Aussie Educator

The majority of research that we looked at basically was saying that it’s okay to have to do homework but it’s not really having a great impact on kids’ learning. So we thought, let’s do something different Jason Borton

As previously, there is plenty occurring in the education area. Similar to many situations in the past though, it is being swamped by a range of political, cultural and other news which may or may not be of equal importance. Regrettably, many of the other items have a position higher in the pecking order where grabbing the most attention is seen as the most important aspect of news appeal. A pity that the wider media does not look at what may have the greatest effect on future innovation, skills and a capacity to have a lifestyle which satisfies the vast majority of the population. Often petty or fallacious matters, actions and statements seem to be more important in headlines and column inches than are other areas, including education. Perhaps one day ... ?

There have been a number of educational areas in which there have been numerous steps during the recent period. Several of the major ones of these are covered below. There are almost certainly others readers will consider may have been worthy of inclusion. Hopefully we have been able to cover these either with commentary items or news headlines. 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 over the coming months 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 takes its course. We hope you bear with us and, at the same time, find only a minimum of disruption and delay. It is certainly our aim to achieve this.

Gonski again ...

Gonski 2.0 has been shepherded through the parliament, though not without several changes and some peripheral impacts. For a reasonable summary of the final document you might like to read Gonski 2.0 : Everything you need to know about Malcolm Turnbull’s federal funding overhaul in The Adelaide Advertiser or an overview in Gonski 2.0: School funding package passes Senate, as Coalition takes big win from ABC News. There is also an interesting summary from Ivan Webb which is also worth reading, as is Has the Gonski dust settled ? from Chris Bonnor. As he says, ‘Last week may not have been the end, but it does point to a new beginning’.

While the government and the Senators who supported it in the parliament may have been satisfied with the end result, there were still many who were not. Included among these, were the Opposition, the Australian Education Union and Catholic Education. Their opposition has not died in the period since. At the same time, there was a fracture among Green senators on whether to side with the government or not, causing some interesting ructions.

As Chris Bonnor says in one of his many articles, ‘There is an immediate second step. Most reporting has referred to the whole package as Gonski 2.0 - but Gonski’s actual second review is just now getting under way, and it must be completed in the next six months’. The panel involved in this process, with David Gonski at its head, has now been named and will soon begin working to ‘examine the best ways to spend the extra money governments are giving students’. To phrase it simply, David Gonski's next task is to work out how to spend school money effectively.

Even this process is not without its detractors. This is perhaps easiest seen in the Kevin Donnelly article headlined with Expert casts doubt over Gonski review panel. Others refer back to David Gonski’s earlier statement that ‘he wouldn’t have been the best choice to head a panel examining educational outcomes’. There will undoubtedly be more talking about the panel composition, what they do, whether suggestions will actually be workable, etc., etc., ... .

While part 2 is now under way, other areas are starting to raise their heads in terms of funding. The National Catholic Education Commission wants $1bn to fill gap is one of these. This can be viewed in many ways depending on where you stand. However, I would refer you to the research data and commentary in Schools Funding : unearthing the facts by Lindsay Connors. It makes for fascinating reading in terms of funding received and in the data relating to rises in fees by the Catholic system itself in recent years.

In addition there is growing concern both about the funding of students with disabilities and the sheer number of these students. Suggested levels at a figure of 10-12% have been indicated in recent reports such as Disability fund ‘left short’ and an opinion piece by Kenneth Wiltshire, Special needs education calls for co-operative effort. A thoughtful piece has also been penned by Ivan Webb that looks at Gonski 2.0 and students with disabilities. This is still very much a fraught area in the ongoing funding debate both in relation to Gonski 2.0, the NDIS and state/commonwealth funding procedures and responsibilities.

There are certainly still some interesting times ahead. As we said previously, it is “a beginning, but only that”. There will be ups and downs in the coming years. There will undoubtedly be modifications. There may even be changes to funding for any one of a number of reasons, not least the use of the SRS. However, as a good starting point that has essentially gone back to the original intent of the process, there is much to commend the achievement already made.

Tertiary Education Sector ...

This sector, covering both universities and VET, is currently experiencing a number of areas of concern and disruption though these are perhaps not as visible as other education factors such as Gonski. Among the many factors are the attrition evident among students, especially in the university sector; concerns over ensuring the maintenance of access for students from low SES backgrounds; tertiary funding cuts; student aspirations; post-graduate scholarships processes; the delay in the Regional Review; revamps occurring at a number of universities; enabling programs; vocational educational regulation; and the ongoing sagas relating to fees and fee repayment.

Funding covers a number of these and has been at the forefront of much of the concerns. Two of the main university groups have made their feelings known in no uncertain terms. Both Vicki Thomson and Peter Høj have written and/or made presentations on behalf of the Group of Eight. Universities Australia has also not been backward in addressing the problems perceived, directly and via reporting, such as in Universities Australia slams performance funding [Campus Morning Mail]. These follow on from earlier concerns such as those found in Higher education reform : small changes for now but big ones to come and 2017 higher education reform : cuts to universities, higher fees for students. One other interesting take is Have universities enjoyed ‘rivers of gold’ ?. This is an area that will continue to be hotly contested for some time to come. It also reflects concerns, especially about fees, as seen in other countries including the US and the UK. One interesting take on a comparison of these from Australia and the UK can be seen in this article by Andrew Norton while this opinion piece in The Guardian says a great deal specifically about the UK system.

Other funding problems include scholarship processes linked to post-graduate research and scholarships. Scholarship plan a ‘lose’ recipe is only one viewpoint on this. Call for feds to fund all postgrad coursework places is another comment on actions in this area. Reform packages face flak provides information on both aspects.

If you live in a rural area then you often face difficulty in accessing a whole spectrum of services viewed as everyday, “at hand” things in cities and other large population centres. Educational concerns certainly fall into this category. The Independent review into regional, rural and remote education was designed to assist in overcoming such things. However, there has been concern for some time that it is already being delayed and will not be completed on time [see this article for one reaction]. There is still time for people to make submissions with these closing on 29th August, 2017. Submissions can be made by anyone interested in this area and you are encouraged to do so.

Student attrition is nothing new. It has always occurred, and for a multitude of reasons, but it has suddenly garnered increased attention. Student attrition : all courses, all unis provides a good, basic introduction with a considerable amount of data. This follows on from an earlier piece from the same source indicating Risk of attrition overblown, but let’s fix it anyway says peak body. Universities have been responding as in this submission on behalf of the Group of Eight universities by Peter Shergold. These are in contrast to reports such as Nation of dropouts : University completion rates drop to a new low. You can undoubtedly find more if you try but choose the view you feel has most credibility. If you want to find a more academic approach to this area consider the following articles, An exploration of factors associated with student attrition and success in enabling programs and/or Characteristics of Australian higher education providers and their relation to first-year student attrition [TEQSA].

While not having covered all the areas initially listed for this section, there is certainly plenty to ponder in what we have managed to include at this time.

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.

Losing the Game : State of our schools in 2017
‘This new report is co-authored by Fellows Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd, who between them have over 80 years of experience in the public school system. Losing the Game is vital and sobering reading for anyone wanting to understand the state of our schools system, and will be required reading for the Second Gonski Review panel. Chris and Bernie examine the key trends in schools funding, performance and student composition, based on an analysis of My School website data for 2010 to 2016’.

Educate Australia Fair ? Education Inequality in Australia
‘This report examines the institutional and policy frameworks governing education in Australia and each of the states and territories, with a focus on equity through the life course. It assesses the degree to which Australians have equal opportunity through education according to where they live and other key demographic characteristics’.

Skilling for Tomorrow
NCVER. ‘This paper provides a summary of research and discussion on the future world of work. It explores the drivers changing the world of work, the skills we’re predicted to need in the future and what this means for training. The paper aims to encourage conversations and discussions on the question of your role in skilling for tomorrow’.

Counting the costs of lost opportunity in Australian Education
Mitchell Institute. ‘There are huge costs associated with educational disadvantage in Australia. This report finds one in eight Australians will never attain a Year 12 qualification, and some of these people make up the one in eight Australians who will be disengaged from the workforce for most of their lives’.

Money, schools and politics: some FAQs
Inside Story. Done before Gonski 2.0. As Dean Ashenden indicates, ‘Federal Minister Simon Birmingham has fired the first shots in the latest battle of the school funding wars. Here’s our short guide to the terrain’. Worthwhile reading.

Why Choose Teaching ? ... A Matter of Choice : Evidence from the Field is a report just completed. ‘The analyses and discussion make available new insights into the factors that influence the choice of teaching as a first or subsequent career. The report provides a foundation for a longitudinal investigation of who chooses to enter teaching, the impacts on the choice, and trends in the status of teaching over time’.

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