I’ve certainly been in a number of sessions over the last three days, many of which I’ve blogged about here, but what have I learned?
The second keynote I saw was from Dr Ken Boston, one of the authors of the Gonski Report into education funding that the government has been making significant announcements about lately.
Boston’s speech was really an explanation and defence of the Gonski Report, grounded mostly in economic terms, with disadvantaged students as a waste of human capital which the country could benefit from.
However, it wasn’t long before we were into PISA tests again, this time with an emphasis on the ‘social gradients’ of various countries (Australia has a high-achieving, but low equity result scale) but also that Australia’s results are falling (relative to other countries/competitors).
No doubt, everyone benefits from a world class education system, but to call Australia’s results ‘chronic underachievement’ seemed an exaggeration for a system that (by Pisa’s own scale) is performing in the top half ten systems in the world)
And, while Boston gave an interesting report into the history of school funding in Australia, and some of the politics around that, there was not a moment when the worth of the PISA tests themselves came open to any analysis; not in terms of what it measures, nor of the differences in contexts and cultures of the countries involved in the testing.
From the man who brought Wikipedia to the world; a potted history, that follows up on my earlier post.
I said in the previous post that I was having trouble figuring out Aly’s take on National Curriculum in the latest issue of The Monthly.
Some of the key points seem to be:
“(Curriculum) … is a form of political activism.” [National Curriculum, like Texas curriculum on evolution, is political]
“…Perhaps I never got a decent education in Australian history – but it is abundantly clear that the failures of our education system have occupied a significant place in this country’s culture wars in the past decade or so” –
DISAGREE – The ‘failures’ of our education system are ‘alleged’ and also political.
“Is this the Rudd government finally putting its stamp on the country, Education Revolution and all? Well, sort of. Certainly, the idea of a national curriculum, displacing the various state-determined curricula that currently prevail, sounds suitably muscular and revolutionary. It has the resonance of ‘getting serious’, of ‘raising standards’ – of whipping our kids into shape. But only very modest changes have been made to the maths and science curriculum we presently have, and these changes will actually make the materials less dense, with an increased focus on statistics and probability. The biggest change is history – which will now actually be taught in its own right – but even here, the revolution is incomplete. And who, exactly, is going to teach it? “
UNSURE. Most experts I’ve talked to who’ve looked closely at the drafts so far have seen them as regressive. Aly seems to be arguing for DENSE curriculum (think stand-alone history rather than soft and fluffy SOSE) but the curriculum drafts seem content heavy and old-fashioned.
“You could be forgiven for assuming Australian students have become an embarrassment when it comes to literacy and numeracy. Nobody seemed to listen when Peter Freebody, the lead writer of the English syllabus, said that “Australians are more literate now than they were when grammar was taught intensively, but in isolation from language use and literary studies.” Freebody’s point was that “the basics” are no panacea, and have to be combined with a study of literature. But Gillard chose to stand before the media scrum, spelling – “c-a-t, cat” “
AGREE – See previous post.
Aly goes on to argue that Rudd seems intent on being both Asian-centred and progressive, as well as tougher on teachers and asylum seekers than Howard.
However, I was surprised to find that the whole piece is online and you can try to figure it out yourself HERE.
I haven’t railed mercilessly against the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) for a while. Only a couple of times, in fact, in the last couple of years, including my original ‘Whats the matter with VIT?’ post ages ago.
But, boy was I encouraged again to consider the value of our professional voice when I opened up the current issue of Professional Practice, which arrived this week. Printed back to back on a bit of folded A3, VIT isn’t even trying any more. The lead story was a puff piece for Apple loosely based around ‘World Teacher’s Day’, followed up by a couple of pieces talking up VIT’s own professional guidelines around teacher induction and professional ethics. It’s not even glossy any more! Read my original post linked above about what we thought VIT might have been (a real voice for the profession) and consider what it’s become (a regulatory tax on the profession) and sigh.
Oh, and I forgot the big news. A new portal is coming which will contain ‘many forms and applications’ relating to fee waiver, application for renewal of registration and application to move from provisional to full registration!! (gasps).
Radio National’s Australia Talks program had an interesting discussion on the ‘education revolution’, national curriculum and assorted responses to educational issues including the crowded curriculum.
The thing liked was the refreshing lack of politics to the discussion, thg good sense and, from a couple of speakers, the emphasis on hearing student voices in the debate. Would it were so.
From the AGE today:
AUSTRALIA was the only developed country to cut public spending on tertiary education in the decade to 2004, according to a new world comparison.
The funding reduction — down 4 per cent compared with an average OECD rise of 49 per cent — resulted in private spending on higher education, including students’ tuition fees,surpass government funding.
By 2004 the Government paid 47.2 per cent of university revenue in Australia, compared with an OECD average of 75.4 per cent.The OECD found private spending soared mainly due to students leaving university with a greater debt after the Federal Government lifted maximum HECS fees in 1997.
Only the US, Japan and Korea charged students more for a public university degree. Australians paid an average $US3855 a year for university study. Conversely, one in three members of the OECD, all of them European countries, offer students free university tuition.
Full report HERE
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