aussie educator


The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidised research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now call “information” - which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first. Wendell Berry

Yes, the actual election is over, and no, the final result is not in nor is it likely to be for some time, especially in the Senate. As indicated in the last piece, education did not gain the greatest mention with the exception of the Gonski scheme and to some extent child care. Higher education certainly seemed to be missing to a great extent. Among recent articles, David Lloyd indicates the Next 18 months will be crucial to reform in the higher education area.

A number of his comments are relevant. For example, ‘too many of the issues yet to be addressed fell squarely into the too hard category for resolution during an election campaign’ and goes on to provide examples of these. With the government likely to be returned [barely] he suggests there will be ‘no changes enacted to current practice until 2018’ [see the consultation paper for details]. More worryingly he states that ‘while this paper will serve for now, on one level, as a barometer for future policy in the absence of an actual policy position’ there are a host of other things to be considered, e.g. demand driven system, the burden of cost, and more. Where will we go and how will we get there ?

Stephen Matchett, in a similar way, expresses concern about what may [or more likely may not] happen in the near future. Statements such as ‘Circumstances in the Senate ensure only a minister whose crazy-courage is of Pyne-esque proportions would attempt anything that will upset anybody in the new parliament’ and ‘the new ministers are going to make a lot of speeches, opening buildings, announcing awards, but they are not actually going to say, let alone do, anything’. And he doesn’t even talk about the lower house shenanigans one can expect. In a later article, Needed : new narrative for the new economy, other concerns are covered. The second paragraph says it all, but is it possible for people to work together and to understand the need and process required ? Present actions and statements suggest not.

Stephen Parker, in his usual forthright style, also had a fair bit to say about the absence. One sentence [prior to the actual election itself] probably encapsulates his position. ‘Whatever the explanation, it is a lamentable situation’. He then presents a range of points to back up his statement. One has to say we do not hold out a lot of hope for a sensible conclusion to a number of problems in this area.

At the same time as the election has been rolling along [and yes, it has basically reached the first major stage at this time], others in the Higher Education sector have commented on a number of topics. People such as Glyn Davis [Election or not, graduate outcomes and better regulation are key]; Vicki Thompson [Something has to give on sustainable policy]; Michael Spence [Large growth in student numbers is threatening sustainability of university system]; and Julie Hare who written several articles including titles such as “Unis call time on uncapped places” and “Government money calls shots”. On the other hand, Attila Brungs has suggested Equity is on an upward arc. See what you think of their arguments, as well as those of Anna Bennet in Six ways to improve equity in Australian universities and clarify where you stand on each item.

Meanwhile others raise international education as a possible area of expansion [the Brexit], or alternately an area that could be damaged by perception [Fears of Hanson backlash].

One really interesting fact with international education is many students are opting to study at a domestic university rather than taking up study overseas. While this is the case, Andrew Harvey, in an article entitled Let’s create more global students, indicates “too many are missing out on opportunities to study overseas”. The whole area is one which will remain uncertain for some time, but will hopefully work to Australia’s, and student’s, advantage.

Gonski funding was mentioned often during the election process, but mostly because one side was offering more than the other. People have different ideas on whether just pouring more cash in is “the” solution. Many obviously do, both by the influence it had for one side and commentary from a range of groups. Others do not necessarily share the same opinion. The arguments for the proposition are well understood. Richard Holden is of the opinion that “it’s not all about throwing more money at education”. He also indicates “the correct reasoning would be : here’s what actually works and here’s what it’s going to cost, so let’s do it”. See what you think.

At the same time, Jennifer Buckingham, [in Improve education, but don’t fund more waste], provides similar thoughts in a very small package [though with several embedded links]. As she clearly indicates, the belief “is that higher spending will lead to better quality of education and hence better outcomes. This is by no means guaranteed”.

Last time, we also mentioned an interview with John Hattie regarding methodology that would improve Australian schools. Speaking with John Hattie on how to improve the quality of education in Australian schools is also worth re-visiting. Only time will tell what finally happens in this area.

Vocational education has had some recognition over recent times, even if much of this was not directly related to the campaign itself. For those who want to get the latest details in the field, NCVER has generated a report entitled Government-funded students and courses 2015. This “contains information on students, programs, subjects and qualifications completed and allows data to be filtered by selected fields” thus giving you the exact data you want.

At the same time there is other information including a different approach raised during the campaign. Stephen Parker looked at one such suggestion in Is Labor’s plan to create ten Institutes of Higher Education a good idea ?. As Parker indicates “This essentially creates a new layer of tertiary education”. With the probable election results however, this may not be something which gains a lot of traction, but could be worthy of further discussion.

With so many difficulties in this area, John Ross, in an article entitled Private college students study fewer hours for same outcome raises another query which could generate even more questions.

Even though the implementation was seen as “overly cautious, and students and colleges paid the price”, NSW’s Smart and Skilled system did manage to avoid many of the problems associated with similar Vocational Education changes in other states. Perhaps we are finally starting to work out a reasonable and beneficial way of going about achieving the positive changes all would want.

There are some items which simply could not be omitted. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. There are no great details for each, simply follow those links that take your interest.

  • Illustrations of ECT practice. This has been produced ‘through a partnership between VIT and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL]’. These ‘are aligned to relevant standards and are accompanied by information about the learning and school context. Discussion questions are also provided for each Illustration’.

  • As indicated also below, technology implementation in school classrooms is becoming a topic which needs to be addressed and the best process implemented to the benefit of everyone concerned. Keeping students focussed on IT is one recent opinion piece in this area.

  • A second piece, Schools grapple with the new divide : screentime or textbooks raises the question of “the wisdom of too much technology in the classroom”. An interesting question which really needs to be answered.

  • Just to show it is not only a concern in Australia, Government needs inspiring IT teachers to address chronic lack of specialists is another concern raised in the UK. The site also links to other articles on the same topic.

  • Maths is an area often being raised, sometimes for its own sake but more often in relation to STEM. One article is Parents need to forget about the old view of maths as a subject. In this, “according to Joe Forbes, chief executive of commercial mathematics company Biarri and a member of the advisory committee for the Australian Mathematics Sciences Institute, the subject still has an ‘image problem’”. With the requirement for the subject increasing, this is something to be addressed, and sooner rather than later.

Other Areas of Interest

While we are looking at where we are going in light of the recent election, there is action elsewhere in the world. The US [beyond their election process] is one place. There have been a number of reports and items of educational interest that have occurred. These include a report on Teachers and Technology Use in the Classroom. This report delves “more deeply into the technology perceptions and practices of two particular groups of teachers : those with the most confidence in educational technology, and those with the least”. In the light of technology use comments in Australia, this may be of special interest.

What Do Beginning Teachers Really Need ? is a second article by an experienced teacher who looks back on her own beginning and who looks at what beginning teachers need now. She is also employed to provide support to beginning teachers in an American state, so should really know what she is talking about. An interesting collection of points and well worth reading.

STEM is a buzz word and concept at the moment. This is also the case elsewhere in the world. A webinar which is available until mid October, can be found at Engaging Students With STEM, [scroll down from the top of the page to the ninth listed webinar]. An on-demand version can be viewed and you can also download a Powerpoint presentation which accompanies it. Other webinars may also take your interest and are also available for a period of 4 months from date of publication. Why not check out others that may have special interest for you ?

Site Changes

A number of pages have had small numbers of link additions.

Updates have been added to the following pages : Calendar, Conferences, Journals.

9 July 2016.

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