“The aim of education should be to teach us how to think, rather than what to think. To improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, rather than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.”
— Bill Beattie
As we indicated in the last update, there seems to be a vast range of activities underway. These range from Early Learning, through schooling to higher education covering both VET and university. These are at various stages of discussion and potential implementation. Not only is there action to bring about improvement, but in a number of instances additional problems are coming to light that will also need to be addressed.
Some of these may only prove to be nuisances, others - such as AI - have the potential to create further problems though, used properly, they may also have some positive impacts. A number of areas are still being impacted by the recent pandemic. Schools are facing this in particular with mental health and wellbeing [including the impact of non-attendance]. The options of face-to-face or online learning may still require attention. The list can go on as with areas such as staffing [permanent and otherwise], curriculum content, standards, students who fall behind [for any number of reasons] and how we improve their achievement, concerns over some international students [and agents], … .
These higher education aspects are not going to be solved this week, this month or perhaps not even to any major extent this year. A start has been made. An Australian Universities Accord is well underway. A Panel has been established and has begun its work. Part of this was a consultation process which drew more than 300 responses from a wide range of sources. These grew around a Discussion Paper [see Consultation on the Accord Discussion Paper]. These will eventually be part of a presentation by the Panel to the Minister for Education, with both an Interim Report due next month and the final report in December of this year. One looks forward to seeing what they are proposing and [ just as importantly] how the wider community as well as those experienced in the field react to the report. Only time will tell with this.
VET is also undergoing consideration, with potential change, not least to the status which it should have, but to the organisation and practice which currently exists. In 2022 the National Skills Agreement : Vision and Principles was endorsed. Fee-free courses have certainly boosted student-numbers [and will hopefully help fill various education staff short falls] and also posed the question of why it is so poorly regarded. Ways to get skills where they are needed highlights one reason among many that it faces. One recent statement, The more things change in VET, will surprise you. Use the updates its timeline link, sit back and be amazed. While considerable effort is now being made, this will not be an easy or short term process. Finally, you might find The National Skills Agreement needs time in the policy spotlight and it must include these 3 things an interesting article to read.
School level education also faces numerous challenges, some of which have also been noted in sections above. Staffing, student attendance, declining results, funding, curriculum, wellbeing, behaviour, … . Major problems include not only staff shortages, but shortages within current staff expertise in several core curriculum areas [secondary]. In recent times, there has been much discussion about others from among the list, particularly in relation to the secondary level. Suggestions on how to handle a number of these have been offered. Some make sense. Others you need to decide upon yourselves. None will bring immediate improvement. Some may not bring any improvement.
One well respected person, John Hattie, along with Dr Arran Hamilton, have used an article titled Education Cargo Cults Must Die to present a number of thoughts and options. Not least is the definition for Cargo Cults - “Cargo cults develop when organisations or individuals spend their meager resources on the wrong things, declare success and congratulate themselves on a job well done - despite strong evidence to the contrary”. They dissect multiple aspects and offer clear and thoughtful responses. A smaller article, What really works in education ?, covers the same ground in much shorter time.
Others have also made suggestions. These include Pasi Sahlberg, joined by Sharon Goldfeld - If not now, then when is the right time to re-envisage what schools could be ? and Core purpose of schooling must shift to health and wellbeing – experts. All of these will be considerd for the The National School Reform Agreement [this page provides extensive information including links to these items]. Further information about the Review can be found via the Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System.
A Survey has been released, calling for the input of students, teachers, parents and carers across Australia to contribute to the Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System [the Review]. The survey aims to gather views on a range of topics within the scope of the Review, including student mental health and wellbeing, attracting and retaining teachers, funding transparency and accountability and targets and reforms that should be included in the next National School Reform Agreement. The survey, conducted by the Social Research Centre, will be available online from 23 May to 23 June 2023 and will inform the consultation paper and final report of the Expert Panel. If you have something to contribute, there is still time left to do so.
Why not take this opportunity to have your say ?
“Photographic portrait of teachers and students at the Southport State School, the teacher [left] with the feather boa is Miss Flora Wesley, 1910.”
Available at : https://tinyurl.com/2z9ks6sv, Libraries Tasmania - Tasmanian Archives, PH30-1-2835. [accessed 23 May 2023].
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