Aussie Educator

The apathy, disconnection, or lack of self-esteem that causes students to disengage in school - to stop caring - is not inherent. It is learned behaviour. Ron Berger

As someone once said, ‘We live in interesting times’. This applies in many areas. Internationally, we have increasing chances of conflict. Nationally, we seem in many ways to have, or about to have, a disfunctional parliamentary process with the dual citizenship high court action. We also have two topics dominating the airwaves. The same-sex marriage plebiscite [survey, ...] and disagreement over the best way to solve the energy crisis and cost are dominating all other topics. There is also plenty of action at a state and local level.

Education, like many other areas, is being swamped. This does not say things are not happening. In fact, they are occurring in a number of education areas, most just not gaining much media traction. 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.

Once things settle, we will carry out our annual review of the site. Among other things this will consider which pages are still being used by visitors and which should be considered for archiving or removal, what things can be done to improve the site, and taking into account present circumstances, whether we can continue to maintain the site through 2018. At this time, the intent is to do so, though there may be some modifications to cater for these other factors. We will keep people in the loop as soon as data has been crunched and decisions made.

And then there is ...

Graduate Employment
This has been a hot topic for a while with concern many graduates were not finding employment soon after graduation, while employment in their chosen field was also in some dispute. Earlier reports such as University graduates struggle to find full-time work as enrolments increase, study finds and Good news at last for graduates hunting jobs suggest a level of volatility in their success rate.

Earlier this year, The Conversation produced an article, taking a different approach to viewing this process. It concludes at one point, ‘What has been largely ignored in debates about the TEF so far is the tenuous connection between teaching quality and employment outcomes’. The same area has been followed up recently by Belinda Robinson [Universities Australia].

Most graduates find right jobs addresses what she sees as several claims made about graduates and the employability of the increasing numbers of graduates. Her description of the use of the word truthiness is an interesting one. At the same time, she is able to quote figures and facts which support her contention that current graduates are showing the skills needed to gain and maintain employment in appropriate positions.

Andreas Schleicher
Andreas Schleicher is Director-General of the OECD’s Directorate of Education and has been in Australia recently talking about education, including Australian education. Where Australia’s education system is going wrong, OECD expert reads Australian schools the riot act and Australia’s ‘tolerance of failure’ behind declining PISA results provide recent reporting.

Further reporting, Lessons to be learned from the world’s education leaders, provides a less frenetic explanation for all our apparent ills. This had a print title of ‘Putting a value on education’ and this is perhaps the core of the concern.

There are certainly eddies swirling around education related to what education is, what people want it to be, what should and should not be included, etc.. It is an area which will always arise but which needs to be addressed. It is also not something new. There were always suggestions about approaches, potential inclusions, who should be responsible for what in non-academic areas throughout all my time in the profession and since retirement.

It will probably continue forever. But in an ever changing world, we need to make decisions that will work to the best advantage for all connected with education including both those who have to provide it and those who will hopefully benefit from it. It will require courage to do so, but we need to bite the bullet now, not keep postponing it.

Gonski 2.0 Review
This is also called the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. You still have the opportunity to put your point of view, with the closing date for submissions being 2 November 2017.

Chris Bonnor [A rare opportunity to fix schools] provides a relevant and quality article. Take the opportunity to read what Chris Bonnor has to say. There is truth and much common sense in the words and suggestions he has provided.

Contract Cheating
I must admit, when I first came across a reference to this I was a little at a loss, but all was finally revealed. For those who are not sure what it covers, the cheating part is probably clear. The contract section refers to buying essays and work from other sources and passing them off as your own.

Is it new ? No, I recall numerous suggestions of it over many years, while there have been several well reported examples of this. As this report claims, Cheating at university is on the rise : study it still persists. Now TEQSA is becoming more heavily involved.

TEQSA outlines ways to cut contract cheating provides full details of what has been done. The two Notes are clarified and it has provided a range of practices from the tertiary sector designed to minimise, if not eliminate, the practice. One can only wish them well in achieving this objective, as it ensures that all students are therefore on a level playing field, at least as far as their personal provision of work goes.

Almost on a regular basis, the study of languages in Australia fluctuates from enthusiasm to almost despair. We have surges of support [and some still exist] and lapses of disappointment. Languages face funding hit is one such downer. As the article leads off - ‘Future professionals called on to navigate an ever more globalised economy will be denied the language skills they need by a stumble in government policy, academics have warned.’.

Perhaps the concerns expressed in that article reflect an earlier one by Jane Orton [Our Monolingual Complacency] This is a well thought out piece which begins by quoting from a 1990 statement by Elaine Mckay who said ‘If we want to produce Asian expertise from our universities we must have students who have a head start in Asian languages and familiarity with the background of the region’. The figures and program she then goes on to quote do not augur well for the future unless there is significant change on many levels.

‘Little Soldiers’
Part of the title of a book which should provide a fascinating insight into the education system practiced in Shanghai, as viewed by an American mother [Lenora Chu]. The rest of the title of the book is ‘An American Boy, a Chinese School and the Global Race to Achieve’. While she is writing about the comparison between China and the US, it could also well apply to China and Australia.

Does the book [and a related article] laud or denigrate the system ?. Well, actually no. It does neither, but states the good and bad things she observes as a result of the experience.

There are certainly pluses. One of the things she notes is ‘Another bracing belief is that hard work trumps innate talent when it comes to academics’. How many people in our system do you know who have/had the capacity but not the commitment to achieve their potential ? She also notes ‘there are real upsides to a mentality of “teacher knows best”’.

There are also negatives. As indicated, ‘there is no denying the traditional Chinese classroom discourages the expression of new and original thought’ while there ‘there are clear downsides to China's desire to cultivate a nation of obedient patriots’.

If you are interested in finding more about the differences [and how they were coped with or not], the book was published recently and should be available now or very soon from most good book sources.

Business Council of Australia
Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia recently gave an address to the National Press Club linked to the Business Council’s recent report entitled Future-Proof : Protecting Australians Through Education and Skills. This was ‘a discussion paper which outlines a process which leads to a new tertiary model that would enable workers to more easily retrain and reskill over their lives’. There are many aspects to this. Not the least is the continuing discrepancy between university and vocational education and training.

You can pull item after item from the address and/or from the report but to do so would take longer than reading the address and the report, or just viewing the Factsheet linked to the report. However, a few examples may give you an idea of the scope - ‘let’s change the way we teach it, so that all kids can learn maths’; ‘we need to recognise that intelligence comes in many forms’; ‘not all children are suited to a traditional academic learning style’; ‘we need to empower and support our teachers, since teachers and their skills are the most important platform to achieve better results’ ‘it is unacceptable that kids are allowed to progress through high school and into tertiary education or work, if they can’t read, write and do maths’ ‘Once and for all we need to fix this cultural bias, reinforced by a funding bias, that a VET qualification is a second-class qualification to a university one’.

Don’t just stop at these snippets, read the whole document and see what you agree or disagree with.

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.

Teacher Turnover : Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It
It is not just a problem evident in Australia but also in other countries around the world. This report from the US details another instance of this. ‘The authors detail who is leaving, why, and which students are most impacted. They also provide information on policy considerations that can address attrition’. Download a brief, or the full copy, from the site.

Where Australia’s education system is going wrong
In this interview on The Link, hear and see ‘Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA], on why Australia’s education system is falling in performance rankings’. 8:42 length video.

STEM Programme Index 2016
‘SPI 2016 is an introduction to the many organisations who want to help schools and parents make a future for our children in STEM. In this booklet you’ll find over 250 active programmes, catering to hundreds of schools and many thousands of students across the country. Some are provided by businesses, some by universities, science and education agencies, and some by government’.

World Development Report 2018 : Learning to realize education’s promise
‘The World Development Report 2018 is the first ever devoted entirely to education. And the timing is excellent : education has long been critical to human welfare, but it is even more so in a time of rapid economic and social change. The best way to equip children and youth for the future is to place their learning at the centre’.

ASG Parents Report Card 2017
‘The ASG Parents Report 2017 investigates the state of education in Australia from parents’ perspective. That is why ASG and the Faculty of Education at Monash University developed this study, to understand how parents feel about the current educational environment in meeting their children’s learning needs’. Download the report, infographics or a media release about the report.

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