Tag Archives: schooling

Gonski 2.0: will it help the Turnbull government?

Phillip Adams recently talked to Laura Tingle about her Monthly Essay Wicked Problems: What are the real reasons behind the rise and stall of Malcolm Turnbull? (locked content). Turnbull has aged 10 years in the last 20 months. He feels the weight of the whole government’s fortunes on his shoulders and does not get enough sleep.

He has lost his sharp tongue and tendency to anger, but has become a transactional politician, chair of the committee. He became prime minister and maintains continued support simply because he is not Tony Abbott.

Recently he has resolved a number of issues which have dogged the government since the horror budget of 2014, but will it add up to a narrative that changes his party’s electoral fortunes? In the latest education changes Simon Birmingham may have become the “fixer” Christopher Pyne claimed to be and may have neutralised one of Labor’s strengths, by stealing Gonski. Continue reading Gonski 2.0: will it help the Turnbull government?

Saturday salon 3/12: late edition

1. Kazakhstan beats us in maths and science

Kazakhstan has beaten us in maths and science taught in schools – again. We should be aware that Kazakhstan was the home of the Soviet space program, as well as the apple, and has a futuristic capital designed by a Japanese architect:

kazakhstan_8079494-3x2-700x467_600 Continue reading Saturday salon 3/12: late edition

Disadvantage among Australian teenagers revealed in OECD report

An OECD survey revealed that many Australian schools have Year 11 and 12 students who lack basic necessities, including housing and adequate nutrition, according to an AAP report last year in The Guardian.

Australia has almost as many schools with significant numbers of Year 11 and 12 students from disadvantaged backgrounds as Mexico.

An OECD study has found that many Australian schools have Year 11 and Year 12 students who lack basic necessities such as adequate housing, nutrition and medical care.

The latest OECD Teaching and Learning International Study – the world’s largest international survey on teaching and learning – says 66% of Australian upper secondary teachers work in schools where principals report that more than 10% of the students come from so-called “socio-economically disadvantaged homes”.

The figure puts Australia above Poland with 62%, almost on par with Mexico where the figure is 70%, and well above the average of 43% among countries surveyed.

In Norway, the figure is just 16%.

This has implications for resourcing:

“It is important to ensure that teachers in these schools are well equipped so that they can provide students with effective learning environments despite these potentially more challenging school environments that can be linked to having large numbers of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes,” the report found.

After the 2013 election Christopher Pyne made it clear that he didn’t support the Gonski funding model and the principles of equity that underlie it. He and Abbott misled voters on this score before the election. He promised to have a new funding model in operation by 2015.

Gonski gone_cropped_500

I’ve lost contact with the progress of this matter, but can’t imagine that adequate resources are flowing to areas of need. Reading Julia Gillard’s book makes one realise how much she and Wayne Swan bent the system to squeeze out extra funding for schools while some $160 billion was found in budget savings across six budgets. That kind of commitment doesn’t exist in the LNP, probably not any longer in Labor either.

We should be concerned, however, that we live in a society where such levels of inequity exist. Wayne Swan in his book claims that inequality decreased in Australia on his watch. The data cited above stems from the end of his time. There is no prospect of improvement under Abbott.

I understand that out private school sector is the largest in the world. Part of our problem may be that we consolidate disadvantage in the public school sector.

The AAP/Guardian report was based on the analysis of data about upper secondary schooling from the 2013 OECD Teaching and Learning International Study (TALIS), published in December. Earlier a report relating to lower secondary schooling had been published, including a series of Country Notes, mainly about teachers and teaching.

In Australia teachers appear to be well qualified, with high job satisfaction, but the feeling of being under-appreciated. They seem to spend their day in much the same way as teachers elsewhere. My impression is that the get more professional development than the average, but it seems to be less effective.

41% of lower secondary teachers were men in Australia compared with 32% in TALIS countries. 61% of our principals are men compared within TALIS. Apparently we have the lowest proportion of women in the role of principal amongst the countries surveyed.

Australia, the land of the not so fair go!

What the Top Education Countries do

Finland and South Korea are among the world’s leaders in education.  So it is worth asking what these countries do that is different.  This TED article tries to answer that question by asking what they are doing that is right?  What they found was two very different systems. Continue reading What the Top Education Countries do

High Court rules federal funding of school chaplains invalid again

As The World Today story makes clear, it is the funding methodology rather than the school chaplains program itself that has been, for the second time, ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.

High court_250When Toowoomba father of six Ron Williams won the original High Court challenge to the chaplaincy program in 2012 the Gillard Government passed ‘catch-all’ legislation which sought to enable to make such grants directly to schools. This ‘bandaid’ solution has now failed. While the court case has only been about the school chaplaincy program specifically a precedent was set that placed a question mark over some 400 other Commonwealth direct funding programs, past and present. I gather these programs had been implemented by the executive without legislation.

It appears that the Commonwealth will now have to use legislation specific to the program, by which means it can make special purpose payments to the states with as many conditions as it likes. This legislation would then have to run the gamut of the senate, which may be difficult, if Labor comes to its senses and opposes the legislation.

I agree with Angelo Gavrielatos, head of the Education Union:

We’ve always opposed this program, considering it a badly designed and quite frankly not in the interests of our kids and what they actually need.

It also compromises the secular traditions of public schools. This money is better directed to specialist, expert support for our students. What our students need are expert trained school counsellors, psychologists and welfare workers.

It’s also important to note that this program has been costed at $250 million. This is at the same time when there’s been a real cut in funding for students with disabilities.

The Abbott Government is so far reserving its position until they examine the ruling, as one would expect.

There is a summary article by Michelle Grattan at The Conversation.

Retiring Senator Louise Pratt has condemned the program, saying that it has driven gay and lesbian children to self harm:

Senator Pratt said an online survey by gay rights group All Out, which attracted 2200 responses, had uncovered dozens of firsthand student accounts that describe chaplains as being “explicitly anti-gay”.

One respondent said their school chaplain had described gays and lesbians as “unnatural, indecent and perverse”. Another said a gay friend had overdosed on medical pills after their school chaplain said being gay was a “degrading sin” that sends people to hell.

“As well as the two stories I have just quoted, students described chaplains helping them to ‘pray the gay away’ and advising them to sleep with a member of the opposite sex to ‘correct’ their same-sex attraction,” Senator Pratt said.

“One very serious story involved a student being told by a chaplain that they should leave home because they had homosexual parents . . . Regardless of the outcome [of the High Court challenge], it is important to see this program stopped.”

Proponents of the program say such incidents would be rare and in breach of the code of conduct under which chaplains operate.

According to Peter Sherlock schools have been able to use the money to employ secular counsellors. In the 2104-15 budget, however, this was narrowed to chaplains from religious organisations alone.

Sherlock, who is Vice-Chancellor at University of Divinity, says that the program recognises that schools have a socialising role in the formation of a child that goes beyond the door of the classroom and the skills and content imparted there. He thinks, however, the chaplains from religious organisations will almost inevitably be motivated to proselytise, and the secular counsellors would be more appropriate.

I couldn’t agree more. Problem is, part of the purpose of the program is to win votes from particular sectors of the church-going community.