and much more.

Unique individuals, broad skills
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training. ‘The Committee was required to inquire into and report on how students are supported from school to work including a number of specific matters’. This report gives details of the process and their findings.

What the Gonski 2 Review got wrong
Jennifer Buckingham and Blaise Joseph are very clear about what they feel is wrong. Their introduction states ‘This policy paper is not a point-by-point critique of the Gonski 2.0 report [‘the Review’]. It is rather an analysis of some of the key recommendations, and an appraisal of the Review’s fulfilment of the Terms of Reference’. See if you agree with their analysis.

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