Breaking News: Week of 26 June 2006
Monday 26 June 2006
Tuesday 27 June
Wednesday 28 June
Thursday 29 June
Friday 30 June
Saturday - Sunday 1 - 2 July
Monday 26 June 2006
- PLATO Media Release
PLATO Media Release
Teachers Fear Year 12 OBE English Tragedy
"There is a looming tragedy for students of Year 12 OBE English next year", says an unnamed PLATO English teacher. PLATO spokesman Steve Kessell explained: "Sadly, many of our members fear retribution if they speak out using their real names."
Thousands of students, who have been part of the OBE Year 11 English experiment this year, will be subject to it again as they move into their final year of school next year.
Many English teachers are concerned about what these students will face in Year 12.
"These teachers are so demoralised by what has happened this year that many of them are taking leave or contemplating early retirement. Some are already on stress leave because of the new course," Kessell said.
The OBE English Sample Exam for Year 12, which has already been publicly discredited by teachers and academics, has not been replaced yet. English teachers have no idea what the Year 12 Exam will finally look like.
"This year's Year 11 OBE English course is regarded by many English teachers as a complete shambles, and is scheduled to move into Year 12 almost unchanged," Kessell notes. "Serious problems with Levelling and assessment are still unresolved. There is no comparability between what students are taught or learn from one school to another," he said.
"English is probably the most critical subject in Year 12. Success in English is required to achieve high school graduation, and a high level of performance in English is required for university entrance," Kessell claims.
Teachers are calling for a one-year delay before the OBE course moves into Year 12. They say that what has happened in Year 11 this year should be thoroughly evaluated, and that the many problems encountered need to be remedied, before it is safe to proceed with it to Year 12
"English teachers are particularly concerned about the uncertainty and anxiety that they and their students will continue to face in the final and most important year of schooling," Kessell said.
- The Melbourne Age
- Telling children a dangerous lie about life
21 June 2006 [displayed here for now, as just located today: Archived with 21 June articles]
School reports do not tell children, or parents, how they are doing
by Maria Tumarkin
"Last year school report cards were cryptograms from hell. For each learning area, one tiny diagram contained coded letters, squares, shaded areas, black and white dots and a menacing progress line known as a class average.
"This year it's simpler. Your child's results are mapped onto the state-wide expected average for each learning area along a five-point scale: from A to E. C is where you need to be. A is well above the expected standard, E is well below. Parents can exhale. It's plain English all the way.
"Yet the welcome simplicity hides behind it the same essentially dishonest attitude towards children's education. We still don't know how and what our children are doing.
"Last year your child was beginning, consolidating or established. This year the child is above, at or below the expected state-wide standard. The insane graphs are gone, but clarity remains out of plain sight, obscured by a swarm of euphemisms. As parents we are still stuck poring over coded messages, trying to squeeze meaning out of all the wooden, insipid, tortuous terms and concepts that have become one of the defining traits of the outcomes-based education.
"My heart goes out to teachers locked into the system of bureaucratic double-speak cornered into obsessive quantifying, assessing students without actually assessing them, placating parents rather than openly communicating with them.
"The issue of the plain English report cards is heating up. Boycotts, controversies, threats to cut funding are all on the table. The opinions are split. I am not entirely sure what makes the issue so divisive. To me, it's just a little bit like choosing between a triple root canal and a surgical removal of hemorrhoids. Seems kind of strange to have a clear preference.
"So I don't. Schools and education departments can rate, standardise and average out children's achievements all they want, but statistics should be an afterthought, not the message. It's for them to play with, not for us to make sense of. Mapping your child's GPS position on the road to achieving specific outcomes and standards what a slippery, homogeneous, offensively vague way of evaluating your child's schooling. And the language itself, the much-lauded plain English, is nothing short of scary in its earnest overtones of corporate performance review.
"No matter how many bureaucrats it takes to change a light bulb, the truth is that no assessment is ever fully objective or fully fair. Personally, I prefer human bias to the notion of mechanistic detachment. I would much rather trust a teacher, no matter how potentially grumpy, disillusioned or inflexible in his or her judgement, than a set of self-referential, self-serving bureaucratic standards.
"The move away from grades comes from a seemingly honourable desire to make education non-competitive and non-punitive and to give every child all the nurturing and support required to succeed. Within the new system, failure is abolished and children in the same class are not pitted against each other. Sounds eerily humanistic. But this kind of approach, where an assessment is not really assessment but a road map, and children are all walking to learning outcomes at a varying speed and with a varying resolve, is a sweet but dangerous kind of lie.
"Some school districts in the US have replaced the word "fail" with "success deferred". Are you laughing? But haven't we been swallowing enough dumb euphemisms in Australia too?
"Could it be that the system of grades is being replaced with notions that may prove far more dangerous in the long term? Because they devalue teachers, parents and children alike.
"Stuck with bureaucratically devised statewide standards as the measure of all things, the teachers are handicapped in their ability to inspire, to guide and to help. Presented with the latest brain-twister from the Education Department, the parents are handicapped in their ability to engage and to support. The students, whose self-esteem is being so painstakingly protected, have no idea how they are doing. What will happen to them when they come to the final years of their schooling and to university, to say nothing about the world of work, where they will be measured by much more critical and stark standards?
"I am not speaking in favour of the return of As, Bs and Cs as grades, but against a euphemistic "I can't believe it's not butter" culture of replacing a clear evaluation of children's abilities and needs with something pleasant-tasting but potentially harmful if swallowed.
"It is bloodcurdling to see a bureaucratic apparatus set loose on children's education. It may take a whole village to raise a child, but it doesn't take all public servants in the country to educate him or her. On the contrary, children's education is best left to the fragile and infinitely nurturing one-on-one relationships between a teacher and a student, a child and a parent, a learner and the infinite world of learning."
Maria Tumarkin is the author of Traumascapes. The Power and Fate of Places Transformed by Tragedy.
Full article in The Melbourne Age at
- The Australian
- Letters to the Editor
- "There appears to be a lot of misinformation regarding the porn filter initiative announced by senator Helen Coonan. As an IT security specialist, who works with filtering software applications daily, it is probably pertinent to point out what it actually does, depending on the configuration. The program will allow the blocking of websites in a number of categories, including pornography, hate sites and gambling. There are many more filtering options. The software is complicated and while there are options to simplify the process, computer-illiterate people will not be able to install, set up and maintain such applications. A better option would be for ISPs to install the filtering program and for people to access the internet by username. Parents can have full internet access by typing in their password and children will be blocked by default."
Mark Millard, Coolbellup, WA
- "Instead of spending $117 million to put internet filtering on Australian household computers to block porn, how about parents move the computer into the loungeroom. We could then spend the $117 million on something worthwhile, like an extra 78,000 computers for schools."
Rhys Thomas, Shanghai, China
- Children before economics
"Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, recommends a school starting age of 4 1/2 years ("Big starting costs in earlier school age, 22/6). There is general agreement with the need for a consistent school starting age for children across Australia. In deciding what that age should be, children's needs must be the first priority. The economic considerations of state and federal governments must take second place.
"Developmentally, five-year-olds enter school more confident, able to manage the educational, emotional and social demands of school life. Research and the anecdotal evidence of teachers and parents strongly indicate that children benefit from a later school starting age. In Victoria, where the minimum school age is four years and eight months, parents are holding back more than 60 per cent of children, who will now commence their school lives one year later.
"Consider, too, the positive effect of this in later years when a more mature, confident student will undertake the final years of schooling. As experienced educators of young children, we would have expected Ms Bishop to base her recommendations for a national school starting age on sound educational research and practice, ahead of economic issues. After all, children are the future of this nation."
Vicki Simmonds and Pat Fernandes, Balaclava, Vic
Complete Letters to the Editor in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/index/0,,21223,00.html
Here are some more slightly older articles, recently "discovered", that are worth a look. Web
What Are Some Primary Criticisms of OBE?
"Criticisms of OBE issue from diverse sources, and they encompass a variety of concerns about theory and implementation. The notion of outcomes as values is perhaps the most controversial objection to OBE. Some critics argue outcomes "concern values, attitudes, opinions and relationships rather than objective information" and that OBE's goals are "affective (concerned with emotions and feelings) rather than academic" (Schlafly 1993).
"Another objection is that OBE views education as a means to an end. McKernan (1993) argues that predecided outcomes are antithetical to the very nature of education, which he considers to be explorative, unpredictable, and valuable for its own sake.
"The lack of a comprehensive research base is another concern. Glatthorn (1993) notes that "only a few systematic research efforts have studied the implementation and effects of the OBE model as a comprehensive reform strategy." Although many schools that have implemented OBE programs report improvement, the evidence of its ultimate effectiveness is inconclusive.
"A major controversy focuses on the notion of content versus process. OBE systems may deemphasize specific subject content in favor of broader outcomes, leaving educators with the difficult question of what content should remain in the curriculum. Parents have voiced concern about students' losing competency in basic skill areas such as math and literacy.
"William J. Smith, executive director of The Network for Outcome-Based Schools, stated that "OBE advocates and theorists support mastery of basic skills, yet they understand how these skills must be learned if students are to use them effectively. They must be learned in the context of purpose, meaning and connectedness" (personal communication, November 3, 1993).
"A related concern is measurement and assessment. Broad-based outcomes are difficult to measure using standardized tests and traditional grading practices; therefore, new assessment techniques must be developed to measure specific outcomes. Proposals for assessment, such as a "portfolio" system that records a comprehensive array of student-performance indicators, have met with only limited success (Rothman 1993).
"Finally, a practical concern for critics is the cost and time of shifting entire school systems to OBE."
Inside OBE - The basics of leading change
Mail and Guardian Features online, 1 April 2005
by William Spader
"Whenever you say the word basics around schools, you're almost certain to get a predictable set of responses: reading, writing, maths and - for the modern thinkers - computers.
"For those of us deeply concerned with successfully introducing OBE into the United States in the 1980s, the challenge of discovering and implementing a different kind of basics was daunting. We were searching for the basics of successful change - the magic elements that would enable educators to grasp, want and implement what we saw as OBE's enormous power and potential.
"Our search and discoveries went on for several years. Happily, they were aided by the stunning insights emerging from the rapidly developing body of research on successful change in business organisations. While we were deeply aware of the profound differences between business and education, we were as deeply convinced that they shared one major thing in common: people.
"Organisations may want to change their strategies, structures, processes, communication patterns and role relationships for a host of good reasons, but it's up to their people to make those changes happen. Our search, therefore, focused on what affected people change.
"Over time, some clear answers emerged, which we tested and confirmed in the schools that had joined our projects. The research literature and our experiences both suggested that successful change depends on five critical factors, or conditions, that have to be established if any significant innovation are to take hold and be sustained. We simultaneously realised that, in fact, what real leaders do is lead change.
"Successful leaders make successful change happen and keep it going. And to do that, they rely on these five basics:
"1.Successful leaders create with their people a deep and compelling organisational purpose for the change they seek to implement - because without a purpose, organisational members lack a strong reason for pursuing the desired change. If there is no reason for change that resonates with their deeper personal values and sense of purpose, the change effort is doomed.
"2.Successful leaders establish a detailed, inspiring organisational vision of the change they seek to implement - because without a defined vision, organisational members lack a clear road map for pursuing the desired change. Without a clear picture of where they're headed and what things will look and be like once the change is in place, they won't know how to get there.
"3.Successful leaders develop broad stakeholder ownership for the change they seek to implement - because without ownership, organisational members lack the psychological commitment and motivation to pursue the change. If there's no sense of having a stake in the success of the change effort, it will remain simply someone else's idea and problem.
"4.Successful leaders build strong organisational capacity for making the change they seek to implement - because without capacity, organisations and their people lack the ability to pursue the desired change successfully. Change inevitably requires people to understand and perform their roles differently than before, and need to be given the training to do this. Motivation is one thing; ability is quite another.
"5.Successful leaders sustain the necessary participation and support structures for the change they seek to implement - because without support, organisational members lack the opportunity and encouragement to pursue the desired change. This is particularly true because many people experience the idea of change as a threatening ordeal. Assurance that their efforts to change are appreciated, acknowledged and supported is the remedy.
"As you're reading this, you may have in mind individuals such as the principal, district officials or school governing body members - those most usually tasked with carrying out organisational change. And I can hear teachers saying: Boy, I sure wish he/she/they knew these five basics and would use them wisely at my school.
"But let's turn the table around and put you, the teacher, in the leadership role - which you are in your classroom every day of the week anyway!
"Let's imagine that any new learning situation or material represents change to your learners, and their responses to that change effort may vary a lot - from optimism and to confusion to indifference to resistance.
"How will you handle the change? What basics do you have at your command?
"I'm suggesting that you go back and re-read the previous section and put yourself in the shoes of the successful leader. As you read, ask yourself how you could more effectively establish purpose, vision, ownership, capacity and support for the learning results you want to achieve every day.
"You'll be impressed with the answers that come to you."
Bruno Manno at http://www.mackinac.org/5279
The Aquarian Fallacy
"Another important question is what sorts of outcomes the state can reasonably prescribe in government schools... Forcing parents to send their children to school is one thing. But for the state to declare that students cannot graduate from a government school they must attend unless they demonstrate values and attitudes the state prescribeseven when these values conflict with what those students and their families believehas all the trappings of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. All this is to say that the "Age of Aquarius" life roles and outcomes espoused by transformational OBE betray an unjustifiably grand view of what compulsory government schools can require of the students forced to attend them.
The Nostalgist Fallacy
"A variation of this objection (that OBE "dumbs-down" learning) is that OBE will hold back gifted and talented youngsters. In schools offering OBE, such students will either have to wait for slow students to catch up, or be kept occupied by helping them keep pace through peer cooperative learning arrangements in which students are placed in groups to work together on a project or subject... One can understand and accept that parents become upset and dismayed when government schools teach doctrines that offend their deepest beliefs. And as mentioned, the situation is made more difficult when these families cannot exit the system unless they can afford a private school.
"But there is no real choice if independent schools are forced to adopt the "state OBE model"
"Unfortunately, both the left (the Aquarians) and the right (the nostalgists) are assaulting those who support the sound and common-sense notion that we should judge educational quality by what and how well children actually learn.
"The Aquarians propose a collection of nebulous life roles, values, and attitudes rather than measurable academic outcomes. The standards they will create are federally sanctioned delivery standards that measure whether schools have enough resources to provide students with an "opportunity to learn." All this has one end: killing off accountability for results.
"The nostalgists criticize the left's Aquarian life roles. Their grievances have more merit, however, than the alternative they proposea return to the content and methods of a bygone era."
What's Wrong With OBE?: The Phyllis Schlafly Report
Extract Ann Wilson's book "Pavlov's Children"
Does research indicate that OBE improves the academic knowledge of students?
No. The reverse is true. In fact, academic tests revealed such lowering of achievement that Chicago abandoned OBE after using it for five years at a cost of $7.5 million. In Minnesota, Cheri Yecke, Stafford County's 1988 Teacher of the Year and finalist for an Agnew Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award, wrote in a 1992 Cottage Grove Bulletin, "The prevailing attitude among many students is "Why Study? They can't fail me so who cares?" What kind of work ethic is this producing in these children?" She also wrote that "A series of 23 meetings were held by the Minnesota Department of Education to gather input from the public concerning the issue of OBE. I attended the November 14 meeting at Park High School in Cottage Grove. Time after time, the same message was heard, as it is presently being implemented, OBE is not working, and is not in the best interests of our children. I estimate that at least 80% of the speakers were against OBE . . ." (Free World Research Special Report, April 1993, "Outcome-Based Education: Re-defining the School, by Wayne Wolf).
High achievers, especially, suffer because the outcomes are so low that the slowest learners can FINALLY reach them, no mater how long it takes ("Mastery Learning Reconsidered," by Robert Slavin, January 1987, Center for Research on Elementary & Middle Schools, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD). OBE is not an academic process. It focuses on complex human behaviors (Dr. Barbara Kapinus, George Lt. Governor's Conference on OBE, May 13, 1993)
Tuesday 27 June
- Notes Towards an Analysis, by Winston Smith
Notes Toward an Analysis
by Winston Smith
Like others on this forum, I suspect, the thing that has most astonished me about the whole OBE/CoS debacle is the way opposing voices and arguments have been utterly ignored by the managers of education in this state. The few (minor) concessions gained have been won only after the most sustained public pressure, and they have been won for political reasons, not on the merits.
I have been appalled at the way key figures have been prepared to dismiss expert feedback and to swear that white is black, even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary. I find myself wondering over and over: How is this possible? How can they get away with this?
In order to move forward, I believe we need a clear analysis of the culture that allows such things to happen. Only when we have such an analysis, I suspect, can we start to formulate a real strategy for action and change. We need to understand the kind of people we are dealing with, and the systems that produce and support them.
A full analysis, of the kind I have in mind, is a job for someone smarter then me; but I think the following might be some useful starting points.
1. The people.
The politicians, administrators and bureaucrats driving the OBE changes are members of a new managerial class. Stuart Rees and Gordon Rodley, in The Human Costs of Managerialism (Pluto Press, 1995) describe a new class of generic managers: people with little or no expertise in the fields they administer (eg, education, health), who see institutions and the people in them merely as systems to be organised. I think that is what we are dealing with. Such people are indifferent to the reality of life within the institutions they manage, and are impervious to arguments based on experience or expertise. They see themselves as endowed with greater vision than those working within the system, as having access to the Big Picture. What we might see as vital and central (eg, maths exams that have correct answers) they see as incidental details. Indeed, they see their very lack of expert knowledge as a strength, believing that it frees them to think outside of established categories. They cannot, therefore, be shamed by revelations of their ignorance.
In their professional lives, these new managers have allegiance to no specific institution, group or place. They are essentially itinerant workers who spend relatively short periods of time in any one job. Brevity of tenure allows them to operate without regard to the long term consequences of their actions. In one year, two years, they will have moved on. The one constant that concerns them is their own career path, and their expanding CV. For them, success in any appointment means holding a position of power for a short time, effecting a dramatic change (any change will do), toughing it out in the face of opposition, and leaving before the PR bubble bursts. Because they are mobile (often moving between states or even nations to take up new positions) such people remain essentially anonymous to the public at large, and that enables them to escape the fallout from their actions.
These itinerant careerists do not value long term commitment to any one position or venture. That is why they view dedicated, long-serving classroom teachers with a mixture of pity and contempt. The teacher who stays in one school for five years, or ten; who takes the long view; who works to build a reputation and a rapport with students, colleagues and community; appears to them as merely lazy, or limited, or lacking in ambition. The itinerant careerist does not understand the concepts of loyalty, commitment, community. They flatter themselves with the belief that they are leading the rest of us away from ignorance and tradition, and into a better future; but it is a future shaped in their image, not ours. We are two different cultures, and our interests do not coincide.
These traits make the generic managers very difficult people to reason with or influence. As we have all seen, their strategy is to avoid engaging in reasoned debate; they instead deploy the seductive discourse of change and progressa discourse already well established in society at large (and one closely tied to marketing and corporatisation). By aligning themselves with words like progress, the future, the 21st century, and so on, they effectively portray opponents as stale traditionalists. This is a struggle fought partly through language. Opponents must therefore learn to use language in this same way, by taking ownership of some equally powerful words and phrases. Perhaps we should be stressing our loyalty to schools and students, asking the managers publicly: Where will you be in two years time? In three? What commitment are you prepared to make to this? Whatever the means, we need to expose their values and habits for what they are: self-serving careerism; lack of long term commitment to community and society; contempt for specific knowledge and expertise.
2. The system.
The itinerant managers are sustained by institutional structures where power operates in one direction. School systems especially are hierarchical, and the hierarchy is a simple one. Those closest to the classroom (not just figuratively but literallylook at the architecture of schools) have the least power. As one moves up the ladder, physical proximity to students decreases, and power increases. At each step in the chainHead of Department, Principal, Regional Coordinator, and so onpower increases. In any contest, the person with the largest office and greatest number of secretaries wins. Within this system, the mechanisms of accountability operate in one direction only. Employment, promotions, performance reviews, and the like, are tools by which the few control the many. There are no formal mechanisms in the system for teachers to review the performance of Principalsor Ministers (elections are very blunt instruments). While that situation persists, there will be no real accountability for the managers, and they will continue to ignore teachers voices while advancing their own careers.
How, then, do we achieve real and lasting change? I think we need to act on both these fronts: the culture of itinerant managerialism, and the institutional structures of power and influence that sustain that culture. With regard to the itinerant managers, I think we need to find ways of ensuring that the consequences of their management decisions do follow them through their careers. Only when we engineer this will we have their full attention. How to do it? I dont know. But a first step might be to publicise their identities and track their progress. That, I think, is already one of the great achievements of PLATO. Public exposure and scrutiny has started to achieve results. The gains have not yet been great, because the managers are assuming the scrutiny wont last, and that they will soon escape it, with another notch on their CVs. We must make sure the scrutiny does last. Perhaps one strategy would be to maintain a detailed, single, public register of all those involved in this debacle, top to bottom, so that these things become a matter of public record. I am not proposing a hit list. Im suggesting that what we need is a corporate memorythe kind of corporate memory that institutions like DET and the CC maintain on us. Perhaps someone could build a kind of organisational chart, showing who is doing what, who is in, who is out, with a brief summary of each persons legacy? It would make it easier for those with concerns to target their letters and emails to the right people. And it would signal to the managers themselves that we are watching.
On the second front, that of the institutional power structures, I think we must find ways of giving teachers some real leverage over those who occupy managerial positions. The accountability must flow in both directions, up and down the hierarchy. The traditional structures for doing thisthe Union, subject associations like the ETAare no longer functioning to represent their members. They have been co-opted, and many are now dominated by their own set of itinerant careerists. WACOT does not look promising, for the same reason. The first step, I think, should be to regain control of these institutions. That means, sadly, joining up, going to the dreary meetings, nominating for positions, and exercising the power to vote. Too many of us have abandoned the playing field to those with greater appetite for meetings; we have to get involved. Even so, I suspect that renovating these organisations will be a long term project. Perhaps we should establish alternative organisations instead. (The Sad English Teachers Association is showing the lead here.)
A second way to gain some power, I think, is to exercise a communal voice. PLATO is a terrific step in this direction, but it is surprising how many in the profession and the community dont know of it. Somehow, we need to put PLATO under peoples noses, drop it into their lunch boxes. Could that be done, I wonder, by expanding the newsletter into a kind of news journal for the teaching profession? One that solicits contributions from teachers, which could be printed locally in schools, dropped on staff room tables, downloaded by parents or community members? Some kind of fast, responsive publication is needed, I think, to track events and to disseminate more widely the kind of information found here on the PLATO forum: the extracts from Hansard, for instance. How long could this Minister really last if large numbers of people started reading her parliamentary statements on a regular basis?
I think there are models for this kind of thing. The independent news journal Crikey.com.au, for example, operates as an email newsletter and web page, relying heavily on contributions from journalists prepared to file reports from inside their organisations. Im not suggesting a gossip sheet, but a well edited, responsible journal that speaks with our best professional voice; yet something that can be produced inexpensively, which can reach large numbers of readers quickly. It would need a broader brief than PLATO, with separation of reportage from comment, some regular columns, features, and so on. There is already a wealth of information online here, that could be polished up for issue number one.
The managers would not like it, would try to stifle it. Those who try should be named and shamed. As professionals, teachers should have the right to engage in professional debate during work hours, including accessing professional journals, whether online, via email, or in print. Perhaps that is a right to bargain for in the next EBA?
Other contributors can no doubt develop this analysis further, or suggest better ways to gain leverage on the people and the system that have given us the present chaos.
- The West Australian
- Acting CEOs may cause instability, says commissioner
"Failure to replace acting chief executive officers with permanent staff was often detrimental in the public sector because of a perception that those acting did not have full authority in their role, Public Sector Standards Commissioner Maxine Murray said yesterday..."
"The State Government has been called on to end the instability in the Curriculum Council, which is on to its third chief executive in 12 months." [emphasis added]
[But will the next one be any better? Web]
Full story in The West Australian
- The Adelaide Advertiser
- Lack of skills "hurting economy"
by Christopher Russell
"A shortage of skilled workers is holding back the economy, a survey of the state's business community shows.
"The SA Business Journal survey found 83 per cent of business people wanted the State Government to increase provision of training for young people.
"Only 13 per cent were satisfied with the level of training provision.
"The lack of skilled workers "is really hurting", Business SA chief executive Peter Vaughan said.
"The survey also pointed to "a seismic shift in the way in which we undertake business activity in South Australia", he said.Full story in The Adelaide Advertiser at http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19601509-1246,00.html
"This was because the greatest optimism about future prosperity was for industry sectors such as defence, mining, high technology and international education - sectors with a need for highly skilled workers..."
- The Australian
- Plan to find phantom army of kids
by Patricia Karvelas
"A national rollcall of indigenous school-aged children was agreed to at yesterday's summit to address violence in remote Aboriginal communities.
"The meeting of 15 state and territory Aboriginal affairs and police ministers in Canberra agreed to a national audit of indigenous school attendance, to find a phantom army of children not enrolled in school.
"But they baulked at a plan by the one-day summit's host, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, to give the audit teeth by having police monitor truancy to ensure indigenous children go to school..."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19600979-13881,00.html
- Editorial: Ending the nightmare
Law and order is a start to stopping Aboriginal sex abuse
"Yesterday's summit on stemming the tide of violence and sexual abuse engulfing remote Aboriginal communities is one step on the long road to protecting the rights of indigenous Australians. Every Australian has the right to live without the fear of violent and predatory men turning their existence into a nightmare. A culture of denial over decades has allowed governments around the country to avoid confronting mounting evidence that life for many women and children in remote Aboriginal communities is just that. Finally, in Mal Brough the Howard Government appears to have an indigenous affairs minister prepared to take the strong action needed to bring the situation under control. As he observed yesterday, failure on this front should cause the Government to question "why the heck we are governing". It's a poser that the 15 state and territory ministers who attended the summit should answer. Yesterday most were still sidestepping the clear facts about sexual violence in Aboriginal communities, such as that not even babies are immune in an epidemic that is seeing sexually transmitted diseases increasing in girls aged under 14..."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19598780-7583,00.html
Wednesday 28 June
- PLATO Media Release
PLATO Media Release
"PLATO Celebrates Milestone"
Despite being dissatisfied with the Government's so-called "OBE Compromise Plan", the anti-OBE lobby group PLATO will pause briefly today to celebrate a milestone.
PLATO spokesman Steve Kessell announced that they will reach visitor number 100,000 to their website home page today.
"The website traffic has increased exponentially over the past two months," Kessell said. He noted: "The 100,000 figure is hits on the home page alone, from more than 30,000 different computers, since September. During that period, 870,000 individual pages were downloaded from our web site 187,000 this month alone."
Kessell vows that the celebration will be short-lived. "We anticipate a new wave of anti-OBE sentiment when parents receive school reports in a couple of weeks. Already hundreds of parents, unhappy with the new OBE Year 11 English course, have downloaded our petition to the State Parliament," he said.
"The petition requests that the government delay all new Year 11-12 courses, and not proceed into Year 12 with those started this year, until they have been approved by a majority of the teachers who will be teaching them," he said.
Hit # 100,000 on the PLATOWA home page occurred at 1:24 pm today. This home page has now been accessed from more than 30,000 different computers since September 2005. More than 870,000 individual pages were downloaded during this period.
- The West Australian
- Warning on maths under OBE
by Bethany Hiatt (page 7)
"More students would choose the easiest stream of maths if new outcomes-based education courses are rolled out in their present form and fewer would qualify to take the subject at university, the head of mathematics at one of WA's top State schools has warned.
"Rossmoyne Senior High School teacher Laurie Sutton said he feared that future students would not meet the requirements needed to take difficult subjects such as engineering and physics at tertiary level.
"Mr Sutton, also a former TEE examiner and chief mathematics exam marker, said he felt compelled to speak out because he was concerned the implementation of three OBE maths courses proposed for 2008 would lead to fewer students studying calculus, which gave them the background essential for studying higher maths at university.
"He said that under the new system many students would choose to study only one maths subject and they were likely to choose the easiest because all courses counted equally towards university entry. He believed most would opt for the proposed Chance and Data course, which includes probability, statistics and a limited background in algebra but not calculus.
"Before the existing courses commenced in Year 12 in 1992, only about 2000 students who completed Year 12 had a background in calculus," he said in a letter to Education director-general Paul Albert."Since the commencement of Introductory Calculus in Year 11 in 1991, the number of students who complete Year 12 with some background in calculus has grown to over 5000.
"(Under OBE) we will be reverting to a lower base level in calculus than where we were in 1990. We will be winding the clock back 15 to 20 years." [emphasis added]
"Mr Sutton's concerns echo those raised by Professor Garth Gaudry, director of the International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics who released a report this month revealing the number of WA teenagers studying advanced maths had plunged to alarmingly low levels.
"Mathematical Association of WA president Noemi Reynolds said members held many views on OBE implementation. "The courses have been designed so that more students will access calculus but some people see that it will have a different effect," she said.
"Curriculum Council acting chief executive David Axworthy said the new maths courses were still going through the consultation phase and had not yet been endorsed."
- Website asks students to rate their teachers
by Bethany Hiatt (page 7)
"Teaching careers could be ruined by a new internet site that allows students to rate their teachers and post comments on how they perform in class, union leaders said yesterday.
"State School Teachers Union president Mike Keely and Independent Education Union secretary Theresa Howe said the website was unethical and could lead to bullying of teachers.
"After the success of a similar website over about five years in the US, its California creators launched the website four weeks ago after its British version caused controversy last year.
"Lawyers say the site, which also operates in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and India, is potentially defamatory, though it does not appear to contravene Australian privacy laws.
"Freehills senior associate Nick Stagg said the website could also breach other laws such as the Trade Practices Act but it would be almost impossible to track down and sue a 16-year-old school boy posting an anonymous message on the US-based website.
"Mr Keely said the website was an open invitation to abuse teachers anonymously.
"It could have an effect on entire schools if somebody was malicious and wanted to cause problems," he said. "It's open to the same sort of bullying and unethical behaviour that happens to some students through the misuse of mobile phones."
"Ms Howe said the website could destroy a teacher's career.
"I can see potential for some quite vitriolic information to be going around about teachers without any substantiation," she said.
"The website displays a database of primary and secondary schools, TAFE and university campuses across Australia. Students add the teachers' names under each school.
"Teachers are rated out of five for their helpfulness and the clarity of their teaching. Those who rate highly get a yellow smiley face wearing sunglasses, or a blue sad face appears for a poor rating.
"The site is so new that few WA teachers have yet been listed, though the principal of a Catholic boys' school has a smiley symbol and a positive endorsement of his leadership.
"Postings about a teacher at a top Sydney college were more caustic: "She is such a rude person!! She is totally unsuited to teaching. Can't understand why they keep her."
"And a criticism of a teacher at a Melbourne girls' school read: "Worst teacher EVER!!! I think she needs to learn how to teach..."
"The site includes a "wall of fame" to rank the best teachers in the nation and a "hall of shame" to list all schools that ban students from using the site during school hours."
[Wonder if there's a site to rate union officials? Web]
- Esperance seeks school (page 5)
"Esperance has stepped up its fight for a new private school, with more than 1000 locals signing a petition which was presented to State Parliament yesterday calling for the establishment of a $ 15 million Anglican secondary school in the town.
"The petition is the first step in the appeal process after Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich refused a planning application for the school on the basis of population projections. The Department of Education Services' non-government schools planning advisory committee said Esperance, 730 km south-east of Perth, was not a growth area and a private secondary school would be detrimental to the State high school.
"Anglican Schools Commission chairman John Moody said the petition showed the local community wanted a new low-fee church school.
"Nationals leader Brendon Grylls said building an independent school would mean many local children would no longer be forced to attend Perth schools." [emphasis added]
From The West Australian [not available online]
- Letter to the Editor
New pressures on students
"The decision to keep students at school longer, combined with the new OBE changes, will cause big social problems for WA students.
"If the school leaving age is raised, an additional 7000 students will stay at school. This, combined with OBE, will create some serious social problems.
"Lets face it, many of the 7000 extra kids forced to stay at school will loathe it, have severe literacy, numeracy, behavioural and social problems, and would prefer not to be at school.
"The type of courses these kids have done in the past, Senior Science, Senior English etc., are being abolished under OBE.
"The Curriculum Council argues that these kids can take regular TEE English, physics, etc. subjects along with the TEE students, but at a lower level.
"The new courses are set up on a six-semester plan: 1A,1B,2A,2B,3A and 3B. The 3A-3B courses will be needed for university entrance.
"The idea is that TEE kids could take 1A-1B in Year 9 or Year 10, do the 2s in year 11 and the 3s in Year 12.
"What will happen? I expect disillusionment, resentment, anger, frustration and failure.
"No, it won't be deferred success because no matter how long these students stay at school, they will not move much beyond Level 4. They will not suddenly get into uni. They will never have the satisfaction of getting an A or a B as they could have under the old system.
"They are doomed to courses and tasks that will bamboozle and frustrate them and the eternal cycle of being assigned a Level 4 year after year.
"It also means that non-TEE Year 12s may well be doing 1A-1B subjects with Year 10 TEE students.
"What kind of social mix will that be: students (who in the past would have left school already) being forced to stay on at school, and then being forced to take classes with the academically-motivated little smart-arses? This will not help their self-esteem.
"I dont think this will be very good for either cohort. I suspect the bigger, tougher, more mature forced- to-stay-in-school Year 12s may well beat the crap out of the little egghead wimps! Lots of bloody noses, or worse.
"Now how is that a better system for the huge number of students who will not be heading to university? There is no doubt that they are better off with the current non-TEE courses.
"I suspect that the Curriculum Council, in typical fashion, has not even considered this issue."
Steve Kessell, Willetton
[This letter was at the top of their Letters to the Editor page from 22 June to 19 September !]
The Sunday TImes - Perth Now Letters to the Editor are now located at
[or go to their homepage http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/ and click the "Opinion" button]
Labor's spin docs had $1m credit
by Joe Spagnolo
"Nearly $1 million in credit cards have been handed out to Labor Government media advisers.
"The Liberal Party has revealed in State Parliament that credit cards with up to $40,000 limits were held by 78 ministerial advisers on top of other benefits such as mobile phones and telephones.
"Staff in the Premiers and ministers offices had 75 credit cards to the value of $948,000 as well as the use of 48 cars and 88 mobile phones.
"Opposition treasury spokesman Troy Buswell has accused the Alan Carpenter administration of being a "careless Government.
"The Government has become increasingly reckless in its management of taxpayers funds and has an obligation to explain why ministerial advisers need $1 million in ready credit, Mr Buswell said.
"We need to know whether there are any audit procedures in place to ensure this excessive credit is not misused.
"Having this amount of floating credit readily accessible by political advisers is poor management and could leave taxpayers funds open to abuse.
"Credit cards with $30,000 limits are held by media advisers and other staff and the question that needs to be answered is _ why? ...
Full story in Perth Now / The Sunday Times online at http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21498,19608310-2761,00.html
- The Australian
Take kids, says black leader
by Annabelle McDonald
"Indigenous children in remote communities should be removed from their families and sent to boarding school, with the government and private sector picking up the fees.
"Aboriginal leader Wesley Aird, a member of the federal Government's National Indigenous Council advisory group, said the benefits of a good education far outweighed concerns that boarding school education might create a new stolen generation.
"He told a conference on indigenous policy development in Brisbane yesterday the council would lobby the federal Government to support indigenous students through boarding schools.
"To us, the boarding school thing is not necessarily about the classic Scots and Joeys private schools in the big cities," he said.
"It might be the Spinifex College (in Mount Isa) or Kormilda College (in the Northern Territory). It might be an Aboriginal hostel dorm from where the child then goes to school.
"The real key is that the kids have a safe nurturing environment where they can do their homework."
"Mr Aird rejected fears the plan would create another stolen generation, saying that leaving children in communities with their parents might be more damaging. "I think it is quite bizarre: it is OK to stay home and get beaten up or raped by your dad, but we are worried about creating a stolen generation," he said.
"If a kid is going to cop a nasty hiding at home, let's look after that child's human rights and get them to safety. How that then translates into education outcomes is a bit tricky and we need to talk about it..."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19611545-2702,00.html
Thursday 29 June
Changes to the Post Compulsory Curriculum in Western Australia
by WA Parliament's Education and Health Standing Committee, 29 June 2006
- ABC Evening News, 7 pm
OBE got a quick mention with Labor politicians saying that "OBE as we know it is dead", but "the revised courses of study will be introduced as planned next year".
It also mentioned that the Opposition will be issuing a dissenting report.
Dr Hames commented that all of the changes meant the new courses were still not ready.
Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said that Labor was listening to teachers' concerns and that "her timetable was still on track".
They showed a quick picture of SSTU president Mike Keely, and the same stock footage of a kid looking at the PLATOWA website again!
Channel 7 Evening News, 6 pm
Similar to the ABC report, with the Education Minister lauding the change from OBE to OSE [Outcomes and Standards Education]. Ravlich said: ""Goodbye to OBE, hello to outcomes and standards education. That is the way forward (and) it is the best of both worlds."
The West Australian highlights the parliamentary committee's Minority Report
- MPs join calls for OBE delay
Exclusive by Jessica Strutt (page 5)
"Three members of a parliamentary committee investigating outcomes-based education, including Independent MP Liz Constable, will today call for the controversial system to be delayed.
"The trio, which also includes Liberal MP Kim Hames and National MP Tuck Waldron, will take the highly unusual step of issuing a so-called minority report on the committee's work because they failed to agree with the Government MPs involved in the inquiry on whether OBE should be delayed.
"Both groups will table their reports in Parliament today, just two weeks after it was revealed that Alan Carpenter and Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich met three government members of the committee to discuss widespread concerns about OBE.
"The Opposition accused the Premier and Ms Ravlich of breaking parliamentary rules by having the meeting, saying it would have compromised the independence of the committee's report. [Looks like it did... Web]
"The West Australian understands that Dr Constable, Mr Hames and Mr Waldron were fuming and felt betrayed when they heard of the meeting between Mr Carpenter, Ms Ravlich and the committee's Government members.
"Political analyst Harry Phillips said it was quite rare for members of committees to hand down minority reports because it involved a lot of extra work by the individual MPs behind it.
"President of the teachers' lobby group PLATO, Greg Williams, said he would welcome the minority report.
"Mr Williams said it was great that at least the Opposition committee members and Dr Constable were willing to stand up for the best interests of teachers and students.
"We're just six months away from the start of 2007 and teachers have zero resources," he said. "If they don't actually put a delay in place one will happen because things are going to collapse.:
"OBE's critics warn that the hybrid model being adopted by the Government for next year will create more problems than it solves. [emphasis added]
"The Legislative Assembly's education and health standing committee inquiry into the OBE push into Years 11 and 12 was announced in May last year after The West Australian had reported for months on the widespread concern about the changes.
"The inquiry has looked at issues including the merit and basis of the proposed changes and the effect of extending an OBE curriculum into upper school."
- Robert Taylor's "Inside State":
Omodei a caretaker, Carpenter digging in [A - E reports on politicians] [page 19]
[On Alan Carpenter]: "... declared he would be a different proposition from his predecessor. Before long it became apparent that meant digging in when confronted with a crisis while taking pot shots from the bunker at the media.
"In particular the multiple debacles... and the ongoing controversy over outcomes-based education gave ample proof of the Premier's stubborn streak... [He] took an eternity to pay serious attention to public concerns over OBE." [emphasis added]
[On Ljiljanna Ravlich]: "Painted herself into a corner by stubbornly defending the Government's timetable on OBE while ignoring teacher concerns.
"Took the lead from her boss and blamed the growing crisis on the media and teachers' lobby group PLATO.
"Went missing at crucial times in the debate and eventually had to hand over carriage of the whole mess to Premier Carpenter who produced a patched-up hybrid model she'll have to sell over the next two years. Good luck." [emphasis added]
Full stories in The West Australian
- The Australian
- No place for New Age school syllabus
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt has slammed other states for designing their curriculums using an "outcomes-based" approach, saying school students should be protected from syllabuses adopting the latest educational fads.
"Ms Tebbutt warned that if those curriculums infused the new national syllabus and Australian Certificate of Education being promoted by the Howard Government, there was a risk NSW students could be penalised.
"What's happened in some other states is that they've elevated one (outcomes) at the expense of another (content) and my view is you need both," she told The Australian.
"The NSW school curriculum differs from other states in prescribing the content of what students should be taught as well as describing the outcomes of what students should be able to do, which Ms Tebbutt said shielded NSW students from the educational trends adopted in some other states, such as postmodern interpretation of literature.
"I certainly don't subscribe to the view that there are no pieces of work that aren't more superior than other pieces of work," she said.
"There are great pieces of literature, and they should be studied as such."
"In some states, literary works such as those by Shakespeare are treated as having equal merit with websites, film posters and CD covers. [emphasis added]
"Ms Tebbutt, who belongs to the Left faction of the ALP, expressed concern that NSW students would be forced into studying a narrower curriculum if the new national syllabus were restricted to the common elements from among the other states.
"Any attempt to examine students right across Australia would end up ... pooling the common elements from each state and territory, and we'd only get a part of what we teach being tested," she said yesterday. "The danger is that your teaching program gets skewed to what's being tested, and that ... would narrow our curriculum."
"The NSW school curriculum is widely regarded by educational experts as the benchmark, with the West Australian Government saying it would look to the NSW system in redesigning its controversial courses for Years 11 and 12. [emphasis added]
"The Australian Certificate of Education and a national curriculum are expected to be discussed at the national education ministers' council next month.
"Ms Tebbutt gave short shrift to many of the current educational trends that carry weight in other states.
"For instance, she questioned the ability of senior students to grasp complex philosophies, such as Marxism, and apply them to English texts.
"I don't subscribe to the view that there are no universal truths ... we might as well all give up now if that's the case," she said.
"I don't support that view because it then becomes completely unclear what students are supposed to be learning."
"Ms Tebbutt said ensuring a content-rich syllabus was taught consistently throughout the state had enabled NSW to avoid its curriculum becoming dominated by one approach. "We've had a strong approach and we don't want fads in our system," she said. "We stick to an approach that's worked."
"While some teachers asked senior English students to analyse Shakespeare plays from a Marxist and feminist point of view, Ms Tebbutt questioned the capacity of students to interpret a work at that level.
"You've got to remember it's Year 12 students," she said. "And sometimes we're expecting them to have a level of understanding about other philosophies that at that age they're not able to make."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19623674-2702,00.html
- Deane blast for black schools
by Annabelle McDonald
"Former governor-general William Deane has criticised the "appalling" state of secondary education in indigenous communities and called for more Aboriginal children to be sent away to city boarding schools.
"Throwing his weight behind the interventions promoted by Howard Government adviser Noel Pearson and National Indigenous Council member Wesley Aird, Sir William said providing boarding-school education for young Aborigines had already been successful.
"I think it is a shame for children to be taken out of their communities, much the same way that it's a shame for people in rural backgrounds to be taken out of the home and going to boarding school," Sir William told The Australian yesterday.
"But the current state of secondary education in our outback indigenous communities is so appalling that, where the families want it and support it, I think it's working extraordinarily well." ...
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19623890-13881,00.html
- Letters to the Editor
- "Many teachers chose to go on strike yesterday [in NSW] as part of the union movement's national day of action protesting against the Howard Government's industrial relations changes. They forget who they are really hurting. If they want parents' support for their campaign, they should not hold them or their children's education to ransom.
"Those teachers who were absent yesterday insulted the children in their class, who missed a day of lessons. They also insulted the parents, many of whom had to take a day off work and lost a day's pay. Likewise, their employer also lost a day of productivity. How much does this all cost the nation?"
Michael Robinson, Hurlstone Park, NSW
Full Letters to the Editor in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/index/0,,21223,00.html
- News.Com [from AAP]
- Foreign students spend $1bn in Aust
"International students learning English at Australian colleges last year pumped more than $1 billion into the nation's economy, a study has found.
"Undertaken by Environmetrics and commissioned by English Australia, the study revealed international student numbers soared by 11 per cent in 2005 compared with the previous year.
"Last year 101,087 foreign students were studying at English colleges in Australia, with the largest enrolment increases in Queensland and South Australia.
"In total, the students paid $1.082 billion in enrolment fees and other spending contributing almost $10,000 each to the Australian economy.
"English Australia chairman Seamus Fagan said student numbers had increased by an average of 3.4 per cent a year in recent times, despite the sector's vulnerability to world events and currency fluctuations.
"It is excellent news that Australia continues to attract increasing numbers of international students for language study," he said in a statement.
"English language students are usually young adults ... looking to travel and learn, not just the language but about the culture of the destination country.
"It is impossible to place a value on the understanding of Australia that they develop and the goodwill towards Australian people."
"The study found Asian students represented 80 per cent of enrolments, while Europeans accounted for 13 per cent, central and South Americans six per cent and people from the Middle East the remainder.
"There are more than 240 English language colleges in Australia, run by private companies, universities and TAFEs.
"Education Minister Julie Bishop welcomed the report.
"It is pleasing to see strong growth in the English language ... sector and the important contribution it is making to the Australian economy," she said in a statement."From http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19623600-421,00.html
- The Independent (UK)
- Leading Article: A-level reform is needed now
"The news that University of Cambridge International Examinations has produced an alternative to A-levels shows just how badly ministers have let the case for exam reform drift. Leading independent schools and representatives of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust from the state sector have both expressed interest in the new exam. However, while independent schools would be free to offer it to their pupils, state schools will not be able to unless the exam is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the Government's exams watchdog. This raises the spectre of private schools offering one exam - designed to stretch pupils more - and state schools offering another. There is no telling the damage that could do to the chances of state school pupils at universities and any hope that the country's elite institutions might widen participation to students from less privileged backgrounds.
"The development stems from the Government's decision to reject the main recommendations for reforming A-levels put forward by former chief schools inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson. He wanted a new diploma to replace the existing A-level and GCSE system to cover both academic and vocational qualifications, a recommendation that the Government rejected. The Government said it would review its decision in 2008. The best outcome, we believe, would be if ministers did a U-turn. If they don't, we are left with a segregated exams system or the QCA recognising the new Cambridge Pre-U - as it is unappetisingly called. A real marketplace would open up with schools being free to choose between the new exam, A-levels or the International Baccalaureate. In the latter scenario, the Prime Minister could not have done better than Margaret Thatcher in turning education into a marketplace if he had tried. Perhaps he did."We understand that Sir Mike has been co-opted as an adviser on to the Conservatives' public services forum to help plan policy. He may not be able to persuade them of the merits of his original recommendations. But he might convince them to embrace the Cambridge Pre-U as a replacement for A-levels. That would avoid a segregated education system and give universities an examination to stretch the most able pupils without making them choose from a vast number of pupils - all with three A grades at A-level."
Full story in The Independent at http://www.independent.co.uk//eceRedirect?articleId=1117274&pubId=5
Friday 30 June
- The West Australian
- Demand grows to postpone OBE II [front page lead story]
by Jessica Strutt and Sam Riley
"The State Government is facing a fresh crisis over outcomes-based education, with members of a parliamentary committee which studied the issue joining educators in warning that Alan Carpenter's latest watered-down version of the controversial system would not be ready for next year.
"Independent MLA Liz Constable, who sat on the committee, told the Legislative Assembly yesterday that the OBE compromise pieced together by Mr Carpenter in response to the outcry had come too late to be implemented in 2007.
"I'm listening to people in schools saying they don't know what's happening, they don't know what they'll be teaching next year," Dr Constable said.
"Dr Constable joined with two other MPs on the committee Liberal Kim Hames and National Terry Waldron to file a so-called minority report, in which they said that delaying OBE by a year would be far less disruptive for schools than forcing it on them at such a late stage.
"The better way forward would be to delay the implementation...only in this way will the risks and disruption to students and teachers be minimised," the minority report says.
"Under Mr Carpenter's "OBE light", year 11 and 12 teachers will still be able to use detailed syllabuses. But details of the compromise package, which was devised as part of a bid to convince teachers to drop their boycott of OBE, are not due to unveiled until July 24.
"The Curriculum Council has also promised to send out answers to teachers' frequently asked questions on individual courses by next week.
"But education sources said talks between the union and the Council had virtually stalled as tensions arose over how much of the new courses would be superimposed on the old course.
"Greg Williams, of teachers' lobby group PLATO, said it was vital that OBE be delayed until 2008 despite the changes. "We are 26 weeks away from the start of next year and we haven't seen any sign of these promises," Mr Williams said.
"Sacred Heart College principal Ian Elder said there was no doubt implementing OBE for the 2007 school year was too soon. "I do believe it should be delayed," Mr Elder said last night. "I still think there are too many questions unanswered."
"Joy Shepherd, Principal of St Hilda's Anglican School for Girls, also call for OBE to be delayed.
"We have had to suspend any preparation for subjects for next year and until we get the prescribed content and assessment clarified we can't do anything," she said.
"Association of Independent Schools executive director Audrey Jackson said she was not confident the council would provide teachers with the necessary OBE material by July 24, when they are due to hold a professional development day to discuss the changes.
"Given the extent of the changes I think that the timeline of July 24 is quite short and so it will be an onerous task for the Curriculum Council to achieve it," she said.
"State School Teachers Union President Mike Keely, who has been locked in discussions for most of this week on how to make the hybrid model work, said it was crucial that teachers had their questions answered before they went on holidays in mid-July.
"The latest calls for OBE to be delayed came as the Government tried to portray OBE as dead. "The simple fact is that OBE in its pure form is no longer the go," declared Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich.
"Goodbye to OBE, hello to outcomes and standards education. That is the way forward (and) it is the best of both worlds."
"All committee members agreed that the "pure OBE" system originally pushed was "significantly flawed".
"This finding, which was backed by the ALP committee members, represents a remarkable turn around for the Government, which had steadfastly backed OBE from the outset.
"When the committee was set up in May last year, Ms Ravlich confidently predicted OBE would be endorsed, saying it was highly unlikely the committee would criticise it.
"The Government committee members argued against a delay, saying it would result in unnecessary disruption to students, teachers and schools and would deny students a better education model.
"Their majority report highlighted that without the recent changes, committee members would have been unanimous in their call for a delay.
"Committee chairman, Labor MP Tom Stephens, gave a ringing endorsement of OBE light despite the absence of any details about how it would work.
"OBE in Western Australia is dead. The purist model is finished," Mr Stephens said. "There is instead a reform process which will deliver outcomes and standards-focused education that will serve Western Australia well long into the future."
"Labor MP Dianne Guise was critical of the original OBE model, saying its documentation was unnecessarily long-winded and confusing.
"Opposition Education spokesman Peter Collier said he could not understand how the Government members of the committee had given a glowing endorsement of the new hybrid system when they had not seen the substantive detail of that proposal."
Full story in The West Australian at http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=373
- Tasmania to scrap OBE "Essentials Learning Curriculum"
- ABC News Online
- Teachers welcome curriculum overhaul
"Tasmanian teachers are celebrating news the state's much maligned Essential Learnings Curriculum (ELS) is to be overhauled.
"The new Eduction Minister, David Bartlett, told a Budget estimates hearing yesterday the curriculum will be simplified, renamed and its reporting requirements slashed.
"The Tasmanian Education Union says some teachers have been working 16-hour days to report on just three of the 18 requirements of the original ELS package. [emphasis added]
"Union president Jean Walker says the changes were forced on teachers, and there is still a lot of work to be done.
"I believe they'll be very happy as long as they're consulted and their opinions taken into account," she said.
"The Opposition's education spokesman, Peter Gutwein, is pleased the new Minister recognises the curriculum is confusing.
"There does not appear to be any attempt to set clear explicit standards in relation to what we would like our children to be learning at certain year levels," he said.
"The revised Tasmanian curriculum could be introduced as early as next year."From ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200606/s1675202.htm
- The Hobart Mercury
- ELs axed [front page lead story]
by Philippa Duncan
"The Essential Learnings framework will be dumped less than two years after it was introduced to all schools.
"Education Minister David Bartlett yesterday revealed the jargon-filled ELs would disappear from Tasmanian schools next year.
"And his deputy secretary David Hanlon did not rule out a return to the traditional subjects of maths and English. [emphasis added]
"Mr Bartlett said his department head John Smyth and some principals had begun work on "Tasmania's Curriculum" to replace ELs.
"He promised the result would "radically simplify the language and the framework" but was reluctant to concede ELs had been scrapped.
"He preferred to call the massive overhaul "an ongoing refinement and improvement process".
"The State Government has spent more than $20 million implementing, developing, and advertising ELs, laptops for teachers and ELs-linked cash bonuses for principals.
"It has earned criticism from every quarter -- teachers, parents, students, the Australian Education Union, education experts and the business sector.
"Opposition education spokesman Peter Gutwein said the widely criticised framework had "died a death of a thousands cuts".
"Mr Bartlett launched an extraordinary broadside on his predecessor Paula Wriedt, who introduced ELs and backed it against strong and constant attacks. [And this will happen in WA ! Web]
"We did not do a very good job of communicating to parents," he told a budget Estimates hearing.
"We did not do a very good job at managing change in the department.
"We did not do a very good job at assessment and reporting against ELs."
"Former prime minister Paul Keating's speechwriter Don Watson, who was recruited to rid ELs reports of jargon, last year compared ELs language to Swahili.
"In May, Mr Bartlett announced a taskforce to improve ELs reports to make them easier for parents to understand.
"Mr Hanlon said the five Essential Learnings elements would stay, but the 18 key elements _ which include acting democratically, maintaining wellbeing and building social capital -- would be cut to six or eight.
"He said the curriculum would have less jargon and be more user-friendly for teachers and parents.
Mr Hanlon said work started at the beginning of this year, when the new minister started.
"We are looking at simplification," Mr Hanlon said.
"He said reports would also be improved and teachers would have more scope to let parents know how their children were performing academically..."
Full story in The Hobart Mercury at http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19634414%255E921,00.html
- Tasmania Examiner [Launceston] online
- Essential Learnings sent to scrapheap
Government abandons $12.6m experiment [front page lead story]
by Nic Price
"CUTTING THE LOSSES: Education Minister David Bartlett pulled the plug on the $12.6 million ELs curriculum yesterday.
"After years of controversy and $12.6 million, the Government has essentially scrapped its Essential Learnings curriculum.
"Core ideas of the framework will be retained but much of the complexity and jargon will be stripped away through a comprehensive overhaul on two fronts. [emphasis added]
"It will be renamed Tasmania's curriculum for implementation in 2007.
"The 18 key elements of ELs will be drastically cut to between six and eight and a committee of jargon-busters will wield the axe on confusing language.
"Education Minister David Bartlett admitted that the programme would be renamed because ELs had negative connotations.
"I think the Essential Learnings brand, if you like, does have some damage associated with it," Mr Bartlett said.
"Unfortunately where it has suffered is ... assessment reporting, communication with parents - we haven't done it well enough. We need to do better.
"I do think we need to refer to Tasmania's curriculum, because that's what it is."
"An Education Department review conducted by school principals is under way to simplify the framework to re- engage teachers and parents confused by recent changes...."
"Elements would be renamed to reflect people's understanding. It is believed "being arts literate" may become "the Arts".
"Mr Hanlon also said that there would be a change in reporting elements, terminology and scales.
"We will make clearer connections for parents between (the elements) and the subjects taught at our schools," Mr Hanlon said.
"ELs was being phased in at an implementation cost of $12.6 million, according to a department source.
"The first ELs report cards went out before Christmas and parents complained over the confusing language including "being literate", "being numerate" and "maintaining wellbeing".
"Under union pressure earlier this year, Mr Bartlett postponed the introduction of further assessment areas including "inquiry" and "acting democratically".
"Liberal education spokesman Peter Gutwein said that ELs "died a death of a thousand cuts" and clearer standards were needed so teachers and parents knew what was required for each year level..." [emphasis added]
Full story in Tasmania Examiner online at http://www.examiner.com.au/story.asp?id=350182
- The Australian
- All school subjects rated equal
by Justine Ferrari and Paige Taylor
"Western Australia will become the only state to rate all school subjects - from cookery to physics - equally in determining students' tertiary entrance scores, despite claims the move threatens university standards.
"A state parliamentary report tabled yesterday supported the curriculum changes being introduced in Western Australia for Years 11 and 12, which fail to reward students pursuing more difficult subjects.
"The report notes the problem, and recommends student course choices are monitored to ensure enrolments in subjects such as maths and the physical sciences do not fall. But it fails to address how to stem any drop off in enrolments in the harder subjects.
"Under the curriculum changes, which started last year and will be fully implemented by 2009, all 47 courses of study will count towards university entrance.
"This comparability of courses of study, in that levels awarded across various courses will be equivalent, represents a key area of concern among opponents of the changes," the report says. "This has the potential to remove the two-tiered education system, which places a higher value on certain subjects over others."
"But the director of the federal Government's International Centre for Excellence in the Education of Mathematics, Garth Gaudry, described the approach as "a nonsense proposal".
"Professor Gaudry said failing to reward or encourage students to pursue more difficult subjects would downgrade the quality of West Australian degrees.
"It will rapidly lead to a lowering of entrance standards to university," he said. "Universities are driven by dollars and the need to fill their places and there will be a consequent drop in the quality of degrees in West Australian universities."
"The state's universities yesterday remained cautious until the detail of the new system had been finalised and said they reserved the right to scale subjects according to their difficulty.
"But the University of Western Australia and Curtin University said student marks were moderated by the external Year 12 exam for tertiary entrance and said the requirement of prerequisite subjects for some degrees ensured academic standards.
"Jane Long, pro-vice chancellor of teaching and learning at the University of Western Australia, said it was a misconception that more difficult subjects were not given more weight.
"Professor Long said the new courses of study included levels of difficulty.
"UWA already accepts a very wide array of subjects and we expect to continue to do so in relation to the new courses of study," Professor Long said.
"We reserve the right to scale subjects in the future ... it's a safeguard.
"But we feel confident as a university that our processes are there to protect the integrity of our selection."
"Curtin University pro-vice chancellor for academic services Jane den Hollander said the new system would have no effect on the falling numbers of science and maths students occurring nationally.
"Professor den Hollander said the university was excited by the breadth of subjects students could take under the new system.
"The fact that subjects are not weighted is not a problem at this time but we reserve the right to monitor that," she said.
"But Greg Williams, the founder of the People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes pressure group, said universities were divesting themselves of prerequisites at a rapid rate, removing any incentive for students to pursue subjects such as maths and science. "Kids are pragmatists who lead busy lives and have jobs," said Mr Williams, a high school maths teacher.
"Anything they can do to minimise the amount of study they need to do, they will. When they see a whole lot of easy courses out there that give them just as much right to get into university as hard ones, they'll be queueing up in droves for them."
Western Australian Science Teachers Association president Julie Weber said science teachers were concerned fewer students would enrol in subjects traditionally considered difficult because of a perception they could do equally well in easier subjects.
"Chairman of the standing committee that released the report, Labor MP Tom Stephens, described as "nerds and eggheads" the teachers and critics who had argued successfully for the removal of a values component from all science courses, which would have been worth 25 per cent. [emphasis added]
"Those were hooks that made (these subjects) attractive for more and more students," Mr Stephens said. "They have been strutting around these subject areas, presiding over diminishing enrolments within these courses."
"Mr Stephens said the most advanced levels of each course were all intellectually rigorous but it was important to recognise excellence in a variety of areas."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19634740-13881,00.html
Editorial: Knowledge above all
NSW's Education Minister goes to the head of the class
"While the rest of the country's education ministers follow the Pied Piper of political correctness down the road to teaching fads and New Age curriculums, NSW is holding the line on excellence. Carmel Tebbutt, speaking to The Australian yesterday, voiced her dismay at the hold trendy teaching theories like outcomes-based education have over classrooms in other states. And she took to task those who reduce all works of literature to equally valid texts to be put through the wringer of Marxist and feminist theories that have long since fallen out of fashion at the university level. She even stated that "there are great pieces of literature, and they should be studied as such" virtual heresy within the ranks of education establishment. The Education Minister's comments come on the heels of her department introducing a common-sense "A to E" grading system in response to complaints about dense, jargon-loaded report cards. Ms Tebbutt is saying what others in the Labor party should. It is the children of the poor and working class who are most hurt when they are not taught real skills and fundamental knowledge. This culture of excellence in NSW has its roots in the tenure of Bob Carr, who wisely steered clear of the mess created in Victoria in the early 1990s by Joan Kirner and her disastrous Victorian Certificate of Education.
"In Western Australia, home to the latest controversy over outcomes-based education, a report just tabled in state parliament reveals that despite Premier Alan Carpenter's pledge to overhaul a much-loathed New Age curriculum for Years 11 and 12, much of the program is going forward. Yes, the new curriculum will now be based on a mix of content and outcomes and will grade students on a percentage basis (similar to what is done in NSW). But all 47 courses in the new curriculum will be treated the same, preserving one of the worst elements of the program. This will have the effect of debasing the West Australian Certificate of Education and force universities to institute their own entrance exams. Amazingly, the report treats this as a positive. Parents and high-achieving students in Western Australia are likely to feel differently." [emphasis added]
[Maybe we need a new slogan: "WA: The Debased State" Web]
Editorials in The Australian available at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19631574-7583,00.html [scroll down a bit for this one]
- Extra funds to teach needy
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"Schools should receive extra funding for teaching needy students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with disabilities and gifted and talented children.
"Addressing the Economic Society of Australia yesterday, Labor backbencher Craig Emerson proposed a funding model that would financially reward schools for teaching such students.
"Dr Emerson said the extra money should be paid directly to the school but attached to the student, moving with students if they changed schools.
"He said such a model would provide an incentive for schools to compete for students and enable schools to attract good teachers by offering them higher salaries..."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19634746-13881,00.html
Saturday - Sunday, 1 - 2 July
- The West Australian
- Hybrid OBE will turn kids into "mutants"
by Bethany Hiatt and Sam Riley (page 11)
"Educators and politicians have warned that the rush to implement the Government's controversial new hybrid outcomes-based education system was a dangerous experiment with children's futures and should be delayed.
"The Government is facing a growing outcry from principals and the Opposition, with both groups warning that (the) "OBE light" model model pieced together two weeks ago by the teachers' union and Alan Carpenter posed a big risk to students and was not ready for teachers to implement.
"Details of how the agreement would affect individual courses is (sic) yet to emerge, with the State School Teachers Union and the Curriculum Council still thrashing out ways to combine the two systems.
"Shadow education minister Peter Collier said the prolonged impasse between the union and the council was fuelling further anxiety among teachers. He said students entering Year 11 next year would be "educational mutants" because they would be in a system which was cobbled together as a result of a political compromise.
"All Saints College principal Geoff Shaw agreed that pushing ahead with the hybrid model was a dangerous experiment.
"It defiantly is, it's a compromise that's seeking some sort of practical outcome but it's not looking at educational sense or consistency at all," Dr Shaw said.
"It seems to me to be a bizarre situation that an industrial organisation is being given such a central principal role in the development of a very important educational innovation."
"Independent MLA Liz Constable, who was one of three dissenting members of a committee which examined OBE, said the new model had created more confusion among teachers.
"Curriculum Council acting chief executive David Axworthy said it was taking longer to distribute details than he would have liked, but he hoped to send out more information next week.
"SSTU president Mike Keely said the union was seeking clarity in its talks with the council. "Nobody is happy if a half-baked document goes out, it has to be completely finalised," he said.
"Iona Presentation College principal Margaret Hurley said schools could face similar disruptions in 2008.
"We're yet to see what the changes are. Whether we'll see them on July 24 or not, the time line is just too short to do this properly, to do this well," she said.
"Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich did not respond to written questions from The West Australian yesterday."
- The Weekend Australian includes three anti-OBE articles and one on university accreditation
- Outcomes we can do without
Confused about the conflict that is raging between traditional and student-centred teaching in schools?
Kevin Donnelly offers a national guide
"In publicly condemning the widespread influence of outcomes-based education, NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt should be congratulated. Along with the federal Opposition's move to drop Mark Latham's hit list of wealthy non-government schools, which was taken to the last election, it is obvious the Labor Party has finally realised that aspirational voters want choice in education and a curriculum based on high standards.
"Tebbutt's recent conversion to the anti-outcomes-based education brigade follows last year's description by Brendan Nelson, then federal education minister and now Defence Minister, of the practice as a cancer and his initiative to force states to introduce plain English report cards, in which students are graded A to E, instead of using vague and feel-good descriptions such as established, consolidation and emerging.
"Outcomes-based education shifts the emphasis from what is taught and can be tested fairly objectively to whatever students eventually learn. The ACT curriculum says "curriculum documentation has until recently concentrated on subject matter and teaching methods ... The move to an outcomes approach attempts to recognise the importance of what students know and can do."
"Tebbutt's comments, reported in The Australian on Thursday, that "there are great pieces of literature and they should be studied as such" mirrors Prime Minister John Howard's comments earlier this year that there is no place for postmodern gobbledygook in the curriculum and schools need a more academic and rigorous approach to teaching history and the classics.
"Victorian Liberal senator and the Government's backbench education committee chairman Mitch Fifield argues against outcomes-based education on the basis that "not all texts, not all works of literature are of equal merit. There is a right way and a wrong way to learn. There are right and wrong answers in exams. OBE is a failed experiment that should be declared DOA."
"Why is outcomes-based education under attack from both sides of the political spectrum? It embodies a dumbed-down and politically correct approach to education and it is increasingly obvious that Australia's adoption of the approach has allowed standards to fall and put generations of students at risk.
"That outcomes-based education has been forced on teachers and schools is made worse by the 1995 Eltis report in NSW in which University of Sydney professor Ken Eltis could find no evidence that the approach has been successfully implemented anywhere in the world and there appears little, if any, research proving that it is superior to what is being replaced.
"A former head of the federal-state-owned Curriculum Corporation, Bruce Wilson, who was closely involved in introducing outcomes-based education into Australia during the 1990s, now describes it as an "unsatisfactory political and intellectual exercise". Wilson argues that "it is difficult to find a jurisdiction outside Australia which has persevered with the peculiar approach to outcomes that we have adopted".
"A number of recent state and territory government-sponsored reports also conclude that there are serious flaws in outcomes-based education and, as a result, that teachers have suffered.
"A 2001 West Australian report concludes that teachers have been let down by an ineffective bureaucracy and that "many schools and teachers are experiencing significant difficulty in engaging with the requirements of an outcomes approach".
"In Queensland, the educrats in charge of the system candidly say in a 2005 report that the outcomes-based education framework forced on teachers lacks "clarity (on) what must be taught across schools and what standards of students achievement are expected".
"After reviewing Victoria's implementation of its curriculum and standards framework, a 2004 report says: "The current ways in which ... authorities have conceived the curriculum for schools resulted in poor definitions of expected and essential learning and provides teachers with insufficient guidance about what to teach."
"Late last year, as a result of a second Eltis report, the NSW education department, which never adopted outcomes-based education in as pure a form as other states and territories, agreed that curriculum documents should be simplified, focus on essential academic content and give teachers a clear road map detailing what should be taught.
"Those familiar with education debates in the US during the past 10 years will know that the adoption of outcomes-based education there faced similar criticisms. As a result, the practice is considered a failed and largely irrelevant experiment, and all American states have moved to a more academically based, year-level specific, detailed, unambiguous and teacher-friendly model of curriculum development.
"Based on research associated with the federally funded primary curriculum benchmarking report completed last year, it is also obvious that most Australian curriculum documents in mathematics, science and English, as a result of outcomes-based education, are not as academically strong and teacher-friendly as the syllabuses developed in those systems that generally outperform Australia in the Trends in International Maths and Science Study tests.
"Given the increasing belief that outcomes-based education is inherently flawed and impossible to implement usefully, it is hard not to think that the educrats responsible for inflicting it on Australian schools would admit their mistakes and move on to a better alternative.
"Such is not the case. On evaluating curriculum development across Australia, it is obvious that most systems, while rhetorically agreeing that all is not well, are pushing ahead with a more extreme form of the approach, described by the father of outcomes-based education, American educator William Spady, as "transformational outcomes-based education". "Transformational OBE is future-oriented," Spady says of the new age approach. "It exists to equip all students with the knowledge, competence and orientations needed for them to successfully meet the challenges and opportunities they will face in their career and family lives after graduating. It focuses on students' lifelong adaptive capacities. It is focused more on the broad role performance capabilities of young people and their ability to do complex tasks in real settings, in real situations, relating more directly to life. Transformational OBE is concerned solely with students' success after they leave school."
"Those states and territories that are adopting transformational outcomes-based education in its pure form include the ACT, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. NSW and Victoria, along with Queensland, appear to be adopting a hybrid approach, combining aspects of outcomes-based education with the more academic syllabus approach.
"In Tasmania, instead of basing the curriculum on academic subjects such as English, mathematics and science, the curriculum is organised in terms of thinking, communicating, personal futures, social responsibility and world futures. [Written before Tasmania pulled the plug yesterday Web]
"The NT curriculum adopts a similar approach and argues that learning is developmental (students learn in different ways), constructivist (teachers facilitate instead of teach and children take control of their learning) and futures-oriented. Essential learning is defined as the inner, the creative, the collaborative and the constructive.
"The SA curriculum is based on "constructivist theories of learning", adopts a student-centred view of education and, again, emphasises what are termed essential learnings: futures, identity, interdependence, thinking and communication. Similar to Spady's approach, the emphasis is on "understandings, dispositions and capabilities" and the world outside the classroom is given priority.
"The WA Curriculum Framework says it is not a syllabus as such and that its primary focus is on outcomes. Once again, the focus is on developing new age attitudes, dispositions and values, such as inclusivity, collaboration and partnership, flexibility and environmental responsibility to the detriment of giving students a solid foundation in academic subjects.
"The ACT is adopting transformational outcomes-based education in its most extreme form and the curriculum is defined in terms of 36 essential learning achievements. Students must know how to learn, use problem-solving strategies, demonstrate intercultural understanding and appreciate diversity in human society.
"For a variety of reasons, including public criticisms of outcomes-based education and the realisation that teachers and schools have experienced significant problems with implementation, Victoria, NSW and Queensland are taking a more balanced approach to curriculum development. NSW, in particular, as a result of the two Eltis reports, is resisting the move to transformational outcomes-based education and the curriculum, instead of being defined in terms of broad competencies and generic skills, is grounded in traditional subjects and, thankfully, teachers are to be given clear and succinct road maps.
"Since the Keating government's national curriculum statements and profiles were developed in the early '90s, most criticism of outcomes-based education has been characterised as coming from cultural conservatives. Now ALP politicians such as Tebbutt are voicing concerns that, in a bipartisan spirit, could give young Australians precedence over political point-scoring.
"Kevin Donnelly is director of Education Strategies and author of the federally funded report Benchmarking Australian Primary School Curricula."Full story in The Austrlian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19641425-13881,00.html
- Cultural Left leaves youngsters at a loss
Kevin Donnelly argues against a moral free-for-all in favour of a return to personal ethics training in schools
"The proposal among federal MPs to partly fund the work of chaplains in state schools has reignited the question of values in education and the extent to which the curriculum should advocate a particular moral viewpoint. It is a debate we have to have.
"Those opposed to funding chaplains in government schools, such as Mary Bluett, president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union, argue that state schools were founded on the basis of being free, secular and compulsory, and there is no place for teaching about religious or spiritual matters.
"Taken to its extreme, the argument is that education in government schools should not advocate or privilege any particular ethical world view and that students should be free to decide for themselves what constitutes the good life and how to decide between right and wrong.
"Not only is the argument that education should be values-free inherently contradictory - adopting such a position implies a particular ethical stance about the place of values in education - but there is also the point that professional groups such as the AEU consistently argue: education must embrace the types of values associated with the cultural Left.
"One needs only to read the AEU's curriculum policy on issues such as racism, reconciliation, the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, peace studies and the class structure of Australian society to realise that the union, while opposed to religious education in schools, is happy to promote the values it considers pre-eminent.
"Indeed, as argued by academic Jan Schapper in the AEU's journal Professional Voice, the belief is that the so-called Christian Right has hijacked the morals debate and it is time for teacher-unionists to assert themselves by influencing what happens in the classroom: "The moral values of the Right, while dominant, have not yet erased or silenced the morality of those of us who despair at the Right's dominance. It is thus incumbent on us to assert our morality and to locate our work within an ethical frame-work that makes sense to schools and our community."
"AEU national president Pat Byrne also argues that the so-called conservatives are winning the education debate and that it is time for those committed to progressive values to fight back.
"At the 2005 federal conference in Fremantle, Byrne said the union movement stood for values such as egalitarianism, a fair go and looking after one's mates, and that promoting such ideals in the curriculum represented the "values debate which must be had in education".
"The union is not alone in promoting the types of progressive values associated with the cultural Left.
"The Australian Curriculum Studies Association, in its policy on social justice, curriculum and pedagogy, says a commitment to academic competition and meritocracy is misplaced and the curriculum must be used to promote equity and social justice.
"Analysing the relationship between schools and society, the ACSA says in the jargon much loved by educrats: "These patterns of interaction produce and reproduce advantage and injustice through schooling and in other social contexts, and lead in turn to the confirmation and strengthening of differentials of advantage and disadvantage and power and powerlessness." Instead of valuing education for its own sake or arguing that education should be disinterested, the ACSA declaration says curriculum is "a social and historical construction" and that as education is ideological, the work of schools must be understood in terms of the "role of education in the reproduction and transformation of society".
"As a result, within the brave new world of the cultural Left, teachers are re-badged as "curriculum workers who are contextually aware, ethically sensitive, culturally inclusive and socially just" and their work in schools is described as "characterised by contestation and problematisation within this diversity of values and beliefs; and, as such, is more a process than an end product".
"Professional knowledge conceived in these terms relates to curriculum workers who are critically informed, praxis (practice)-oriented and research/inquiry-based."
"In addition to the edubabble, one of the main flaws in the argument that all education is ideological is that if such a claim is true, it makes it impossible to decide rationally between conflicting ideas about the types of values learning should promote. Education should also not be confused with indoctrination. Forcing politically correct values on schools denies students the right to weigh issues in an impartial and balanced way.
"While much maligned as elitist, obsolete and socially unjust, a strength of the traditional academic curriculum, which can be traced back via T.S. Eliot and Matthew Arnold to the ancient Greeks, is its commitment to rationality and its ability, in the words of American academic Israel Scheffler, to "facilitate independent evaluation of social practice ... as instruments of insight and criticism, standing apart from current social conceptions and serving autonomous ideals of inquiry and truth".
"Unlike the present outcomes-based education approach, where classic texts are deconstructed in terms of theory and the grand narrative of Western civilisation is simply a socio-cultural product and, as such, no longer privileged, the more traditional view of education is also profoundly moral. On reading literary classics such as Medea, King Lear and Crime and Punishment and studying the rise of the Westminster parliamentary system, the British system of justice and historical events such as the factory acts and the abolition of slavery, students not only become culturally literate, they also are immersed in an ethical framework without which society descends into barbarism and chaos. [emphasis added]
"Kevin Donnelly is director of Education Strategies and author of Why Our Schools are Failing."Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19640619-13881,00.html
- Attack on fads backed
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"One of the Howard Government's leading education advisers has supported the NSW Government's criticism of outcomes-based school curriculums in other states that fail to detail the content students should learn.
"Australian Council for Educational Research chief executive Geoff Masters said yesterday that national curriculums had to clearly specify what teachers should be teaching as well as what students should learn.
"Professor Masters was responding to comments by NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt that the NSW syllabus, in prescribing content as well as describing the outcomes of what students should be able to do, hadshielded the state from educational fads adopted in otherstates.
"Ms Tebbutt told The Australian: "What's happened in some other states is that they've elevated one (outcomes) at the expense of another (content), and my view is you need both."
"Professor Masters endorsed Ms Tebbutt's view of the need for content-rich curriculum. [emphasis added]
"The point the NSW minister makes is absolutely right," he said yesterday. "We need to be clear about what teachers should teach - not specifying everything they teach, but at least being clear about the core of the curriculum.
"As she says, we also need to be clear about what students should learn and at what level wewant them to learn that content - what people call learning outcomes."
"Professor Masters was the lead author of a federal report into an Australian Certificate of Education and was appointed by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop to examine the content, curriculums and standards of five Year 12 subjects across the nation with a view to formulating a core national curriculum.
"Professor Masters said the proposal for a national curriculum was not to specify detailed content but to design a framework that identified the core knowledge students should learn in each subject."Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19646638-13881,00.html
- Canberra in push for uni control
by Dorothy Illing, Higher education writer
"The Howard Government is planning to seize control of university accreditation from the states.
"As South Australia leads the push to attract foreign universities to establish local campuses and bring in more fee-paying overseas students, federal Education Minister Julie Bishop wants to take away the power of the states to approve new operators.
"Central to Ms Bishop's bid for greater federal control of higher education is a national accreditation agency.
"More universities and private colleges are expected to open in Australia in coming years as the federal Government promotes stronger competition and diversity across the sector.
"A national accreditation agency would be attractive to them and increase competition with the 39 existing universities.
"But the Bishop plan is likely to be rejected by the states and territories at next week's meeting of education ministers in Brisbane.
"This month, Ms Bishop renewed her attack on the states, saying that if they did not spend more money on universities they should relinquish control of them. She was reviving a federal-states battle first mooted by her predecessor, Brendan Nelson, but which was seen as a no-win situation because of Labor's dominance across the states.
"Universities are funded by the federal Government but established under state acts.
"For many, that means complying with more than 100 pieces of state and federal legislation and a lot of red tape.
"Ms Bishop has vowed to cut the bureaucratic requirements faced by universities, which mushroomed under Dr Nelson.
"And she sees a national accreditation agency, or "one stop shop", for new universities and private colleges as one way of doing this.
"An organisation (wanting to offer degrees) across multiple jurisdictions faces a bewildering array of time-consuming, inconsistent and bureaucratic processes and wide variation in fees," she says in a paper to go to next week's meeting.
"It would be surprising if this situation did not deter all but the most determined provider..."Full story in The Weekend Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19645884-12332,00.html
- Meanwhile, in Tasmania
- The Mercury
Fears rise over scars from ELs
by Phillipa Duncan
"There are concerns the controversial and jargon-rich Essential Learnings framework has damaged the public education system's reputation.
"Australian Education Union southern vice-president Terry Polglase yesterday said the State Government had failed to sell ELs to parents.
"The Bowen Bridge Primary School principal said the ELs controversy had damaged the public's perception of the state system unjustifiably.
"Education Minister David Bartlett revealed on Thursday the controversial ELs framework would make way for a simpler more user-friendly curriculum.
"Tasmania's Curriculum" will enter schools at the start of next year.
"Yesterday, Mr Bartlett rushed to assure teachers ELs had not been axed.
"Secretary John Smyth has a group of principals providing practical advice to help make this great curriculum simpler and clearer," he said. "We will not lose any of your good work."
"But his department secretary David Hanlon has not ruled out a return to the traditional subjects of Maths and English and up to 12 key elements will be scrapped. Teachers have dedicated hundreds of hours and many student-free days to "coming to grips" with the shortlived ELs curriculum that has cost the Government at least $20 million to implement, develop, staff and resource.
"Mr Polglase said teachers had held regular meetings for the past four years "coming to grips with ELs", which was introduced to all schools last year.
"Weekly planning meetings have been held in schools across the state," he said.
"He said teachers would find the change "frustrating" and some older teachers might ask: "What's the next thing that David Bartlett will be doing?"
"We have had so much change, continually," he said.
Union head Jean Walker said many teachers had put in 10 and 12-hour days to complete ELs reports and the framework had added hours to other days.
"But Mr Polglase welcomed Mr Bartlett's consultative approach and commended the proposed change.
"We have had in the past a bureaucracy that has thought it knows that way and said: `Go and do it'," he said.
"But schools should be at the centre and bureaucracy should support them.
"It has been the wrong way round."
"But Opposition education spokesman Peter Gutwein said "ELs had died a death of a thousand cuts" and teachers had been an "afterthought". [emphasis added]
"I am appalled that Mr Bartlett would write to teachers informing them of his plans only today," he said.
"Teachers have been ignored for political expedience."
"Mr Bartlett said the five Essential Learning organisers would remain and it was "gross exaggeration" to say the curriculum had been abandoned. "We will not throw the baby out with the bath water," he said."
Full story in The Mercury at http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19643389%255E3462,00.html
All Alston cartoons are © The West Australian Newspaper
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This page last updated 17 April, 2009 10:45 PM