Breaking News: Week of 3 July 2006
Monday 3 July 2006
Tuesday 4 July
Wednesday 5 July
Thursday 6 July
Friday 7 July
Saturday - Sunday, 8 - 9 July
Monday 3 July 2006
- The West Australian
- Ravlich backdown over OBE rollout
by Bethany Hiatt (front page lead story)
"The State Government has effectively scrapped the further rollout of outcomes-based education next year after conceding it had run out of time to implement a much-diluted version of the controversial changes.
"Only three weeks after Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich announced a compromise which created "OBE lite", teachers will be told that they can teach the new Year 11 and 12 courses due to be introduced next year under the existing system.
"The only relic of OBE will be an assessment requirement that teachers assign students a "level" as well as a mark out of 100.
"In a draft memo obtained by The West Australian expected to go out to all schools today, the Curriculum Council says the 13 new courses that have a TEE equivalent such as physics, history or biology would be taught next year using exactly the same syllabus as the existing system.
"Critics say the changes amounted to an almost total backdown by the State Government, which had previously refused to delay the new courses of study despite widespread concerns they were "dumbing down" education and that teachers were not properly prepared.
"In a bid to defuse a revolt from teachers and parents, Alan Carpenter and Ms Ravlich last month pieced together a compromise with the State School Teachers Union to create a hybrid model which would have merged parts of the new OBE courses with existing TEE courses. But after heated negotiations the Curriculum Council has now conceded that the hybrid model was unworkable and that it had run out of time to meet its self-imposed deadline to provide updated course materials for teachers by July 24.
"The new courses based on TEE subjects will effectively be new in name only.
"OBE courses that started this year, including English and media, will continue as scheduled, though sample exams and marking keys would be revised and provided to teachers later this year.
"A Curriculum Council spokesman yesterday said the document was merely a draft that was still subject to changes but acting chief executive David Axworthy told The West Australian that teachers of TEE courses would be able to use exactly the same syllabuses and assessment structure they used this year.
"Mazenod College Rector Brian Maher said the concessions to TEE courses amounted to a total backdown but they also seemed to shut the door on the flexibility that the Curriculum Council had flagged as one of the most valuable aspects of the new system.
"Teachers group People Lobbying Against Outcomes (PLATO) welcomed the backdown on course content and syllabuses, but held niggling concerns that clinging to OBE assessment procedures would create more confusion.
"Why can't they just say let's stick with the current system in its entirety until we work it out," co-founder Marko Vojkovic said yesterday.
"PLATO President Greg Williams said it was disappointing that English teachers were not going to see any delay to implementation of OBE English in Year 12.
"Ms Ravlich yesterday denied there had been any delay, saying the 17 new courses of study were going ahead next year with modifications.
"Shadow education minister Peter Collier claimed the State Government was holding fast to any semblance of the proposed new courses so the changes would not be seen as an admission of capitulation.
"What we have now, after yet another change, is a delay in the implementation of most of the courses of study," he said.
"If this had been determined months ago an enormous amount of unnecessary anxiety could have been avoided."
Full story in The West Australian at http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=472
- State gains nothing from the OBE misadventure
COMMENT by Bethany Hiatt (page 9)
"The State Government has squandered an enormous amount of political capital and money on the debacle surrounding implementation of outcomes-based education in Years 11 and 12 and got absolutely nowhere.
"After more than 18 months of confusion, public outcry and a parliamentary inquiry the Government is effectively right back where it started, with almost no change to TEE courses next year.
"Teachers of TEE courses are back to what most had asked for more than a year ago with a nod in the direction of OBE over the requirement of a level as well as a mark out of 100.
"If Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich had been politically savvy she should have announced the changes that are going out to schools this week a year ago.
"Ms Ravlich's pig-headedness is what has stopped the Curriculum Council from doing the right thing by teachers, students and parents and delaying the major overhaul of WA's school system.
"The concessions to teachers that have grudgingly trickled out over the past few weeks are nothing more than a face-saving exercise for Ms Ravlich and Alan Carpenter.
"This pig-headedness has damaged public confidence in the education system as the events of the past year have demonstrated that the changes did not have the full support of teaching staff and the implementation of OBE was a shambles.
"It is time for Ms Ravlich to admit that she has forfeited her right to the education portfolio. She should have the decency to offer her resignation to the Premier and hand over to another minister who is prepared to put the interests of students, teachers and parents above her narrow political interests.
"For his part, Mr Carpenter should have anticipated the issue much earlier and had the wit to defuse a political time bomb entirely of his own Government's making. The fact he didn't smacks of arrogance."
- Main Editorial: OBE committee shows stain of party politics (page 18)
"When a parliamentary committee inquiry into outcomes-based education was established more than a year ago, Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich boldly predicted that it wouldn't come up with anything that would interfere with her timetable for introducing new courses.
"This could have been interpreted as political bravado by a struggling but obdurate minister under mounting pressure over both the deficiencies of the new courses and the disputed feasibility of her timetable for their introduction. It suggested a cavalier disregard for parliamentary processes.
"But is also revealed a worrying degree of confidence that the committee would not come up with anything that might contradict the executive's plan before the committee had even taken evidence. As it turned out, her confidence was well placed and the Government committee members, author of the so-called majority report, endorsed the Government's timetable and revised version of OBE.
"The committee was split mostly on political lines, with three members Liberal Kim Hames, National Terry Waldron and Independent Liz Constable putting out a so-called minority report which supported a delay in the introduction of the courses. In these circumstances, it is reasonable to give weight to the views of Dr Constable who is not beholden to any party. She told the Parliament that the OBE compromise which The West Australian reveals today has already unravelled pieced together in response to the outcry against the earlier version had come too late to be implemented next year. She said she was listening to people in schools saying they didn't know what was happening.
"By contrast, Labor MP Tom Stephens, chairman of the committee, pushed the Government's line almost word for word in praising the compromise version of the OBE, though details of how this is supposed to work are not available.
"The question inevitably arises of whether parliamentary committee inquiries are worthless party political exercises. This concern is reinforced by the revelation that Government members of the committee had met Alan Carpenter and Ms Ravlich and discussed OBE issues, possibly in breach of parliamentary rules.
"Regardless of precisely what was discussed by the Premier and Ms Ravlich with these committee members, the unavoidable perception was created that the meeting had compromised the committee's independence.
"There has to be a better way than this of running the people's business in Parliament. People are entitled to demand that the processes of Parliament should be used to serve them, not political parties or the executive."
Full stories in The West Australian
Thank you, The West Australian, on behalf of students, teachers and parents, for fearless reporting, and for keeping this issue in the public eye and on the boil.
Thank you, Liz Constable, Kim Hames, and Terry Waldron, for restoring our faith in SOME politicians.
on Ljiljanna Ravlich, Alan Carpenter, the Government lap-dogs on the parliamentary inquiry and arrogant education bureaucrats.
Has Common Sense prevailed over bureaucratic & political Non-Sense ? Not yet !
... now we mustsave the poor English students and teachersget rid of Levels COMPLETELY andhave a proper evaluation of OBE in K-10 !!
No gObBlEdegook !
No Outcomes Stuffed Education either !
No implementation without prior independent evaluation !
Permanent link to "minor celebrations" entry page of 3 July 2006
- TV and radio News
- Similar coverage all day, and covered by all networks in their Evening News
- ABC TV Evening News, 7 pm
The Government said there has been "no backdown", just "modifications to courses and the implementation timetable", and said OBE [or was it OSE?] would be introduced "incrementally".
SSTUWA President Mike Keely said all "teachers are satisfied" with the changes, and implied it was all the union's doing... [Wonder if he talked to any Year 11 English teachers, or K-10 teachers? Web]
Opposition education spokesman Peter Collier said "the government backdown should have come much sooner".
Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said that "it was important that we go through this interim phase".
- PerthNow / Sunday Times online
- Libs welcome OBE delay
"The WA Liberals have welcomed the State Government's delay of OBE for a year. They believe the 12-month delay will give teachers time to digest new courses.
"Shadow Education Minister Peter Collier said the leaked Curriculum Council memo expected to be circulated today has announced the news teachers have been needing to hear for 12 months that OBE will be delayed until 2008.
While the Government may not want to use the word, make no mistake this is a delay, and a welcome one at that, Mr Collier said.
While the Labor Government has handled the implementation of OBE very poorly, this delay should take the pressure off and give teachers a chance to get up to speed with the new courses and requirements.
While the delay is something that should have been done 12 months ago to avoid all the angst caused to teachers.
"Mr Collier said while he acknowledged todays announcement would placate some teachers, some very real issues remained with OBE implementation.
I question the necessity for teachers of the 13 courses which have been delayed to assess in both percentages and levels and bands. This seems an unnecessary burden on teachers, Mr Collier said. [emphasis added]
Also, schools desperately need clarification as to what will happen on professional development day four (July 24).
We are in the last week of term two, PD four is day one of term three, and schools have still not been informed as to where PD days will be held, what will be achieved and who will facilitate them.
"Today, Education and Training Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said the changes to the new courses of study for Years 11 and 12 would allow a smoother transition to outcomes and standards education next year.
"The changes had been supported by all key education stakeholders and were endorsed by the State School Teachers' Union three weeks ago.
"Ms Ravlich said teachers had now been provided with details of how the new courses would proceed in 2007.
"We have listened to the concerns of teachers and we have made changes which have been supported by all the key stakeholders," she said.
"Teachers told us they wanted to be able to use their existing syllabi, teaching programs and lesson plans next year, and we agreed - three weeks ago.
"I believe the hype and petty politicking surrounding the changes to the new courses of study has caused unnecessary confusion and damaged the morale of the teachers who simply want to get on with the job."
"Other key changes include:
- a syllabus for each course of study;
- only content from existing TEE subjects will be examined in the first year of year 12; and
- the content of the remaining new courses have been modified into the existing TEE format.
"The Minister said the changes were in the best interests of students and would ensure teachers have the confidence to teach the new courses of study."
Full story in PerthNow at http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21498,19668572-948,00.html
- The Melbourne Age
- Change is on the cards
Shifting the report-card benchmarks is damaging to students' self-esteem, writes Mary Costello
"My daughter's school reports have always been a cause for celebration; so on the last day of term, when she came out of school waving her first-ever secondary report we headed for our favourite afternoon tea spot.
"We had been warned. Her school had held briefing sessions for parents, introducing the new "plain English" reports, designed to "give parents a clearer picture of their child's progress", according to the Department of Education and Training website.
"The school stressed that a C was a good result; it meant that "your child has met the challenging statewide standard. Your child's learning is firmly in track."
"But what if a child has always been far up the track, at the top of the class? How do you begin to adjust their perception of what a C stands for? How do you overcome a lifetime of perceiving C as absolutely average - a suggestion that the child, "could try harder"?
"My daughter took a sip of her chocolate spider and opened the first page of her report - the general assessment. So far, so good: "an excellent start." Familiar territory. Turning the page we discovered that the school had hedged its bets and used the old High/Medium/Low ratings for most subjects and it was all good news.
"Then the English report. It consisted of a bar-graph featuring the letter grades, shaded blocks and black dots, followed by two line-graphs and two sections of teacher comment. My daughter's face fell. "B," she said, "for reading!" I jollied her along. I pointed out that the comments were very positive, highlighting her "excellent understanding . . . skills of a very high standard"."
"But if it's excellent, it should be an A," she reasoned, "Why is it only a B?" Why indeed?
"I thought of the year 5 Aim Test, which had assessed her reading ability as squarely in the middle of year 8 and stated: "Your child received results higher than expected for this part of the statewide tests. You are encouraged to discuss these results with your school."
"Well, here was another set of results I'd be discussing with her school. Under the new system she had apparently regressed to early year 8 level, despite her voracious reading over the past two years. Statewide standards had clearly shifted over time. No danger of DE&T getting a "consistently" on its report card.
"And how did she score a C for maths when, just down the page, the teacher described her efforts as "outstanding"?
"Perhaps, I speculate, because there's been no extension offered at the school to date, and the teacher can only assess at the level at which she's teaching. I'm not the only mother groping to make sense of it all.
"While the fizz flattened in our chocolate spiders, my friend Lisa's son was almost crying over his report. Cal has been in gifted and talented programs for years but in his first year 7 report he received all Cs."
"I was horrified," said Lisa, "and I had a bit of a go at him.
"I said, `That's not like you, Cal.' I thought he'd been slacking off.
"He was really upset. I'm wondering if I've chosen the wrong school."
"Another school mother was looking at Ds. Her daughter isn't academic; but she's hard-working and conscientious."
"She thought she'd got off to a good start this year. It's not as if she can try any harder, she's been doing her best. This hasn't done much for her self-esteem."
"Back at the cafe I was quoting education department press releases: "It's OK to get a C and it's great to get a B." My daughter wasn't convinced. It's going to take an awful lot of bureaucratic spin to persuade her to be thrilled with the new "commonsense" reports.
"A friend who recently moved to Melbourne from Singapore is baffled. Her clever son's first Australian school report doesn't contain a single A."
"He's always got As, his mother complained, "How will we explain this if we go home? They'll think he's done so badly. He'll never get into a good school."
"This morning, talkback radio was melting with indignation about the new reports. Sounds like every kid in Melbourne got a C. Teachers are either playing it safe, or are just as confused as parents.
"At the supermarket I chatted with the year 10 student who works there part-time. She's been busy with exams at her state school, which is still using the old ABC grades. "How did you go?" I asked. Her face fell."
"Lousy. I studied real hard the night before but I got rotten results. I got all Cs."
How new school reports grade pupils from A-E against the expected statewide standard.
A About 12 months or more ahead of pupil's year level.
B About six months ahead of pupil's year level.
C At the level expected for pupil's year level.
D About six to 18 months behind pupil's year level.
E About 18 months or more behind pupil's year level
SOURCE: VICTORIAN EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
Full story in The Age at link
Public exodus confirmed
A survey backs the flight to private schooling, reports David Rood
"New figures confirm a considerable shift of Australian students from government to independent schools over the past 35 years.
"Independent school enrolments have surged from 4 per cent to almost 13 per cent since 1970. Over the same period, government school enrolments have dropped by 11 per cent and Catholic school numbers have increased by 2 per cent.
"The report, produced by the Independent Schools Council of Australia, predicts that more than one in three students will attend a private school - either independent or Catholic - by 2010. In five years, the independent sector is expected to have 16.6 per cent of enrolments, Catholic schools 18.5 per cent and government schools 64.9 per cent.
"The report, released last week, also predicted that the decline in the school-aged population will make competition between sectors more fierce.
"The chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria, Michelle Green, said there has been a gradual shift out of government schools and into the independent sector.
"But Ms Green said the drift benefited public schools as it decreased overall the cost of schooling.
"It costs the Government about $10,000 to educate a child in a government school, and it costs them less than half of that to educate a child in a non-government school, with parents making up the difference," she said.
"The more children that go to independent schools, the more private money goes into the education system..."
Full story in The Age at link
Schools failing dotcom kids
Tech-savvy students need a modern curriculum, by Elisabeth Tarica
"Teachers need to focus more on "higher-order" thinking skills and critical problem-solving techniques to cope with the lightning-speed culture of 21st century literacy, says leading international educator and author Ian Jukes.
"Mr Jukes, who is in Melbourne this week to attend a seminar at Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School, believes the biggest issue educators face is a lack of relevancy in today's learning.
"Australian education is dealing with exactly the same issues that everybody else is dealing with right now, and that is trying to provide the rigour and relevance for kids," he says. "I think the purpose of schools is to prepare children for their future - not our comfort zones or our future. Their future. They're the big issues that we're dealing with right now."
"Mr Jukes says schools must prepare students for both higher education and employment, to avoid producing "highly educated useless people".
"We graduate people who have very, very good schools skills but don't have very good life skills," he says.
"A director of the InfoSavvy group, Mr Jukes is popular in the US and Canada as a speaker on the impact of digital technology on children and why teachers need to embrace it. A former professional rugby player and teacher, his passion for education stems from the belief that learning should be fun.
"As a child I had a number of horrendous experiences because I would be, in today's age, the ADD (attention deficit disorder) poster child," he says. "I was deeply humiliated for my lack of ability, and a silent vow that I've taken is that I will do everything that I possibly can to ensure that the next generation of kids does not experience those horrible things I did. Teachers have incredible power to make or break children, and I want learning to be a joyful thing."
"Making learning relevant to such a media-savvy generation is probably the biggest challenge educators face, he says.
"We must acknowledge that the dotcom generation lives in a different world. That today's students live in a culture that is fundamentally different from ours."
"He says that for the first time in history, teachers are facing students who know more about the new digital landscape than they do.
"This is the first generation in history where the younger generation knows more about new developments in central society than the older generation," he says. "There are a lot of kids today who are waiting for the internet or video game version of education so they can walk away from school. They have exceptional information fluency skills and they go find what they need online."
"Mr Jukes says educators must re-think the curriculum to move away from being "highly theoretical."
"Our tests must measure not only theory but also must become synonymous with higher-level thinking. To do this we must move to a far more application-based curriculum," he says. "We must go beyond theory and focus on practical applications that are relevant to the workplace rather than mutually exclusive and theoretical subjects that prepare students for yesterday and today, not tomorrow."
"Information fluency, he says, should be taught in every classroom in the same structured manner as mathematics, the sciences and languages.
"The real issue in education today is that we have to go from common recall to what I call information fluency," he says.
"We need to teach information fluency, not just information literacy. Information fluency involves learning an unconscious process, allows information seekers to ask good questions, access a wide range of resources, analyse and authenticate data and turn it into knowledge, then apply that knowledge within the context of real-time, real-life experience."
"He says educators must realise that kids of the dotcom generation are fundamentally different from previous generations.
"(Kids are different) in the way they think, in the way they access, absorb, interpret, process and use information, and especially in the way they view, interact and communicate in the modern world because of their experiences with digital technologies," he says.
"This has profound implications for us both personally as parents and professionally as educators."
Learning for life
What kids should be taught:
· Thinking skills: critical thinking, problem solving, applied reasoning, information processing, new communication skills such as speaking and listening.
· Technical skills: technical reading and writing, the ability to apply technology creatively, applied sciences, applied maths and applied language.
· Personal skills: goal setting, self-assessment, organisation and time management, change readiness, stress management, digital entrepreneurship, marketing and self-marketing.
· Workplace skills: being future focused, trend aware, an understanding of the global marketplace, work and learn in teams.
Source: Education at the Crossroads, by Ian Jukes.
Full story in The Age at link
- PLATO Media Release
PLATO Media Release
OBE is now about politics, not education
According to PLATO founder Mr Greg Williams, the current OBE crisis is about political point-scoring and face-saving, not children's education.
Speaking about the planned implementation of 17 new Year 11 OBE courses next year, Mr Williams said: "We are only 6 months away from the start of 2007. Teachers have no syllabi, zero resources, no sample examination papers, no sample assessment items, no solutions and marking keys, no texts, no network of colleagues experienced in this, and worse still, no confidence that things will be delivered."
Mr Williams added that "no one with a shred of intelligence could suggest that things will be ready to roll for 2007."
While the Curriculum Council has advised that the new courses will use the current syllabi, Williams said: "Currently the TEE syllabi have no mention of levels, aspects, outcomes, rubrics, or similar jargon. Currently, marks earned in TEE courses retain primacy in the calculation of a TER, but the new courses use Levels for that purpose. The current TEE syllabi cover a year, but the new courses are on a semester structure."
He noted that the inquiry's preliminary report said courses should not go ahead unless they were ready by April. "Clearly they are still not ready, as the Curriculum Council is frantically rewriting them right now. That all the Government members of the parliamentary inquiry could endorse implementation under these conditions clearly shows that that the decision was political and not based on the best interests of students and teachers."
[Greg must have second sight !! Web]
- The Hobart Mercury
- 'Mute' teacher union hit
by Philippa Duncan
"The State Opposition has launched a stinging attack on the teachers union for staying "mute" on Essential Learnings.
"But Australian Education Union state president Jean Walker said yesterday her group's repeated calls for reform of the controversial ELs had been ignored.
"Opposition education spokesman Peter Gutwein said the AEU had been "all but mute" on problems with ELs.
"Its actions, or lack of them, were in the interests of the Labor Party, not teachers, and did students a disservice," Mr Gutwein said. [emphasis added -- sounds familiar ! Web]
"He said if the Opposition had not been a "lone" critic of ELs, reform would have begun long ago and not in the middle of the school year.
"Ms Walker said former education minister Paula Wriedt and her bureaucrats had ignored AEU pleas for change.
"They just pushed on with it," she said. "We were ignored.
"She was not willing to listen."
"She said ELs had been jargon-filled, overly complicated and pushed on teachers too quickly.
"Ms Walker said she hoped new Education Minister David Bartlett would listen to teachers and not bureaucrats.
"Mr Bartlett has ordered a massive overhaul of ELs to be ready for schools next year. [ditto]
"He yesterday promised to consult stakeholders about the transition to "Tasmania's curriculum" that will retain just six to eight of the 18 reportable ELs elements.
"Mr Bartlett said he would release his plan to clarify and refine ELs at the end of the month for public debate.
"But Mr Gutwein said the education of Tasmania children had suffered during the failed ELs experiment.
"That's the last thing we need in Tasmania at a time when literacy and numeracy standards are declining," he said.
"Imagine if the $20 million that has been spent so far on implementing ELs had been used to employ more teachers."
"He said teachers, parents and students faced another year of confusion and chaos as ELs was stripped back.
"What exactly are teachers supposed to teach and report on this year?" he said.
"Another staunch critic of ELs warned at the weekend that the curriculum would put the education of generations of Tasmanian children at risk.
"Education expert Kevin Donnelly ranked ELs the worst system in the nation on the basis of academic content, assessment and curriculum.
"He said outcomes-based education systems such as ELs took a "dumbed down" and "politically correct" approach."Full story in The Mercury at http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19661745%255E3462,00.html
- The Launceston Examiner
- Survey ranks ELs worst in nation
by Michael Stedman
"The curriculum formerly known as the Essential Learnings has been ranked as the worst the country in a survey published in a national newspaper.
"The report, published in The Weekend Australian, compared curriculums from all states, many having moved away from traditional learning and towards outcomes-based education.
"It ranked ELs poorly against criteria such as academic content, detail, and curriculum goals, particularly in the traditional subject areas such as maths and English.
"Last week Education Minister David Bartlett announced the ELs title would be scrapped and the curriculum scaled back.
"The move is similar to that of the West Australian Government, which last month abandoned its OBE programme.
"Victoria and NSW have also adopted hybrid syllabuses that combine elements of both traditional and modern learning.
"Liberal education spokesman Peter Gutwein seized on the report as proof of the State Government's failings in education.
"He also accused the Australian Education Union of ignoring the problems with ELs when they began to surface last year.
"Its actions, or lack of them, were in the interests of the Labor Party, not teachers and they did students a disservice," he said.
"Union president Jean Walker debunked the attack.
"The union has been highly critical of aspects of ELs for quite some time, especially around the language and the complexity of reporting for teachers," she said.
"The problem was that the previous minister ignored them."
"Mr Bartlett rejected the Weekend Australian report as being politically motivated.
"Author Kevin Donnelly is a former staffer to Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews."Full story in the Launceston Examiner at http://www.examiner.com.au/story.asp?id=350614
- The Australian
- Letters to the Editor
MOST TALKED ABOUT: EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES
- Theory masks intention to hijack agenda in schools
"In his report on outcomes-based education in Australia ("Outcomes we can do without", Inquirer, 1-2/7), Kevin Donnelly has done a great service. He has shown how educational faddists have hijacked the agenda with clever language. Their righteous insistence on outcomes obscures the way they arrogantly assert what those outcomes should be. To make matters worse, they then proceed to eliminate any notion of curriculum, as if course content is incompatible with outcome. Very sneaky.
"Of course education is about outcomes. It always has been. The debate should not be about whether to have outcomes but what we want those outcomes to be. And from Donnelly's summary of the dire national situation, the need for our political representatives to step in and say what our society really wants in the way of educational outcomes is urgent.
"Let me start with my own pet area, science. Of course, like the WA authorities, I want to see students emerge from school with warm feelings of "inclusivity, collaboration and partnership, flexibility and environmental responsibility". But I would also insist that the main objective of science education at primary and secondary school level should be to ensure that students leave school empowered by certain levels of knowledge and understanding about the material world around them (via chemistry and geology), about everyday observable phenomena (via physics), about the workings of their own bodies and other living things (via biology), and about the products of human inventiveness that they encounter and use (via technology). What those levels ought to be and the course content needed to achieve them are decided after objectives such as these are agreed. It is an entirely logical process.
"Clear objectives must be the starting point for any properly designed educational strategy. The objectives are the outcomes. Now more than ever we can see that they must not be left for educators to decide. We, the people, must decide what they are, via our governments. That is where the debate should concentrate."
Tom Biegler, Brighton, Vic
- "The current popular demand for plain-English school reporting is reasonable and justified, but parents must realise that they need to make some effort to understand the meanings of legitimate education terms and not condemn them as jargon. No one has any trouble knowing what "score" means in sport even "test score" in cricket because we have learned what these terms mean. But they have somewhat different meanings in relation to children's learning in which they are related to the concept of quartiles a concept which gives most parents trouble until they make an effort to find out what it means. Similarly "grading", which is different in relation to apples from what it is to children. And terms like "progress", "maturation", "norm", "assessment", "socialisation", "development" and "mastery" are no more elitist jargon in education than "offside" and "groin injury" are in sport."
Donald Richardson, Mount Barker, SA
- "Your commitment to recycling is exemplary. Kevin Donnelly again. False claims about outcomes-based education again. Omission of important facts again.
"Outcomes-based education is not a cancer, vague, feel-good, postmodern gobbledygook, dumbed-down, politically correct, flawed or new age. It does not mean low academic standards, the absence of great literature, a lack of rigour in teaching history, the absence of right and wrong answers or jargon-ridden report cards. It does not stop the teaching of real skills and fundamental knowledge. It does not imply that all subjects must be treated the same. There is no "whatever" about it. It has not failed in Victoria. In fact, it is so widely accepted in Victoria that it causes no comment whatsoever.
"The concept of outcomes-based education means that the teaching program is organised around the skills and knowledge that students should develop as a result of their learning. The specified outcomes can be worthwhile or rubbish, just as a syllabus can be worthwhile or rubbish.
"If we move from the concept to the history of outcomes-based education, we will discover a much more sinister motive.
"Outcomes-based education was officially introduced as an alternative to the claimed fad of process-based education and as part of the argument that inputs (now about $7000 per student in my school) made no difference in state education (though spending $16,000 for a private school place draws no such criticism), not as a replacement for the syllabus. It remains in place today both in junior years and in the VCE though the Liberal Party's trendy Studies of Society and Environment has been replaced by the traditional disciplines of history and geography in accordance with Labor Party policy. The Liberal Government also introduced the student categories of beginning, consolidating and established.
"Outcomes-based education provided cover for the Liberals' cuts to teacher numbers and their Kafkaesque concepts (charters, triennial reviews, short-term contracts, annual reviews, performance bonuses for compliance, schools as competitive small businesses, celebration of exploitation of teachers, the principal as tin god, etc.,) which were so damaging that six and a half years since that government was voted out the damage is still not undone."
Chris Curtis, Langwarrin, Vic
Full letters to the editor in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19659690-21223,00.htm
Tuesday 4 July
- ABC's "Late Night Live with Phillip Adams"
"Australia's public education system state schools are losing students to the private sector and classrooms are falling apart. What's the response from state governments?"
Scheduled for 10 pm WA time, to be repeated tomorrow (Wed 5 July) at 6 pm.
[The relevant part starts approx 15 minutes into the broadcast and runs for 20 - 25 minutes.]
Perth listeners: 810 AM. Country listeners see http://www.abc.net.au/rn/freq/freqwa.htm for frequency details.
Synopsis of broadcast
The guest is Prof Brian Caldwell [Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Professor of International Leadership Development at the University of Hull] and author of the book Re-Imagining Educational Leadership (ACER Press).
Phillip Adams: Public education is "copping it". A recent Australian Council for Educational Research survey showed that 70 percent of parents would send their children to independent schools if they could afford the fees.
Brian Caldwell: In the ACT, 40 % of students attend independent schools. In Victoria, the figure is 44 percent for Year 12 students, and in metropolitan Melbourne it is greater than 50 percent.
Despite many outstanding government schools in every state, the perception is that independent is better.
The first major problem in government schools is the poor quality of the physical plant. There are many old, light timber construction schools that receive minimal maintenance. They have no heating or air conditioning. Many temporary facilities were designed for a 5- or 10-year lifespan and are still in use 30 years later. These are very depressing environments for students and teachers.
Queensland is currently spending $ 1.2 billion on upgrading schools' physical plant. The UK is refurbishing more than 80 percent of its schools at a cost of 15 billion pounds.
Tony Blair's platform during the last election included three issues: Education, Education and Education. [Note than in the UK (despite popular perceptions), only eight percent of students attend independent schools.]
The other major problem is too much "head office" control of schools [curriculum, hiring of staff, etc.] due to a "one size fits all" mentality. Much more school-level decision making is needed.
More than 80 percent of UK secondary schools (more than 2,500 schools) specialise: music, science, maths, technology, football... ALL have partnerships with business / industry. The old "comprehensive schools" system is nearly dead in the UK. Since the creation of these specialist schools, there has been a significant improvement in student results.
Phillip Adams: There is a perception that independent schools are better than government schools. I disagree.
Brian Caldwell: Unfortunately, many of the best teachers and principals are jumping ship they are leaving government schools and moving to the independent sector. Government school jobs paying $ 90,000 a year are going begging in Victoria.
Unfortunately, there are few reliable studies upon which to base a comparison. Raw data are inadequate due to different demographics. There are virtually no solid studies that compare the value-added component.
Full audio of the program is available online at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2006/1677694.htm
You can listen in real time (streaming audio: Windows Media Player or Real Player) or download the entire audio file [but Beware: It's a 25 MB file if!] Also note, you get the entire program, not just the schools segment.
See related articles in The Australian on 3 July and 4 July
- The West Australian
- Ravlich's "pointless" OBE hurrah
by Bethany Hiatt (page 5)
"High school teachers would be forced to waste time and energy assessing students under two separate systems next year so Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich could save face over her outcomes-based education backdown, teachers said yesterday.
"The Curriculum Council confirmed yesterday that it had abandoned its plan to form "OBE lite" by merging some elements with the existing courses.
"But, as revealed yesterday by The West Australian, teachers will still be required to grade students by levels and bands, which are remnants of the OBE system, as well as giving them a mark out of 100, as happens now.
"Teachers lobby group PLATO said the only reason school had to use levels next year was so that Ms Ravlich and Alan Carpenter could save political face. PLATO co-founder Marko Vojkovich said there would still be utter confusion about how to match OBE-style levels, which were designed to reflect whether students had achieved certain outcomes, with existing courses, which do have have explicit outcomes.
"All Saints College principal Geoff Shaw agreed, saying trying to tack a new assessment system on to the old course was "illogical" because the levels would have no real meaning.
"I think a level will mean whatever you want it to mean," he said. "It will be a bit like Alice in Wonderland."
"St Hilda's dean of curriculum, Dr Pam Garnett said she was still concerned about assessment procedures and agreed the latest requirement was a Government face-saving exercise. "I do think (adding levels) is a way not to be seen not to be giving in fully." [emphasis added]
"Three weeks ago Ms Ravlich said the new OBE courses would be examined closely to see how much content had been transferred from the current TEE courses.
"Where we have mapped them, what we find is that about 85 to 90 per cent of the content is exactly the same between the old courses and the new courses of study," she said on June 11.
"The detail of that agreement was meant to be released to schools a fortnight ago. But in the ensuing two weeks negotiations bogged down and the Curriculum Council had to concede there was not enough time to join the new courses to the old and that the TEE courses should go ahead with no change.
"Yesterday, Ms Ravlich went into damage control, again claiming that WA was moving away from a purist model and that OBE was dead.
"OBE is dead and outcomes and standards education is the way forward," she said. Four new courses that would allow students to qualify for tertiary entrance were being introduced next year. "And that's what it's really all about, creating more opportunities," she said. [emphasis added]
Full story in The West Australian at http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=522
- Levels, bands the last remnant of Lil's folly
by Bethany Hiatt (page 5)
"For teachers and parents of students taking TEE-equivalent courses next year, the only remnant of the OBE system is the requirement that students are assigned levels as well as a mark out of 100." [Wrong! What about English (and media, aviation and engineering) ?? Web]
"Under OBE, levels and bands are meant to show how well a student has achieved the outcomes listed for the course.
"Instead of a grade from A to D, students doing the new courses will receive a percentage score, a level between four and eight and one of three bands, or sub-levels, within the level ranging from first (F), middle (M) to high (H). For example, a typical report would show: mark 67/100, level and band 5H.
"The Curriculum Council says an outcome is a general statement of what students know, understand and can do. It defines a level as a standard of achievement on a continuum that describes the quality of what a student knows, understands and can do at a particular time.
"Teachers use the levels as their reference points in assessing the extent to which students have learnt key concepts and skills for each outcome," a council spokesman said.
"Over time, teachers bring their assessments together to make judgements about a student's level of achievement for each outcome."
"Education director-general Paul Albert said the percentage mark would be used to calculate a student's tertiary entrance rank of they were aiming for university. Levels were essentially another way of giving students a grade.
"State School Teachers Union president Mike Keely, who sits on the Curriculum Council and has been a long-term supporter of OBE, said he did not believe using two forms of assessment would greatly add to teachers' workloads. [Then why is the union boycotting letter grades, Mike? Web]
"In the past we had grades and marks, now we have levels and marks," he said. "It's a system that attempts to manage the needs of most teachers."
"Asked why levels were needed at all, given that teachers could assess as they had always done, he said: "Because not all students go to university." [emphasis added]
"Students would need a level four to graduate from high school and receive a WA Certificate of Education. They also need at least a level five in English to satisfy university entry requirements.
- Inside Cover (page 2)
"Students at a country high school were working on an OBE assignment, or as it is known these days their Fat and Rich Task (charming acronym).
"The learning area (subject) teacher spoke to the class about it.
"After the teacher's thorough presentation on the expectations of the assignment, a still confused student came up to him to clarify what was really required.
"The very experienced teacher replied: "I am not allowed to tell you. You have to find out yourself."
"A fellow teacher who told us about the OBE-enforced exchange said he almost fell off his chair.
"And Ljiljanna Ravlich calls this a better system," the chalkie said." [emphasis added]
Full stories in The West Australian
credit to The West Australian
Coverage started on 10 November 2004, with a quote from Marko Vojkovich.
- PerthNow / The Sunday Times Online
- OBE Debate
Too much junk, says PM [from AAP]
"There is too much modernist junk in Australian education systems and a national education standard would be a good idea, the Prime Minister said today.
"The prime minister told a talkback radio caller in Perth he sympathised with the teacher's complaint that WA's education system was in a "shambles'' amid attempts to introduce a new system.
"The state government's introduction of its outcomes-based education (OBE) system, to replace the tertiary entrance exam system, has sparked a revolt among some teachers who have successfully lobbied to defer the introduction of some subjects.
"Mr Howard said he "sympathised'' with the teacher.
"I am interested in what you are saying, I think there is too much modernist junk in education around Australia,'' Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
"And I think you are echoing the views, not only of lots of teachers, but echoing the views of many parents and it is another reason why the imposition of some kind of national standards is desirable.''Full story in PerthNow / Sunday Times Online at http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21498,19680176-2761,00.html
- The Australian
- 'Schools should be bulldozed' [from AAP]
by Katherine Field
"Many of the country's public high schools are so run down they should be bulldozed or rebuilt, an education expert says.
"Professor Brian Caldwell, former dean of education at Melbourne University and author of a new book, Re-imagining Educational Leadership, warned the drift to private schools would continue unless the problems with public schools were sorted out.
"Prof Caldwell said many problems were being "hushed up".
"He held 14 workshops in Australia, Chile, England and New Zealand last year, and begins a seven-week tour of Australia tomorrow.
"Prof Caldwell predicted that most high school students would be in the private system within the next 10 years and state governments needed to improve teachers' pay, building refurbishment, literacy and innovation.
"The fact is the public is being duped," he said.
"Many government schools now simply have to be bulldozed or rebuilt.
"We have teachers working in government schools based on the factory model of schooling from the 19th century, teaching practices stuck in the 20th century for young people working in the 21st century."
"Highlighting a recent study, which showed 70 per cent of parents would prefer their children educated at private schools, Prof Caldwell said high fees were the main barrier.
"About 40 per cent of senior secondary students, 37 per cent of junior secondary children and 30 per cent of primary school children were in private schools, he said.
"Teachers avoided working in public schools, and he said he knew of cases where senior teaching jobs with salaries of more than $90,000 attracted only a handful of applicants.
"Prof Caldwell believed our secondary schools should follow the models of countries such as Britain, where only eight per cent of children were in the private system and the government was planning to rebuild or refurbish 85 per cent of secondary schools in the next 10-15 years.
"Public-private partnerships would help, as would giving schools more autonomy, particularly in hiring staff, he said.
"Other key ideas for reform were to partner low-performing schools with higher-performing ones and for schools to specialise in subject areas."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19686138-13881,00.htm
Wednesday 5 July
- AAP / News.com
- Make history study compulsory: PM
"Australian history should be compulsory in the nation's schools, Prime Minister John Howard said today.
"The Federal Government is pushing the states and territories to reinstate the study as a stand-alone subject, and may force the issue in the next round of schools funding.
"Mr Howard said he was not expecting opposition from the states and said Australian history should be compulsory for at least part of the curriculum.
"I would like to see it compulsory at certain stages," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
"The detail of that can be worked out by the different education departments.
"I'm not trying to write a course, I'm just wanting to establish the priority.
"And I cannot understand how anybody in a government could object to Australian history being for some period of time a compulsory, stand alone subject."
"The study should include European and Aboriginal history, Mr Howard said.
"It's got to include some understanding of British and European history, an understanding of the enlightenment, an understanding of the influence of Christianity, of Western civilisation, all of those things that shaped Australian society have got to be included," he said.
"But very particularly, we've got to have a proper narrative of what happened to this country both before 1788 ... and onwards.
"Now that includes, obviously, some reference to indigenous history."
"Mr Howard said it was essential to move away from studying history "as part of an examination of issues, an examination of cultural drifts".
"I want history to be Australian history in all of the manifestations I've described," he said.
"I want it to be a stand alone subject, it deserves that treatment.
"I want Australians in future to understand the scale of the Australian achievement."
"The Government has commissioned two studies to assess the status of Australian history in schools and is planning a summit involving historians, teachers, commentators and community representatives..."Full story at News.com at http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19691088-601,00.html
- ABC News Online
- Minister keeps quiet on states' education funding
"The Federal Education Minister is refusing to say whether she will withhold funding from the states unless they ensure Australian history is taught as a stand-alone subject.
"Julie Bishop believes the teaching of Australian history has been downgraded and subsumed into other subjects.
"She says she wants to ensure that all Australian students leaving secondary school have a more than basic understanding of Australian history.
"The Federal Government also wants to encourage an approach based on dates and facts, rather than themes.
"But she declined to reveal if she would make it a condition of the next schools funding agreement with the states.
"This is very early days, I'm asking states to consider having Australian history as a stand-alone subject and I'm sure that the states will cooperate in this regard," she said.
"Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says the debate about teaching Australian history in schools is an "elite preoccupation".
"He says the debate should be focusing on boosting training in trades.
"Now, I'm an old historian so naturally I tend to be favourably disposed," he said.
"But I've got to say, when you look at the Education Minister of the Commonwealth focused on that, it's just an elite preoccupation.
"Fundamentally, what we need now from our education ministers is a focus on trades - encouraging young men and women into trades."
Full story at ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1679740.htm
Pledge made to clean up school asbestos
"Repairs to raw sewage leaks and broken sheets of asbestos at the remote Wiluna school are expected to be completed before the end of the school holidays...."
Shire president Kerrie Johnson says now there are fears students are being exposed to broken sheets of asbestos.
"She says the toilets also leak raw sewage.
"Colin Basett from Western Property, which manages the maintenance of the school, admits there are several items, including fixing broken sheets of asbestos, which need repair.
"We've had a contractor up there doing bits and pieces waiting for his materials, but because he's pulled out, one of my client consultants is going up there, he's picking up a contractor on the way, taking him up there showing him what we want done and it'll be done as a priority," he said.
"The president of the Asbestos Disease Society, Robert Vojackovich, says inhaling broken asbestos fibres can cause serious health problems.
"He says research shows there are no safe levels of exposure to asbestos.
"Nothing you can do about it, you know the horse has bolted, there are fibres in the air and they have been inhaled - let's pray to god, you know, that nothing will happen but nobody will be sure of that, whether they will be risk-free or not for the future," he said."
Full story at ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1679044.htm
[also see story in today's The West Australian Web]
- Govt schools in WA 'falling apart', expert says
[Nah, they're great, says Lil... Web]
"An education expert says government secondary schools in Western Australia are "falling apart" and within a decade most students will be privately educated.
"The former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, Brian Caldwell, says while there has been a marginal increase in Government school enrolments in the last 25 years, the number of students in private education has more than doubled..."
"But Western Australia Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich disagrees.
"That's an absolute nonsense and I'd be a bit surprised if he has visited our schools," she said. [emphasis added]
Professor Caldwell says unless more appropriate buildings are constructed, government schools could end up being nothing more than a safety net for parents who cannot afford private school fees.
Full story at ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1678896.htm
- More student places won't solve doctor crisis, AMA warns
"The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is warning the nation could be faced with inadequately trained doctors in the future because of a lack of clinical expertise.
"The AMA has written to state and federal MPs, insisting they address what it has described as a "looming crisis".
AMA president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal says while it is good that extra medical school places have recently been created, there is still no strategy in place to provide trainee doctors with clinical training.
"You can't just lob students at a medical work force crisis - you've got to have beyond the medical student places, proper training facilities," he said.
"He has accused the state and territory governments of doing very little to meet their obligation to ensure that trainee doctors get the clinical training they need to equip them for front-line work."
Full story at ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1678859.htm
- The West Australian
- Wiluna parents keep kids at home
[Ravlich and Education Department under the hammer again still... Web]
by Bethany Hiatt (page 6)
"Parents are refusing to send their children to the Wiluna school until urgent repairs are made to fix basic health and safety problems.
"Principal Heath Sanderson, who gave notice of his resignation yesterday, confirmed that none of the school's 107 students was at school yesterday or on Monday.
"Parents say money put aside for much-needed maintenance disappeared when Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich announced a new school would be built, after Governor-General Michael Jeffery said in May that it was the worst school he had seen in Australia.
"Parents claim their children are still at risk from raw sewerage leaking from blocked drains in the year or more that it would take to build the new school. [emphasis added]
"Anne Geary, chairwoman of the school council, said children would not go back to the school until exposed asbestos sheeting had been removed and broken windows and toilets fixed. She did not believe that would be done before school holidays started at the end of the week.
"It's unsafe for our children to attend school and it's unsafe for teachers," she said. One contractor was on site, working through a six-month backlog of repairs.
"Shire president Kerrie Johnston said she hoped the Education Department would install temporary classrooms until the new school was built. "Our children still need to be protected now, whether we get a new school in 12 months or not," she said.
"Goldfields district director Larry Hamilton denied that the principal had given notice in protest at poor conditions at the school, saying he had opted to take up a job in the mining sector. [Can you blame him?? Web]
"He said he was puzzled why parents had withdrawn their children. [Maybe due to blocked toilets, raw sewerage, broken windows and asbestos? Web]
"Clearly there is a view in the community that the school is somehow unsafe for their kids," he said. "I am not convinced that the school is in an unsafe state."
"Mr Hamilton said $ 191,000 had been put aside for maintenance and conditions would not be allowed to slide below a certain standard, though work on the school had stalled because the Department of Housing and Works had problems getting contractors to Wiluna."
Full story in The West Australian
- Get on with Halls Creek boarding plan: Nats
by Jessica Strutt (page 6)
"Nationals leader Brendon Grylls says the State Government should stop procrastinating and build a boarding school at Halls Creek based on a model already being used successfully in other parts of the State..."
Full story in The West Australian
- State schools doomed: academic
by Bethany Hiatt and Rhianna King (page 6)
"The State school system is falling apart and most teenagers will be attending private schools within a decade, a leading education expert has warned.
"Education consultant and former Melbourne University education dean Brian Caldwell said yesterday that many teachers were being forced to work in outdated, crumbling facilities that should be bulldozed.
"His comments came as John Howard launched a new attack on the WA Government over outcomes-based education, labelling it "modernist junk" which proved why a national curriculum needed to be introduced.
"Two months after describing the OBE as gobbledegook, the Prime Minister said he sympathised with WA teachers and parents who were frustrated at the OBE debacle. [emphasis added]
"Professor Caldwell, who will release his book Re-imagining Educational Leadership today, said the State Government should encourage business to sponsor schools to give them the cash injection they urgently needed to stop the rapid exodus away from the State system.
"The trends are now evident over more than 20 years," he said. "It's a consistent shift. If you look at WA, the number of government school students has increased only marginally over 25 years from 1979 to 2004, from 207,000 to 229,000 and the number of students in non-government schools (has gone) from 45,000 to about 106,000."
"Professor Caldwell said too many State schools were under-resourced, badly designed and poorly maintained, forcing students and teachers to work in unhealthy and unpleasant conditions.
"He acknowledged that new State schools were impressive and some older schools had been refurbished. "But it's nowhere near what needs to be done. There are hundreds of schools built 20 and 30 years ago that are long past their use-by dates," he said.
"They still look like factories upon which 20th century schools were modelled, when even real factories have disappeared or been rebuilt."
"Professor Caldwell said WA should follow the lead of NSW, which has built schools in partnership with private companies, and England, where 80 per cent of state high schools now had industry sponsorship to help them offer specialised education to talented students in areas such as science, music or sport.
"Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said she did not want to use public private partnerships but she would "never say never".
"State education ministers will meet Federal counterpart Julie Bishop tomorrow to debate her proposal for a nationally consistent syllabus and Year 12 exams.
"The Federal Government believes a core national curriculum and national test would allow for the accurate comparison of student performance between the States, but Ms Ravlich said she would fight the proposal." [emphasis added]
Full story in The West Australia
- Letter to the Editor (page 27)
"Isn't it time that Alan Carpenter reshuffled his Cabinet, gave education to someone more suitable than Ljiljanna Ravlich and diverted her talents to a more appropriate position? Or has he so little talent to call on that he finds this impossible? After all, the buck rests with him."
Elsie Donovan, Bedford
- The Australian
- History back in schools
by Imre Salusinszky
"Students will again be taught traditional Australian history in classrooms across the nation under a plan from federal Education Minister Julie Bishop.
"Ms Bishop will press the states and territories to follow the lead of NSW under former premier Bob Carr and reinstate Australian history so every student "knows why Captain James Cook sailed along the east coast".
"If they refuse, The Australian understands the Government will consider making the teaching of Australian history a condition in its next schools funding agreement with the states. [emphasis added]
"However, Ms Bishop yesterday stressed a co-operative approach. "I want to work with the states on this," she said. "I want them to come along with me in a renaissance in the teaching of Australian history."
"To encourage a "narrative" approach to the subject, based on dates and facts, the commonwealth will offer to help the states develop online course materials to furnish the new programs. This will contrast with the current approach in most states, which is based on "themes" or "organisers" that critics have argued are often a filter for Marxist, feminist or Green interpretations of history.
"And in what is already a boost to the commonwealth's cause, The Australian understands Mr Carr will play a positive role in the initiative.
"I'm happy to talk about it anywhere," Mr Carr said yesterday. "I support any initiative to have history rescued and taught as a distinct discipline and to relegate cultural studies."
"The Government is particularly concerned at what Ms Bishop called the "swallowing" of history by other subjects under rubrics such as studies of society and its environment.
"For example, in Western Australia history is part of a Time, Continuity and Change learning outcome, designed to help students "understand their cultural, geographic and historical contexts and have the knowledge, skills and values necessary for active participation in life in Australia". Until Year 11, South Australian students can only take history as part of Society and Environment.
"The commonwealth move follows John Howard's controversial call on Australia Day for a "coalition of the willing" to undertake a "root-and-branch renewal of the teaching of Australian history in our schools, both in terms of the numbers learning and the way it is taught".
"Ms Bishop said yesterday Mr Howard's speech had "articulated what we're essentially doing" and that the new plan was designed to "take those sentiments forward".
"She has commissioned two papers from leading historians that will map the current status of Australian history in schools. These will form the basis of a "gathering of minds" - a summit involving historians, teachers, commentators and community representatives.
"Australian history has fallen victim to a crowded curriculum that has squashed it together with other social and environmental studies," Ms Bishop said. "I intend to consider ways the federal Government can encourage state education authorities to make teaching of Australian history a critical part of the syllabus."
"If encouragement failed, the commonwealth could stipulate the stand-alone teaching of Australian history as part of its next four-year, $40billion agreement with the states. This would follow the model of the current agreement, which has a range of conditions, including report cards that grade students from A to E, benchmark testing of primary school students and flagpoles in school grounds.
"A second part of the commonwealth push will be to ensure that, once stand-alone history subjects are up and running, they avoid the trap described by Mr Howard on Australia Day, when he said the subject was too often taught "without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of 'themes' and 'issues"'.
"There's both a quantitative and a qualitative problem with the teaching of Australian history in schools," Ms Bishop said. "There are not enough students learning for a start.
"And there is too much politics in it, too much indoctrination and not enough pivotal facts and dates.
"Every school child should know when and why Captain James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia, who was our first prime minister, why we were involved in two world wars and how federation came about."
"She said an office poll of her own junior staff members had revealed their knowledge of Australian history was "wanting, to say the least".
"Nick Ewbank, head of the History Teachers Association, said in most states history had been "subsumed" by other subjects and that his organisation "would certainly support the commonwealth in raising the profile of history".
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19689417-13881,00.html
- Shut below-quality schools, says lobby
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"More than one in 10 government high schools are not meeting quality standards and should be closed.
"Australian Secondary Principals Association president Andrew Blair said the nation had too many schools - government, Catholic and independent - for its population.
"And the 10-15 per cent that were failing to meet quality standards - with poor curriculums, inadequate facilities and unacceptably low teacher qualifications - should be shut.
"His comments came as education experts warned that most secondary students would be attending a non-government school within the next 10 years. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show about 40 per cent of high school students attended a non-government school last year, compared with about 30 per cent 20 years ago. [emphasis added]
"Former dean of education at Melbourne University Brian Caldwell argued that if the trend continued, government high school students would be in the minority in the next decade.
"Professor Caldwell, who last week published a book on the subject called Reimagining Educational Leadership, said the public school system was rapidly falling apart as a result of inaction by state governments.
"Mr Blair's group is drafting a plan to take to the Howard Government to tie public funding to a national framework of quality assurance, similar to the accreditation process used for childcare centres.
"Some schools need support to get up to scratch and if they don't meet the benchmarks that we require, they should not be in the business," he said.
"Many schools across the country fail to meet expectations either in facilities or processes or in curriculum breadth or appropriate staff qualifications or indeed staff mix."
"Professor Caldwell points to schools such as the Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide as the model that government schools should emulate to compete with the non-government sector.
"The school, established three years ago as a government school in conjunction with Flinders University, is on the university grounds and caters for students in Years 10 to 12 with a demonstrated interest, rather than academic ability, in maths and the sciences.
"Principal Jim Davies said the school was receiving international attention, becoming the only one in Australia to be mentioned in an upcoming publication of the OECD on school design..."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19689230-13881,00.html
- The Dominion Post, New Zealand
- NCEA lets pupils do 'enough to get by'
by Lane Nichols
"High school pupils lack motivation to excel and do the minimum to get by because of NCEA design flaws, research reveals. [The NCEA (National Certificate of Education Achievement) is New Zealand's main national qualification for secondary school students. Web]
"A Victoria University report says many pupils avoid difficult subjects or parts of courses they do not like, fail to complete assessments if they expect to do badly and do not bother sitting exams if they already have enough credits to pass.
"The report, The Impact of NCEA on Student Motivation, was commissioned by the Education Ministry and its findings made public yesterday by Education Minister Steve Maharey.
"He said the research endorsed NCEA's tailored approach to individual learning but also raised important issues.
"An NCEA advocate said pupils would always find ways to exploit assessment loopholes and the findings were not new.
"The report surveyed more than 6000 year 10, 11, 12 and 13 pupils from 20 demographically representative schools from late last year.
"Pupils feel grade bands are too broad and do not provide enough information about their academic performance, the report says.
"An 80-credit requirement encourages a "minimalist approach" and provides little incentive to strive for excellence.
"Such features could have a negative long-term impact on persistence and endeavour factors seen as necessary for being successful in the future," the report says.
"Certain design features of NCEA assessment acted as disincentives to motivation and achievement for pupils, including high achievers.
"The system may need to be changed to ensure NCEA achieves its original goals as a standards-based qualifications system.
"The report highlights some successes. Pupils and teachers praised NCEA's flexibility and internal assessment, which allows pupils to spread their workload over the school year.
"It was felt there were greater opportunities for lower-achieving pupils, and parents strongly supported NCEA.
"Mr Maharey said that under NCEA pupils were doing better, staying at school longer and enjoying the flexible approach to learning it offered. "More students than ever before are motivated and supported to reach their potential."
"National's education spokesman Bill English said the Government needed to fix a system that encouraged pupils to accumulate easy credits through low-value courses.
"Credits are no use if they are achieved by dropping standards and unfair results for students..."
Full story in The Dominion at http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3721418a11,00.html
- Meanwhile, in Tasmania
- Hobart Mercury
- Bulldoze state schools
by Kathy Grube
"Tasmania's state schools should be bulldozed and rebuilt to stem the flood of parents sending their children to private schools, a visiting education expert says.
"Professor Brian Caldwell, former dean of education at the University of Tasmania and University of Melbourne, says the design of Tasmanian state schools does not meet minimum standards required for modern education.
"Prof Caldwell said yesterday substandard school buildings played their part in the drift to private schools.
"Current school buildings are not appropriate for learning in the 21st century," he said.
"Most were built 50 to 20 years ago using a traditional factory model where all the classrooms are the same size and aligned end-to-end along a corridor. Those designs are outdated.
"Schools need to have more flexible learning areas that provide spaces for students to work in small groups and large open areas where students can log on to the internet and work individually. Secondary schools could have small lecture theatres where larger groups of students can learn..."
Full story in The Mercury at http://themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19689532%255E3462,00.html
- Tasmania Examiner [Launceston]
- Bulldoze old schools, says expert
by Nic Price
"Tasmania's education system is in crisis and a number of schools should be bulldozed to start again, claims an educational expert.
"Professor Brian Caldwell predicts that within 10 years most children in the State will be privately educated. He said federal and State governments' lack of vision and funding were to blame for the trend towards private schools, with 40 per cent of Australian senior secondary students privately educated.
"Prof. Caldwell accused the State Government of paying lip service but not funding public schools adequately and not considering serious reform, while many students floundered below literacy benchmarks..."
Full story in The Tasmania Examiner at http://www.examiner.com.au/story.asp?id=350939
Thursday 6 July
Letter from Greg Williams to The West Australian
The teachers of secondary students in Western Australian schools have been subjected to an array of professional development over the past two years purportedly to prepare them for the implementation of the OBE Courses of Study.
Suddenly, after 4 years of trying to make this nonsensical system work, the Minister has recognised that the system had fatal flaws and has declared that OBE is dead. However, rather than abandon the implementation entirely, she has allowed the Curriculum Council to come up with another proposition that is neither one thing nor the other. Teachers, in the space of the final 26 weeks of this year, will have to come to terms with the new syllabus, write programmes, garner resources, convince students and parents that it actually will work, on top of carrying out all their usual tasks of teaching and assessing the students currently in their care.
To help teachers along the pathway of coming to terms with the revised system, there is to be a Professional Development (PD) day at the start of Term 3, ie 24th July. Schools have known about this for some time; they have planned to have their teachers off campus for that day attending the PD; they have an expectation that their teachers would receive vital information and resources relating to the revised courses.
However, yesterday, just three days before the end of Term 2, the Curriculum Council has advised schools that only some teachers will be permitted to attend this PD. Schools may only send one teacher for each of the new courses.
This cynical move, executed so close to the end of term, is denying all teachers what should be an inalienable right, and that is to be fully cognisant of changes that will seriously affect what they are teaching a mere semester away. It does not recognise in the least that schools have actually planned to have teachers away at this PD.
The Minister has proclaimed long and loud that she is financing these changes, yet here we have a blatant failure to provide teachers with a PD opportunity that they must have.
This is yet another example of decisions being made on the run, and with little or no thought to their consequences being evidenced.
Once again, it is time to completely scrap this futile exercise until it can be done properly.
- ABC News Online
- Education ministers disagree over national exam plan
"There has been no agreement among education ministers on a plan for a standardised year 12 certificate.
"Federal and state education ministers are meeting in Brisbane.
"The Commonwealth is proposing a common starting age for students entering school and a uniform examination for those in their final year.
"Queensland's Education Minister Rod Welford says discussions have been cooperative but there has been little support for the examination plan among his state colleagues.
"Examinations simply assessing a student on one day on a narrow range of issues is no way to properly determine a student's future prospects," he said.
"We're not going to sign up to that."
"Meanwhile, the Australian Education Union called for talks to focus on funding shortfalls for public schools."
Full story at ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1680727.htm
States urged to hand over uni accreditation powers
"The Federal Education Minister says she will ask the states to hand over their higher education accreditation powers at a ministerial meeting today.
"Julie Bishop is meeting with the state and territory Education Ministers in Brisbane.
"She says she will table plans for a new Commonwealth agency with the responsibility of accrediting higher education institutions.
"Currently universities, or potential higher education institutions, face a bewildering array of state legislation, because each state establishes universities, and so there's duplication, there's layers of bureaucracy, there's red tape that I believe we can do away with," she said.
"She says she will ask for support for a national agency to approve higher education institutions.
"I'll have a discussion with the education ministers, and I hope that they'll see reason that this is in the interests of our higher education institutions, in the interests of universities, and of course in the interests of students, to ensure that we don't have unnecessary red tape and duplication," she said."
Full story at ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1679912.htm
- The West Australian includes two articles and two letters to the editor
- Now lower school teachers demand OBE be abandoned
by Bethany Hiatt (page 14)
"Teachers who have been forced to implement outcomes-based education in lower school say the system is flawed for the same reasons Years 11 and 12 OBE courses were considered flawed and should be scrapped.
"Many teachers of Years 8 to 10 say they have grappled for years with lack of prescribed content and heavy assessment workloads that require them to "level" students against jargon-filled outcome statements.
"They say the resulting levels mean little because they are based on such subjective judgements.
"Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich declared the so-called purist model of OBE dead when she announced upper school teachers would get clearly defined syllabuses and be allowed to use marks out of 100 as well as levels and bands. Greg Williams, president of the teachers lobby group PLATO, said Ms Ravlich should recognise that the flawed purist model has been based on the model forced on lower school.
"She now needs to take the next step and declare OBE dead in Years 8 to 10." Mr Williams said.
"The head of English at a private school said OBE was a "totally purposeless" system that forced teachers to take four times as long to mark.
"Kids hate it because they don't know where they are," she said.
"It's just paper shuffling. At the end of it you give them a 3H or a 4F... but it doesn't mean anything to the students, it doesn't mean anything to the parents." Lack of prescribed content was also a problem, leading to students studying the same topic for three years in a row and never touching others. And inexperienced teachers with no resources were floundering.
"But Port School principal Peter Roguszka said any decent teacher who knew their subject should know what content they should teach.
"Dr Roguszka said OBE gave his teachers more flexibility to teach topics they knew would interest students at his school, which took teenagers who had trouble fitting into bigger high schools.
"Students in this school would continue to fail if we had to follow a prescribed syllabus," he said. [Once again, a non-academic school supporting OBE Web]
"Primary and lower secondary teachers are still waiting for syllabuses they were promised almost a year ago four years after a 2001 education task force said many teachers were struggling to meet the requirements of an outcomes-based approach and needed specific guidance on what to teach in which year.
"In September, Education Department director-general Paul Albert promised to reintroduce syllabuses specifying essential content up to Year 10. The department now says draft materials were released last week and syllabuses were expected to be ready by the end of the year. [Promised in 2001 only 5 years late Web]
"Notre Dame University education dean Michael O'Neill said work on new syllabuses was a step in the right direction.
"Shadow education minister and former teacher Peter Collier said he had been a supporter of OBE until the debacle of its implementation in upper school."
Full story in The West Australian at http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=618
- Ravlich resists PM push on history
by Rhianna King, Canberra (page 14)
"Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich has rejected a Federal push for every student to study a stand-alone Australian history course, saying it wasn't needed in WA.
"Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said history had fallen victim to a crowded curriculum and needed to be made more of a priority..."
"Ms Ravlich accused the Federal Government of being ignorant of WA's school syllabus, as Australian history featured prominently.
"From Years 1 to 10 students are taught history under the banner of Time, Continuity and Change learning outcome, which must include an element of Australian politics and Aboriginal history. Year 11 and 12 history students must study at least one unit of Australian history, either from 1900-1945 or 1945-1990.
"It was revealed earlier this year the new outcomes-based education history course, due to be implemented in Year 11 next year, would encourage but not require teachers to include Australian history. The State Government this week delayed the rollout of the OBE courses..."
"The issue is likely to be discussed at an education ministers meeting in Brisbane today. Other items include a literacy forum, indigenous education, common school starting age, plain English report cards and an Australian Certificate of Education."
Full stories in The West Australian
- Letters to the Editor: Thanks for campaign against OBE (page 18)
- "The West Australian is to be congratulated for its concern over OBE and education standards. The situation in TAFE is worse than in high schools because the centralised examination system in WA was abolished in 1995.
"Each TAFE course sets its own standards and the new syllabuses do not even contain sample exam papers. The syllabuses after 1995 specified "infinite retries" for failed exams and decreed "open book" exams, meaning notes could be taken into the exam room and exams became simple copying exercises. Even the word "fail" is no longer politically correct, it has become "hold" and "not yet competent".
"TAFE lecturers who criticised these new measures were offered redundancies or "redeployed", a term meaning removed from the college.
"Different States have interpreted OBE differently. Not only is it a waste of taxpayers' funds to have each State set its own educational standards via curriculum councils for TAFEs and high schools, it penalises students (new TAFE term is "clients") whose parents shifted from State to State to find employment because their children may have to repeat an entire year."
Dominic Wild, Orange Grove
"Finally, the Government shows an iota of sense about OBE. Thank you, The West Australian, on behalf of students, teachers and parents, for fearless reporting and for keeping this issue in the public eye and on the boil. Thank you Liz Constable, Kim Hames, and Terry Waldron for restoring our faith in at least some politicians. Shame on Ljiljanna Ravlich, Alan Carpenter, the Government lap-dogs on the parliamentary inquiry and arrogant education bureaucrats."
Steve Kessell, Willetton
[If that looks familiar, Steve gave me that letter days ago... Web]
- The Australian includes an Editorial, an Op Ed piece by Julie Bishop, three articles and seven letters to the editor
- Danger of 'schools for the poor'
Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"One bright child from a poor background might still thrive in any government school but when there are clusters of impoverished students, they tend to drag each other down.
"Research prepared for the nation's education ministers, obtained by The Australian, warns that schools with the poorest students have half as many top performers as schools with the wealthiest students.
"Education experts yesterday said the research highlighted the danger that public schools were becoming little more than schools for the poor, exacerbated by the drift to private schools.
"The study by independent consultant Philip Holmes-Smith, to be presented to a meeting of federal, state and territory education ministers in Brisbane today, found students' socioeconomic backgrounds did not predict their academic performance.
"But when groups of disadvantaged students clustered in the one school, they performed significantly worse.
"The study compared the socio-economic backgrounds and performances of students in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT, and followed up an earlier study with similar results in Victoria.
"It found that the richest 25 per cent of schools had almost two in five students in the top-performing quartile, while the poorest 25 per cent of schools had only one in five.
"Former education head at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Barry McGaw, now director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at Melbourne University, said groups of disadvantaged students tended to have low expectations of themselves as well as low aspirations.
"As a result, the system also had low expectations of them and the students were often not given the same opportunities as more advantaged students.
"If you have a large collection of students of who little is expected, then little is provided," Professor McGaw said.
"Schools develop new courses for their students less demanding than other courses, or kids are only offered low levels of subjects and not the higher levels..."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19699574-601,00.html
- Julie Bishop: Our classrooms need to make a date with the facts
School students should be taught traditional Australian history, insists federal Education Minister Julie Bishop
"The time has come for a renaissance in the teaching of Australian history in our schools. By the time students finish their secondary schooling, they must have a thorough understanding of their nation's past. It makes young people more informed citizens and better able to appreciate where our nation has come from and how we have arrived at our place as a modern lib-eral democracy.
"Earlier this year, Prime Minister John Howard said he believed that the time had come for "root and branch renewal of the teaching of Australian history in our schools, both in terms of the numbers learning and the way it is taught".
"The Prime Minister said "too often, Australian history is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of themes and issues".
"This highlights the two glaring problems with regard to the teaching of Australian history: the quantitative problem and the qualitative problem. Not enough students are learning Australian history; and there is too much political bias and not enough pivotal facts and dates being taught.
"Every schoolchild should know, for example, when and why the then Lieutenant James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia. Every child should know why the British transported convicts to Australia and who Australia's first prime minister was. They should also know how and why Federation came about, and why we were involved in the two world wars.
"Indigenous Australian history is also an important part of the Australian narrative and must form part of a basic understanding of Australian history. So is the history of our parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, and the Enlightenment, which were all aspects of our nation's past, bequeathed to us as part of our European inheritance.
"The principal quantitative problem with the teaching of Australian history in most states is that it has fallen victim to a crowded curriculum that has squashed the discipline together with other social and environmental studies, and which has seen students learning less history and more themes and political science masked as history.
"This is a trend that must be reversed.
"In 2000, the federal Government commissioned a report into the state of Australian history teaching in our schools that identified the gradual disappearance of history as a discipline in classrooms across Australia.
"To illustrate the point, as one columnist pointed out in The Australian in 2000: "In a recent national test, students were asked to name a political leader of this country who was famous in the period 1880-1901. Most were unable to name one. Among the names they did suggest were Arthur Phillip, (Robert) Menzies and Ronald Reagan".
"In NSW, former premier Bob Carr deserves to be commended for taking steps during his premiership to ensure that the tide was turned in his state's classrooms and more Australian history was taught; but more needs to be done on a national scale.
"I welcome the support of the president of the History Teachers Association of Australia for the quantitative aspect of my concerns. Although the association may not fully agree with my criticism of what is being taught as part of Australian history, we agree on the need for more Australian history in classrooms.
"In terms of the qualitative problem, it is my observation that there has been a tendency to downplay the overwhelmingly positive aspects of the Australian achievement.
"We need to find a balance that constitutes an understanding of our nation's past and is made up of the essential facts, dates and events that every student should know when they finish their secondary schooling.
"This must include an embrace not only of our European inheritance and our Aboriginal history but also post-war immigration from every corner of the globe and the other aspects of our nation's history that have made ours one of the most open and tolerant societies on earth.
"Also, it is important for students to develop a body of knowledge that is rich in dates, facts and events, and from which students can then draw their own opinions about historical events. Without learning these primary ingredients of history, students are less able to form valuable conclusions.
"My concern is that in the social and environmental subjects that are supposed to teach history, students are missing knowledge about key historical events and their influence on our nation's development.
"Students should be encouraged to develop opinions about the different parts of Australia's history, but those opinions should be buttressed with an evidence base.
"I intend to explore ways for the federal Government to encourage the state education authorities and all schools to make the teaching of Australian history a critical part of their jurisdictions' syllabuses.
"I want the states to embrace this agenda, and not succumb to pressure from various interest groups that see the rebirth of Australian history teaching as a threat to political correctness."Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19696619-601,00.html
- Beazley against history revival
by Imre Salusinszky and Dan Box
"Kim Beazley has dismissed the push by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop to reinstate the teaching of traditional Australian history in schools as an "elite preoccupation".
"The Opposition Leader insisted that the plan, revealed in The Australian yesterday, was part of a trend by the Government "to talk about anything other than those things which matter most".
"Fundamentally, what we need now from our education ministers is a focus on trades - encouraging young men and women into trades," he said.
"However, his views are starkly at odds with those of another Labor heavyweight, former NSW premier Bob Carr, who last night urged the Government to "follow through" on Ms Bishop's comments and ensure that "history is elevated as a discrete, intact discipline and not buried in social studies or cultural studies".
"Ms Bishop intends to restore history as a stand-alone, compulsory subject from kindergarten to year 10 and will convene a summit around the issue later thisyear.
"The commonwealth will offer to assist the states to develop online teaching materials designed for a traditional, chronological presentation of Australian history, rather than one built around nebulous "themes" or "operators".
"But with state education ministers responding angrily to the push by Canberra to influence their curriculums, it appears likely Ms Bishop will need to abandon the carrot for the stick and threaten the states with a loss of funding. [emphasis added]
"Queensland Education Minister Rob Welford yesterday dismissed the idea of a return to a more narrative approach to history teaching.
"I think we have learnt over the years that the regurgitation of facts and figures is not really 'learning'," he said.
"He said Ms Bishop "would do better to chart her own path by collaborating rationally with the state ministers instead of using threats as if she were a Brendan Nelson puppet".
"South Australian Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said: "We believe the necessary facts in a child's education should be determined by teachers and experts in the field, not politicians."
"Tasmanian Education Minister David Bartlett said he was "horrified" by the proposal and added: "If this is a stalking horse for John Howard's personal Australian history being taught inschools then I am not interested."
"But confirming the Government's determination to press ahead with the issue yesterday, the Prime Minister denied it would be his own "narrative" shaping the new courses.
"I won't be writing it," he said. "It will be written by historians. I am only an amateur historian.
"What we've got to get away from is studying history as part of an examination of issues, an examination of cultural drifts."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19699577-601,00.html
- States subject to change
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"History students in NSW study a distinct subject that covers ancient civilisations and medieval times through to Australia during the two world wars and the Vietnam conflict.
"But in Western Australia, the subject is not even called history, but Time, Continuity and Change and is taught as part of a social studies course called Society and Environment.
"History inspector for the state Board of Studies Jennifer Lawless said NSW had strongly resisted the trend in other states to subsume history into social studies courses.
"We saw the direction it was going in various other states and we are very passionately committed to keep it as a distinct subject," she said.
"The rationale for the NSW history syllabus for years 7 to 10 opens with a quote from a Holocaust survivor: "How can we live together if we don't appreciate our own and others' histories?"
"It defines history as "a disciplined process of inquiry into the past that allows students to locate themselves in the broad continuum of human experience".
"By contrast, Time, Continuity and Change is one of seven areas in the West Australian Society and Environment curriculum, along with place and space, natural and social systems, culture, active citizenship, resources and investigation and communication and participation.
"Time, Continuity and Change is defined as students understanding that "peoples' actions and values are shaped by their understanding and interpretation of the past".
"The NSW syllabus is very specific about the content students should learn and 100 hours of history is mandatory across every two-year stage between years 7 and 10.
"In years 9 and 10, students study Australian history from 1900, covering Federation and the Constitution, World Wars I and II, the years between the wars and Australia during the Vietnam War.
"In Western Australia, the curriculum for years 7 to 10 says that as their understanding of society and environment becomes more sophisticated, "students become aware of the tentative nature of their generalisations and leave those generalisations open to the logical consideration of alternatives".Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19699571-601,00.html
- Editorial: The return of history
Bad ideas have consequences beyond the classroom
"Quick: name Australia's first prime minister. If you're stumped, you're not alone. For decades, Australian history has been barely taught in the country's schools. Save for a few key national events Cook's landing, the Eureka Stockade students today don't so much learn facts and dates about the past as they do attitudes. Traditional history curriculums have been subsumed by broad outcomes-based courses, with touchy-feely names such as Society and the Environment, that are informed by a soft Marxist narrative that sees Australia as a racist and sexist country founded on a crime. This has a devastating effect on the national cohesion of what is, in fact, one of the world's great democratic success stories. In 2004, the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme found that young people thought Australia undemocratic and unfair. Fewer than 55 per cent surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that "Australia is a democratic country". At one Sydney school, Year 10 students were unable even to explain the concept of a democracy.
"But this educational injustice could soon be righted. Under a plan developed by federal Education Minister Julie Bishop, a traditional, narrative approach to Australian history based on facts and dates will soon return. The plan has horrified amateur historian Kim Beazley the Labor leader says Ms Bishop is suffering from an "elite preoccupation". But never mind. The same survey revealed that 75 per cent of students considered their teachers the most trustworthy source of political information. This power should be harnessed to teach the true story of the country and develop a narrative around it, rather than look at the past through the scratchy prisms of race, sex and class. Australian history may not be seen as sexy, given that the country was born out of referendum, not revolution. But our values of liberty, equality and government by consent stem from our unique history and connection to English democracy. These same values are at the roots of such concepts as mateship and a fair go. Rather than be taught to feel guilty for the past, Australia's young should be taught to embrace it. And, along the way, learn that their first prime minister was Edmund Barton."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19696967-7583,00.html [scroll down]
- Letters to the Editor: MOST TALKED ABOUT Topic
- Courses should be designed by teachers, not by politicians
"Concerning federal Education Minister Julie Bishop's plans to restore the teaching of Australian history in schools ("History back in schools", 5/7), three points need to be made.
"First, government may encourage syllabus design but should not enforce it. History courses should be designed by teachers, not by politicians, and they should offer variety rather than conformity.
"Second, a thematic approach can and should be interwoven with a narrative structure based on key facts. Third, since Australia is essentially a nation formed by the British during their imperial period, the course would be best shaped if it began with some history of the British themselves.
"My suggestion is a two-year course in Years 9 and 10, with the first of the four semesters devoted to British history before the settlement of Australia."
Nigel Jackson, Belgrave, Vic
- "It never fails to amaze me that politicians develop delusions of expertise-in-everything once they are elected. Julie Bishop's attack upon social science teachers demonstrates an appalling lack of understanding of the discipline of history and how it is taught. If she asked a roomful of historians why Captain Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia, or why we were involved in two world wars, would she seriously expect consensus?
"As a history teacher of many years and now as an educator of history teachers, I take offence at her ill-informed assertion that (in history teaching) "there is . . . too much indoctrination and not enough pivotal facts and dates". Where is her evidence apart from an office poll of her junior staff?
"When she talks about traditional Australian history, what she really means is a Eurocentric narrative of events. If that is the only perspective that students get, then yes, we will certainly be indoctrinating them."
Dr Glenda McGregor, Lecturer in history curriculum University of Queensland, St Lucia
- "Having attended school throughout the 1950s, I presume that I and my classmates obtained a "traditional" view of Australian history. We were well aware of the voyages of Captain Cook and his gallant crew which culminated in him being treacherously killed in Hawaii by savages. We were also taught the traditional history of Australia's indigenous population that they were extremely primitive and would be overwhelmed by our superior European culture, eventually dying out. No mention was ever made of the mass murder and the systematic rape and pillaging of Aboriginal society perpetrated by the invaders. If the "new" history is going to teach such matters, then I am all for it. If it is going to be the rose-coloured, "hearts of oak" claptrap that we received, then forget it."
Ian Semmel, Maleny, Qld
- "Promoting the study of Australian history is laudable but the issue is more complicated than Julie Bishop suggests in calling for more "pivotal facts and dates". It all depends on which facts or dates we consider important.
"Hundreds of historians have written thousands of books trying to work out what caused World War I without being any closer to reaching a consensus than when the fighting stopped nearly 88 years ago."
Norm Neill, Leichhardt, NSW
"One of the problems of teaching Australian history is that there are not enough qualified teachers of the subject. However, I hope the day is near when Australian children take pride in knowing more about their own nation's history than that of a foreign country."
Con Vaitsas, Ashbury, NSW
- "It is welcome news that students will again be taught traditional Australian history. However the content of many contemporary texts is, as Julie Bishop correctly notes, full of politics and indoctrination.
"Three years ago, I had cause to write a letter of complaint to the headmaster of the private school my daughter attends over a book she brought home entitled Australian History and Citizenship by Mark Anderson and Paul Ashton.
"For example, on page 208 it is stated: "At the outbreak of World War II, communists were instructed to oppose the war effort. The negative influence of the communists led the federal government to outlaw the party between June 1940 and December 1942."
"In the overall context, the impression is given that the communists were peace-lovers, which is why they were outlawed. Conveniently ignored were facts such as the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939, which enabled both the Nazis and the USSR to invade and carve up Poland, and for the Soviets to invade Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to attack Finland. Also ignored is the shameful sabotage of the Australian war effort by communists on the waterfront."
Ross Howard, Daisy Hill, Qld
"As a future educator of Australian children, I find it troubling that an education minister who proclaims she has a vision to create a "renaissance in the teaching of Australian history" fails to mention the 65,000 years of Australian history prior to the arrival of Captain Cook. Ms Bishop, if you truly want to create a renaissance in history teaching, then have the courage to do just that."Full Letters to the Editor in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/index/0,,21223,00.html
Chelsea Edgar, Brisbane, Qld
- Canberra Times
- [There is obviously a proposal to close / amalgamate schools in the ACT... "closing 39 schools and pre-school sites and slashing 90 support positions plus 145 teaching positions..."]
School closures a collective act of cognitive dissonance
by Clive Haggar
"In Wikipedia, cognitive dissonance is described as "the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions - defined as any element of knowledge, including attitude, emotion, belief or behaviour".
"In reference to a 1959 experiment attempting to test the existence of cognitive dissonance "the experimenters concluded that human beings, when asked to lie without being given sufficient justification, will convince themselves that the lie they are asked to tell is the truth".
"The ACT public education community, through the recent round of public consultations, has been asked to join the ACT Government and Education Minister Andrew Barr in a collective act of cognitive dissonance over the education elements of the ACT Budget.
"Despite Barr's valiant attempts to smile his way through his monotone delivery and his rehearsed speech and responses to frequently asked questions, his composure at the end of the eight meetings was notably worn and his audience entirely unconvinced. Fundamentally, while the minister may have convinced himself of the necessity of closing 39 schools and pre-school sites and slashing 90 support positions plus 145 teaching positions in the Budget, his rationale by the end of the series of eight meetings was looking distinctly threadbare.
"At each of the regional meetings, the audience reaction varied from bewilderment to resentment and anger.
"In each case, there was a sense of betrayal by a local government that the majority of those present had supported. Speaker after speaker talked of the social and educational impact of the proposed closures on them and their families and their community.
"Many referred to the economic impact of losing their local school, the transport costs, the child-care expenses, the loss of income from forced changes to employment. Many reflected on their determination to fight and to punish the Government at the ballot box.
"Speakers constantly queried the basis of the decision-making, highlighting the absurdity of the secret nature of the Costello Review and the other advice that had led to the nomination of the 39 "schools" and the myriad of models provided in the Towards 2020 proposal.
"Throughout it all, Andrew Barr stuck to his line about investment in quality, in teachers, in buildings, in choice, opportunity and diversity.
"Yet all through his eight presentations, the dead cats kept coming: the massive cut to teacher numbers; the loss of effective support from the bureaucracy; the broken electoral commitment to increase high school staff; the economic and social loss to community; the improving demographics in some areas; the unpopularity of the Year 7-12 model; the suspect capacity figures; the fact that this amalgamated school lacked the space, the facilities, the accessibility, the sense of smallness and welcome; parents in tears, angry parents, reasoning and reasonable parents; parents who, dissatisfied, handed back the microphone and then still shouted; those parents who kept the microphone and argued..."
Clive Haggar is branch secretary of the ACT Branch of the Australian Education Union.
Full editorial in The Canberra Times at link
- Letter to the Editor
"Let's close all schools and invest in the important things
"It seems to me that Canberra's budget problems can be resolved quite easily if we can just get our spending priorities right.
"We should go the whole hog and close all our schools except for one mega-school. Then we can save heaps of money and invest in things that really matter like the Brumbies, the Kangaroos and the Raiders..."
Karen Viggers, Aranda
Full Letters to the Editor in the Canberra Times at link
- News from Tasmania
- The Hobart Mercury
- National threat to state plans [late edition]
"The new Tasmanian Senior Secondary Completion Certificate may be worthless even before it is introduced.
"The Federal Government plans to replace state Year 12 qualifications with an Australian Certificate of Education.
"And state Education Minister David Bartlett said yesterday he thought developing a new Tasmanian Senior Secondary Completion Certificate was not a priority.
"In May, federal Education Minister Julie Bishop released a report which recommended the national certificate be established in three years.
"Under the proposal, all Year 12 students would sit a national exam assessing their literacy, writing, numeracy and computing skills, and the certificate would replace all existing state qualifications.
"Mr Bartlett said he did not want to pre-empt any discussions on the proposed certificate.
"Although uncertain whether creating a new Tasmanian Year 12 completion certificate was a high priority, Mr Bartlett said he was looking forward to receiving a progress report on the Tasmanian Senior Secondary Completion Certificate next month."
Full story in The Hobart Mercury at http://themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19699125%255E3462,00.html
- Authority revamps Year 12 certificate
by Kathy Grube, Education reporter
"A new graduation certificate for Year 12 students is being developed by the Tasmanian Qualifications Authority.
"To qualify for the certificate students must meet minimum standards in literacy, numeracy, information communication technology (ICT) and in their formal subjects studied at college.
"The certificate will be in addition to the TCE and VET certificates now awarded.
"The certificate is still in draft form and TQA will call for public comment in August/September.
"The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the development of a new Year 12 certificate.
"Manager of the employment, education and training policy unit of TCCI, Jodie Stevenson, said employers wanted to see numeracy and literacy levels included on Year 12 certificates.
"The name of the certificate is yet to be finalised, but is being referred to as the Tasmanian Senior Secondary Completion Certificate.
"TQA chief executive officer Reg Allen said he would not comment on details of the senior secondary certificate project, which began in November last year, as the certificate's content had not been finalised.
"We have consulted with businesses and individual stakeholders and are working towards the next stage where we will seek widespread public feedback," he said.
"It is planned that the certificate will be available to senior secondary students in 2008.
"Calculating whether students have met the minimum requirements for senior secondary education will be done through a "credit points" system applied to TCE subjects, VET courses and other TQA approved subjects."
Full story in The Hobart Mercury at http://themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19698883%255E3462,00.htm
- Catholics disapprove school peer rankings
by Kathy Grube, Education reporter
"A Catholic school parents group says it supports school reports that grade students from A to E, but does not agree with ranking them against their classmates.
"To receive Federal Government funding, all Australian schools are required by legislation to adopt a five-level grading system, such as A to E or one to five. The student report must also rank students in the top, second, third or bottom quartile in their year group.
"Tasmanian state schools introduced the reports last year and Catholic and independent schools will send their first A-to-E reports home this month.
"Tasmanian Catholic Schools Parents and Friends Federation president Bill Button said parents wanted plain-English report cards but did not support the ranking of students against their peers.
"Parents want a report card that provides information about how their child is doing at school, but the assessment should be based on their skills in subjects, not where they stand in their class," he said.
"The majority of parents do not believe in ranking and have questioned its use in helping students to learn.
"Parents feel that it would be demoralising for a child to always get put in the lowest 25 per cent of the class."
"Mr Button said he supported A-to-E marks for subjects, but only if useful comments were included to explain the marks.
"Parents need to be informed about what level their child is achieving at, but the report must also provide meaningful comments on what areas their child is struggling with," he said.
"Mr Button said a survey of Tasmanian Catholic school parents would be conducted in August or September to get feedback from parents about the new A-to-E reports.
"Catholic Education director Dan White said he had received a mixed reaction from parents but the majority wanted a clear and easy-to-read report card.
"Our major issue has been trying to explain to parents how the awarding of grades is done and that a C grade is a very satisfactory result," Dr White said.
"There will not be as many As and Bs as in reports from previous years. The vast majority of students will receive a C, which means that they are working satisfactorily."
"Dr White said there were still concerns that students with learning difficulties would always be graded D or E, which he said could lead to low self-esteem.
"Some schools have also included an assessment for effort as well as achievement to help address this," he said..."
Full story in The Hobart Mercury at http://themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19697481%255E3462,00.html
- The Launceston Examiner [late edition]
- THE EDUCATION DEBATE
Bulldozer claims draw fire
by Danielle Blewett
"Claims that some Tasmanian schools should be bulldozed were labelled as disappointing by a Northern school principal yesterday.
"Warren Pill, principal of Brooks High School, said school redevelopment and enrolments were on the rise, contrary to claims by a Melbourne academic.
"Professor Brian Caldwell had said that "without doubt, a number of Tasmanian schools need to be bulldozed soon and completely rebuilt" and that children were leaving public schools for private schools in "droves".
"A spokesman for Prof. Caldwell said the professor would never name specific schools, in Tasmania or anywhere in Australia, because of "the sensitive nature of the issue".
"Mr Pill said that Tasmanian public schools were more than bricks and mortar..."they are engaged communities of parents and children", he said..."
"Many parents choose the public system deliberately, when they could choose private schools," Mr Pill said."Full story in The Launceston Examiner at http://www.examiner.com.au/story.asp?id=351060
Friday 7 July
- ABC News Online
- States resist push for standard year 12 certificate
"State and territory education ministers have refused to agree to a federal push for a uniform year 12.
"The Federal Government wants to standardise year 12 content across Australia.
"Victorian Education Minister Lynn Kosky says she has suggested a quality assurance mechanism, which would make exam results the same everywhere.
"But it also means we can have diversity in the sorts of year 12 certificates that are provided," she said.
"In Queensland they don't have an exam as part of their year 12 certificate, in Victoria we do, and if either jurisdiction tried to change that, there would be major, major concern expressed by the community."
Full story at ABC News online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1681622.htm
- More funds announced for Wiluna school
"Western Australian Government funding has continued to pour into the Wiluna community in mid-west WA as a result of the Governor-General's criticism of the condition of the primary school.
"WA Water Resources Minister John Kobelke says it will spend more than $4 million on moving sewage ponds away from the school.
"The promise comes just days after it was revealed 100 students were pulled out of the school over asbestos fears.
"Major-General Michael Jeffery visited his home town in May and criticised the state of the school and its close proximity to a pub and the sewage ponds.
"The Government has committed $5 million for a new school.
"Mr Kobelke says the construction of one pond to replace the current three should be completed by June next year."
Full story at ABC News Online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200607/s1680955.htm
- The West Australian
- Aboriginal children forced into pre-school
by Rhianna King and Anne Buggins (page 9)
"Kindergarten and pre-school will be compulsory for all Aboriginal children under a plan endorsed by State and Federal education ministers yesterday.
"Incentives could also be offered to attract quality teachers and principals to remote Aboriginal communities, as part of the wide-ranging plan to improve the education of indigenous students.
"The Aboriginal Legal Service immediately attacked the plan, with chief executive Dennis Eggington describing it as discriminatory.
"Anything that is a government policy that has Aboriginal people being forced to do something that other members of society aren't will not have Aboriginal support because it will be seen as discriminatory," he said.
"The school environment has a demonstrated lack of understanding and caring for Aboriginal students and forcing very young children into this alien environment could be very detrimental."
"But Colleen Hayward, head of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research Aboriginal division, said the WA-led policy was a huge step forward for indigenous education and showed a commitment to practical action.
"By the time children as young as Year 1 start school, across the board Aboriginal children tend to be doing markedly worse than non-Aboriginal children," she said. "They play catch-up for the rest of their school lives and beyond."
"Other recommendations endorsed at the meeting of education ministers in Brisbane include that schools enter into formal partnerships with their local indigenous communities and teachers be encouraged to learn more about Aboriginal history and culture.
"The ministers voted yesterday to refer the recommendations for further endorsement by the Coalition of Australian Governments.
"WA Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said making it compulsory for Aboriginal children to attend two years of schooling before starting Year 1 would greatly increase their chance of academic success.
"She said 50 per cent of Aboriginal children eligible to attend either kindergarten or pre-school were enrolled.
"Currently all parents can send their child to kindergarten the year they turn four, if their birthday is before June 30, otherwise they enrol the following year.
"Pre-school is also available to all five-year-olds but neither is compulsory.
"Am institute report in March found 58 per cent of Aboriginal children were rated by their teachers as having a low academic performance."
Full story in The West Australian
- The Australian
- Minister attacks grading for youngest students
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
"Five- and six-year-olds should be shielded from the national A-to-E reporting system for all students because they have not developed enough skills to be graded.
"South Australian Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said the A-to-E system was appropriate for years 3 to 10, but she questioned the value of assessing students in the early years of school.
"While I support the ability of schools to use grades in later years, it is meaningless and educationally unsound to grade a six-year-old in art, for example, on an A-to-E scale," she said as federal, state and territory ministers met in Brisbane yesterday.
"How could any teacher be expected to give an E grade to an enthusiastic six-year-old who is only just learning how to paint and draw."
"But Dr Lomax-Smith said she was not prepared to risk federal funding, which is tied to the new report cards regime, and was hoping for the federal Government to relax its position.
"However, federal Education Minister Julie Bishop was giving the idea short shrift yesterday, reiterating the commonwealth's position that A-to-E reporting should apply to all students, from years 1 to 10.
"If a subject is worth teaching in years 1 and 2, it's worth assessing and reporting on," Ms Bishop said. The Howard Government introduced a requirement for all schools across the nation to provide plain-English report cards that assessed students on five levels, such as A to E, as a requirement of federal funding.
"The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs also yesterday considered options for raising literacy rates and is preparing a proposal to take to COAG to improve teacher training.
"The council was addressed by the chairman of the national inquiry into the teaching of literacy, Ken Rowe, who said that the single most important factor in children learning to read was the teacher.
"Outside the meeting, Ms Bishop said the council was preparing options for improving teacher preparation, professional development and assessment, including the establishment of centres of excellence in teacher education.
"The key difference in the child being able to learn to read essentially goes to the quality of the teaching," she said.
"The background of the child, the upbringing of the child, isn't the determinant in the majority of cases, it's the teaching."
"Ms Bishop said the last OECD study of literacy rates found that 12 per cent of Australian students aged 15 years were below the lowest benchmark, which she said was unacceptable."Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,19710777,00.html
- Kevin Donnelly: History writ shamefully
Textbooks give school students a one-sided account of our national history and Aboriginal culture, argues Kevin Donnelly
"Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop is right. It's about time school students were taught traditional Australian history. For too long, teachers have downplayed - even, at times, denigrated - our nation's achievements. Pointing out past sins is one thing; making ourselves ashamed to be Australians is another thing altogether. Consider the way indigenous history and culture are taught in Australian schools.
"Beginning with the Keating government's Studies of Society and Environment curriculum, students are told to celebrate Aboriginal culture uncritically and to recognise the worth of individuals such as Pat O'Shane and Eddie Mabo.
"European settlement is described as an invasion and there is little, if any, recognition that Aboriginal society may be dysfunctional. The Northern Territory Studies of Society and Environment document also presents Aboriginal culture in a blinkered way.
"In the NT, students are told to "celebrate the survival of indigenous Australian cultural heritage" and to "learn from members of indigenous Australian communities as often as possible".
"Once again, no mention of the dark side of Aboriginal society, especially those elements that are misogynist and patriarchal.
"One of the more extreme examples of a biased interpretation of indigenous issues is the Jacaranda SOSE Australian History textbook written for Victorian Year 10 classes. To be sure, some of the problems faced by Aboriginal communities, such as petrol sniffing, are acknowledged. But the dark side of indigenous culture represented by domestic violence is ignored. Of greater concern is the way problematic issues are presented as beyond dispute.
"Take terra nullius. While some academics argue that the expression was not in use when the First Fleet landed, the Jacaranda text is in no doubt. In describing the High Court's 1992 Mabo judgment, the statement is made that the High Court decision "overturned the legal fiction that Australia had been terra nullius (land belonging to no one) when the British took possession of it in 1788".
"The expression black armband provides another example of bias. Much of the Jacaranda textbook criticises the effect of European settlement. On two occasions it does briefly mention that historian Geoffrey Blainey and Prime Minister John Howard hold a different view. According to history teacher John Cantwell in the text, black-armband critics are motivated by the desire to "leave out certain parts of the human story because they are painful". In fact, Blainey, like Howard, acknowledges that history teaching during the 1970s and '80s was too congratulatory and what is needed is balance, not ignoring past sins.
"The textbook's coverage of the 1997 report Bringing Them Home provides a further example of misleading students. Removing indigenous children from their parents is painted as genocide and the statement is made: "The motives for taking children were underpinned by racism." Never mind that many children benefited in later life from being removed from dysfunctional families.
"It gets worse. The textbook writers argue that Australia's legal system fails "to cater for the cultural differences of Aboriginal Australians". (Is this code for arguing, as several judges do in interpreting tribal law, that Aboriginal elders should be treated leniently after raping underage girls?)
"The Jacaranda textbook condemns Australia's 1988 bicentenary celebrations. Most Australians, the argument goes, believe "the history being celebrated was only a small part of Australia's story and that the nation's history began thousands of years before 1788".
"Mining companies and governments are not immune from criticism. "Mining companies and some state governments," the text reads, "have often shown little appreciation of indigenous land rights and even less concern for the protection of sacred sites."
"Never mind that mining giants liaise with Aboriginal communities and jointly determine the best practices to suit all parties involved in the process. Rio Tinto, for instance, employs anthropologists to work with indigenous communities to carry out cultural heritage studies before embarking on any developments and plans to double the number of indigenous workers employed at the Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia.
"A second Jacaranda textbook, Humanities Alive 2, also adopts a simplified view of teaching history. Australia's settlement, the logic goes, is the same as the Spanish invasion of South America.
"Students are asked about similarities between what happened to the Aztecs and to Australian Aborigines. The suggested response is: "In both cases the invaders were after territory (and its resources) and set out (consciously or otherwise) to subjugate and/or destroy the indigenous population, should it stand in their way."
"Education should be disinterested and give students a balanced understanding, free from ideology or cant. When it comes to teaching indigenous history, that means examining the full story and acknowledging the good with the bad. Over to you, minister."
Kevin Donnelly, director of Education Strategies in Melbourne, taught history and social studies for 18 years.Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,19706828,00.html
- Letters to the Editor
- Oblivious to key facts
"I totally support the return of real history to schools. Core history for all and more history as an option. Too many teachers have for too long served up a childishly biased selection of the past, heavily sauced with the left-wing ideology that they themselves received in teacher training.
"Why does objective history matter? Because, as the well-worn truism says, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. It is dangerous to our survival as a nation that we have been taught not to believe in our own way of life or how it was won.
"Whole generations today are oblivious to rudimentary facts of life. For example, every so often a war will break out, often with little warning. One way of life is pitted in a do-or-die struggle against another. Suddenly thousands of people are required to fight for their country. It would greatly help if we knew what we were fighting for, if we knew what our ancestors fought for, if we knew who our allies would be and what the human cost can be to defend a free country."
Philip O'Carroll, North Fitzroy, Vic
- "I read in the British press that currently in Australian schools the achievements of Captain James Cook are not taught, as they are deemed politically incorrect. If this is true, it's amazing and very sad.
"If you could see Whitby, the small fishing town from where Cook first sailed on the harsh, cold-grey North Sea, and be aware that he sailed in a wooden boat with no satellite phones, frozen food, maps, global positioning systems, etc, to the other side of the world and returned three times, you would realise what brave geniuses he and his crew were. It is as great an achievement as Neil Armstrong's walk on the Moon."
N. J. Pringle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
"The discussion of history teaching prompts me to observe that most of today's youth are ahistorical and, largely, apolitical. Many would be unable to name the leader of the federal Opposition.
For the young, there are now few fields of reference beyond the self. The superficiality of one's body, the ever-present mobile phone and repellent piercings of the flesh, regrettably, hold sway."
Andrew Trezise, Greensborough, NSW
- "Does Julie Bishop envisage the teaching of the history of trade unionism in schools as part of a balanced curriculum? If not, why not?"
Loucille McGinley, East Brighton, Vic
Complete Letters to the Editor of The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/index/0,,21223,00.html
- The Sydney Morning Herald
- Teaching degrees cost thousands more than limit
by Anna Patty, Education Editor
"Students are paying up to $6600 a year in annual HECS fees for maths and science teaching degrees, despite a Federal Government promise to cap the cost at $3920.
"The higher fees are being charged even though there is a growing shortage of maths and science teachers in high schools and a declining number of students choosing to study engineering, technology and science at university.
"The NSW Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, will raise the issue today at the annual meeting of education ministers in Brisbane. Ms Tebbutt said the Federal Government had promised to limit the annual HECS debt to $3920 for those studying to be a teacher.
"The former federal education minister, Brendan Nelson, introduced the HECS cap, saying it would ensure nursing and teaching students would pay less for their degrees.
"Ms Tebbutt said about two-thirds of students undertaking education degrees in NSW were paying more than the capped fee for their courses.
"Figures from the Department of Education, Science and Training show students are paying up to $6639 in HECS fees for maths and science teaching degrees.
"Maths, science and technology are the very areas where we are beginning to confront recruitment challenges," Ms Tebbutt said. "If the Commonwealth is serious about ensuring our high schools continue to be staffed by suitably qualified teachers, they should honour their promise to keep down the cost of studying teaching. Otherwise the skyrocketing cost of a university education will discourage young people from pursuing a teaching career."
"A spokeswoman for Macquarie University, Megan Ethridge, said there was a serious shortage of students in engineering, IT and science subjects at universities across Australia.
"She said subjects offered as part of an education degree at Macquarie were capped, but those offered as part of a science degree were not. The annual HECS fee for a bachelor of science degree with a diploma of education was $5100, $1180 more than the capped amount.
"A meaningful way of encouraging students into science teaching as a career is to say, 'Your HECS payments will be lower'," Ms Ethridge said..."
Full story in The Sydney Morning Herald at link
- The Melbourne Age
- Editorial: Something is rotten in the state of our classrooms
"Premier Steve Bracks visited an Essendon primary school last Monday to spruik his Government's school bonus policy. The same day, Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu visited a kindergarten in Kew to spruik his education initiative. It was an ideal photo opportunity for both leaders and, gosh, is it an election year too? What a coincidence.
"Both parties, having identified education as a vote winner, are running hard with it in the lead-up to the state poll in November. The day after, however, the bonuses were pushed off the radar by a more elementary education issue: the actual bricks and mortar in which children are taught. Professor Brian Caldwell, a former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, declared that hundreds of state schools needed to be bulldozed because of their dilapidated condition. "You can visit schools in the state, and whether you are looking at toilet facilities or classrooms, they are appalling," he said. It would cost about $4 billion to return them to acceptable levels.
"Professor Caldwell was speaking at the launch of his book, Re-imagining Educational Leadership. Education Minister Lynne Kosky defended the Government's spending and derided the critic, saying he was interested in getting publicity for his book, and he should not talk anyway as he was involved in the Kennett government's agenda of closing schools, a claim Professor Caldwell rejects. The attack did the minister no favours. Professor Caldwell has spoken out about these matters before, and he is far from alone in doing so.
"The president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, Andrew Blair, says this state's "building stock is the worst in the country". The Victorian president of the Australian Education Union, Mary Bluett, warns of a crisis in some schools. Fred Ackerman, the president of the Victorian Principals Association (which mainly represents primary schools), says Victoria has "more rotten schools" than anywhere else in the country. The Council for Education Facility Planners International (a body composed of architects, engineers and builders) says half of the state's schools should be demolished. A survey by the Australian Education Union, released this week, places education as the top issue for those surveyed, with class sizes and the repair of dilapidated buildings as priorities. Clinching evidence of the urgency of the problem is yesterday's acceptance by the AEU that public-private partnerships, which teacher unions have long resisted, will be needed to supplement normal budget processes to find enough funds to restore the state's schools. The main principals' groups also accept this as inevitable, provided strict controls ensure no improper private influence over schools."
Full editorial in The Melbourne Age at link
- Radical plan for schools
by Chee Chee Leung
"Victoria's teaching union has joined principals in calling for the private sector to help rebuild hundreds of dilapidated state schools.
"Educators say public-private partnerships, where school building work is privately funded, must be considered because the amount of money required is too much for taxpayers to provide.
"It's hard to envisage how the normal budget process would deliver the magnitude of money that is needed to rebuild these schools," the Australian Education Union's Victorian president, Mary Bluett, said yester- day.
"The need is so significant and so urgent we believe that we must be prepared to look at an appropriate form of PPPs as part of the solution."
"Historically, teachers' unions have been opposed to the partnerships and the union remains divided on the issue. Federal AEU president Pat Byrne said: "The notion of business being involved in the provision and running of public infrastructure is not something that we would support..."
Full story in The Melbourne Age at link
- A quick public-private fix is now the school of thought
by Alf Young
"When the idea was first mooted in Britain that the private sector should not just build public assets, such as schools, hospitals and prisons, but should own and operate them on long-term contracts, opposition was widespread.
"It was a Tory idea. The Labour Party and the unions were hostile. Many community groups, especially in Scotland, were deeply sceptical.
"But 20 years on, the private provision of public infrastructure has been embraced enthusiastically by the Blair Government and is commonplace, especially where new schools are urgently required...."
"Teaching unions still argue that their ideas on what new schools should look like are largely ignored by the private consortiums. Some architects claim cost considerations dominate and that PPP schools are rarely of truly high quality.
"But without this injection of private investment across Britain as a whole about £4 billion a year is being invested in PPP projects of all kinds there's no real doubt that many more British schoolchildren would still be being educated in Victorian slums or crumbling postwar premises..."
Full story in The Melbourne Age at link
- The Brisbane Courier-Mail
- PM accused of histrionics
by Stuart Sherwin
"The State Education Minister has dismissed John Howard's claims that Australian children are not being taught the history of their own country.
"Rod Welford said all students in Queensland schools were given lessons in Australian history up to Year 9.
"He accused the Prime Minister of "posturing" over his call for the teaching of Australian history to be made compulsory.
"I'm not trying to write a course, I just want to establish the priority," Mr Howard said.
"I cannot understand how anybody in a government could object to Australian history being, for some period of time, a compulsory, standalone subject."
"He said history lessons should stress Australia's European origins, the influence of Christianity and the rise of Western civilisation. But his comments were attacked by Mr Welford, who yesterday hosted a two-day meeting of state education ministers in Brisbane.
"History is taught as part of our studies of society curriculum from Year 1 to Year 9," he said.
"The general history of Australia is covered and after Year 9 students can obviously choose if they wish to further specialise in the subject. All children in Queensland will get a grounding in Australian history.
"I think John Howard's posturing on this issue is simply a diversion. No one disagrees with statements like that. It would be absurd to say that students shouldn't know about their own country.
"The real issues we're facing is the neglect of investment in education generally and skills development in particular."
"Mr Welford also played down claims by Professor Brian Caldwell, former dean of education at Melbourne University, that many public high schools should be bulldozed and that private students would outnumber state students in 10 years.
"I think Professor Caldwell's exclamations are an exaggeration. I acknowledge some older schools built before the 1960s and 1970s could do with a major upgrade and we are giving top priority to that issue," he said."Full story in The Brisbane Courier-Mail at http://www.thecouriermail.news.com.au/story/0,20797,19706185-953,00.html
Saturday - Sunday, 8 - 9 July
- Sunday Program, Channel 9 Network
- Teach the children well
Reporter : Jana Wendt
Producer : Ann Buchner
Synopsis of program:
In recent months school grounds have become battlegrounds over a debate about whether the Australian school curriculum is short-changing our children and causing Australia to slip down the ladder of international education benchmarks.
Critics claim the school curriculum is being "dumbed down" and students are being taught softened, politically correct subjects at the expense of solid, well-grounded learning.
They point the finger of blame squarely at Australia's adoption of so-called "Outcomes Based Education", or OBE a teaching model that has been tried and failed in other countries.
In OBE, students are judged according to a broad set of "outcomes" rather than tangible results. It is not what you know, but how you go about finding out the answer. OBE exams, particularly in the crucial final years of school, attract criticism for devoting too much attention to the outside of books at the expense of what's inside. Consequently, students can sit and pass an HSC English exam without ever having to read a complete text.
Sunday spoke to teachers and students who are frustrated and demoralised about what the OBE curriculum is doing to students' skills and those who believe OBE-based study is killing off children's ability to think independently. HSC students in NSW told Sunday that they feel they are being force-fed vague and woolly ideas that need to be regurgitated in order to pass their HSC exams. As one student said: "It is like you are spewing out what the Board of Studies wants you to say".
The issue of OBE has reached flash point in West Australia where the State Government has been attempting to introduce an OBE-based curriculum for students studying for the WA leaving certificate in the final two years of high school. West Australian teachers are fighting the introduction of the new OBE curriculum, saying it is confusing and less rigorous than the existing system and will not fairly assess students' abilities.
In a worrying trend, university academics say they are now seeing students entering first year university studies with terrific HSC results but lacking basic literacy skills like spelling, grammar, and coherent writing abilities. They put the blame squarely at the feet of the current school curriculum.
Full transcript now available at http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/cover_stories/article_2020.asp
- The West Australian
- Private money will save schools: union
by Bethany Hiatt (page 5)
"The teachers union has thrown its support behind private industry helping to fund the construction and maintenance of government schools amid concerns that ageing classrooms are crumbling faster than the Government can repair them.
"In a departure from the union movement's traditional opposition to private sector ownership of infrastructure, the State School Teachers Union said the poor condition of so many government schools meant so-called public-private partnerships (PPP) had to be considered.
"Under the scheme, private sector investors, such as the infrastructure funds which have financed NSW schools and toll roads, would fund construction of schools and lease them to the Government. The funds would also pay for maintenance.
"There is no question there are a lot of WA schools that need considerable maintenance and refurbishing," union president Mike Keely said.
"If (public-private partnerships) are done properly and there's a real guarantee on quality building, then most of us are interested in looking at whether this will work." The cost of building and maintaining schools is a growing burden on State governments, with economists warning it poses the second-biggest financing challenge after health.
"The WA Government has budgeted $400 million to build 39 new schools over four years and has committed a further $1 billion over four years for capital and maintenance work in existing schools.
"But Mr Keely said it obviously was not spending enough because too many teachers were forced to work in schools infested with white ants or riddled with concrete cancer, such as Fitzroy Crossing District High.
"Other schools had broken asbestos sheeting, such as Wiluna Remote Community School, or were generally rundown and poorly maintained, including Rossmoyne Senior High School and Meekatharra District High School.
"Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said she believed public schools should stay in government hands but she did not rule out the PPP option.
"At the moment the economy is booming and we've been able to provide the funding for our schools but if it got to a point where we'd have to reconsider our position then obviously you judge things on their merits," Ms Ravlich said. "It's not my preference to move down the path of public-private partnerships for the funding of capital infrastructure for public education."
"NSW Secondary Principals Council president Jim McAlpine said NSW had built 10 schools in the past four years using the PPP model.
"Mr McAlpine said principals liked the new schools because maintenance problems were fixed immediately.
"And the community loves them, because instead of being a down-at-heel public school, there are very smart places that are well-looked after and well maintained," he said.
"The Opposition says the next 10 years will be the crunch time for taxpayers, as schools built in the 1960s and 1970s are due to be replaced, creating a multi-billion-dollar black hole in the education budget.
"Shadow education minister Peter Collier said yesterday that PPP was s sensible option.
"Unfortunately what happens is the quality of our State education is going to be judged by the buildings themselves. They look like penitentiaries," Mr Collier said."
Full story in The West Australian
- PerthNow / Sunday Times Online
- Readers Comments, on Steve Kessell's Letter to the Editor "New Pressure on Students"
"The decision to keep students at school longer, combined with the new OBE changes, will cause big social problems for WA students..."
"The Premier, the Minister of Education and the CEO of DET have all stated that the new standards and syllabuses of OBE are clear and concise and give students and their parents an exact idea of what has been achieved. Here are some examples: History Outcome 4: "The student understands that there are various influences at a particular time that can lead to the formulation of perpectives, versions and interpretations about the past." Physics Outcome 3: "The Student understands and uses conceptual and theoretical frameworks to critically analyse different scientific approaches when interpreting the interactions between forces, fields and matter; and analyses and predicts the effects of change in complex systems." English COS: "The student: Develops familiar ideas and information in their writing, taking account of aspects of audience, purposes and context; experiments with specific text types and demonstrates control over most language conventions; and uses a range of strategies to plan and revise writing." Italian COS Outcome 1: "The student: extracts and explores explicit and implicit, information in a range of texts of varying density and complexity; analyses diverse issues for a wide range of communicative purposes; classifies and compares information, predicts opinions, ideas and points of view and solves problems; weighs up information and makes connections within and across cultures; and evaluates cultural aspects critical to understanding the text." The list is endless and it is all gobbledegook, and that is the problem that everyone has with OBE. Abandon OBE, it is destroying education in WA. David Black"
Posted by: David Black of 1:42pm July 02, 2006
Comment 6 of 6
"Tasmania has finally woken up an scrapped OBE!! On Friday the Tasmanian Education Minister announced their OBE Essential Learning curriculum is to be overhauled / scrapped. Tasmanian teachers are celebrating news the state's much maligned [OBE] 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.? When will WA wake up and instead of renaming their pathetic OBE system and just scrap it completely. OBE has failed everywhere else it has been tried for the simple reason that it is not what anyone wants for an education system."
Posted by: jill cameron of 8:40am July 01, 2006
Comment 5 of 6
"The Following are quotes from the Director General of the Dpartment of Education and Training, Paul Albert: "We are not prepared to support the introduction of a new course if that new course is not ready for introduction. We have made that very clear to the Curriculum Council." He also told the Committee that: "It makes sense to delay a specific course of study that is not ready.... my strong view, is that if a course is not ready - that is, the assessment materials are not ready and there have been some delays or whatever with the schedule for the development of teachers - the readiness factor would apply. That is the issue and that is when you would delay." Mr Albert also went on to say in a response to the question of when such material should be provided, that: "I would want it at least a year beforehand.." Well it's the end of June now and the courses are being rewritten (again) and they will be taught in late January. Now given that I'm not an OBE student of Maths and am able to add and substract I make it seven months from the rewrite to teaching. The courses should therefore be dispensed with. Even Mr Albert agrees with this."
Posted by: James Reid of 5:46pm June 30, 2006
Comment 4 of 6
"Consider the following: About 80% of School Teachers have said they are against implementation of the new OBE style Courses of Study (OBE COS). The parents group (WACSSO) are supportive of the teacher's opposition. The leaders of the finest schools in the state (Wesley, Scotch, Rossmoyne, Applecross, St Stephens, All Saints, St Hildas ...) The Federal Minister of Education Julie Bishop, who said that the way the shift to outcomes-based education in upper school in WA had been handled was an "absolute disgrace" and called on Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley to intervene to delay it. The only West Australian high school teacher to receive a National Excellence in Teaching award this year has condemned the state's proposed new curriculum for making physical education equal to mathematics in the eyes of markers. Stephen Corcoran, honoured this week for innovative maths teaching, claims the proposed gradeless curriculum for years 11 and 12 - in which all subjects can lead to university entrance -- is flawed. "It's a recipe for disaster," he said. "I think everyone's hoping it will all go away." The Head of Department of Mathematics of Rossmoyne Senior High School (and TEE examiner) says the maths courses should be abandoned. The Heads of all of the independent schools in WA want the courses delayed. When will the Premier and the Minister of Education wake up and realise that the courses are the problem (not the teachers, parents, students, newspaper editors and others they have tried to blame). These pathetic courses written by incompetent bureaucrats at the Curriculum Council are the problem. They lack the most basic elements of an educational course such as a syllabus, decent examinations and marking guides. Delay, to fix these miserably inadequate courses, or better still dispense with them all together."
Posted by: Greg Wheeler of 3:32pm June 29, 2006
Comment 3 of 6
"Thankfully the teachers in WA have not been decieved by the substandard courses that the government has been trying to inflict upon our children. Education faddism is not new, nor confined to Western Australia. But ideas billed as the next big thing in teaching often turn out to be disastrous experiments that use children as guinea pigs. How many kids' reading skills have been hurt by the overthrowing of phonics for the trendy "whole of language" approach, debunked by last year's national inquiry into the teaching of literacy? For the sake of Western Australia's children, this new curriculum must be delayed, re-examined and, if necessary, abandoned. Don't experiment on the children of WA, provide them with a decent education. M Harper"
Posted by: Matthew Harper of 1:18pm June 29, 2006
Comment 2 of 6
"As American (another place that OBE has been trialled and failed) educator Steve Kossor said: OBE is like a vampire. If it's pinned down in broad daylight and prevented from slipping back into the shadows, it will eventually die, albeit with a great deal of theatrical carrying-on by those who profit handsomely from it. The psychological and experimental nature of OBE can not be hidden anymore. Every day in public schools across America, children are being used in experiments to develop new instructional methods, new psycho-educational curricula or new "classroom management" techniques. If parents will unite and object fiercely to the mandatory use of their children as experimental human guinea pigs, there is hope for our children and our country. Stop this Outrageous Blight on Education! Steve Wolf"
Posted by: Steve Wolf of 7:41pm June 28, 2006
Comment 1 of 6
These and any subsequent comments at http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/comments/0,21491,19563184-5005373,00.html
- Drug dogs for schools
by Trevor Paddenburg
"Police will use sniffer dogs in a fresh assault on drugs in WA schools.
"At least three WA high school principals have asked for the dog squad to track down students suspected of dealing drugs such as cannabis and amphetamines.
"Police say they have worked through legal issues and now have the green light to use sniffer dogs to search for drugs at schools.
"The dogs a german shepherd and four teams of labradors will be sent in when local detectives have intelligence of drug dealing on school grounds and obtain a search warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
"We have received inquiries about putting the drug detection dogs into schools," said Sen-Sgt Bryon McLaughlin, the officer in charge of the dog squad.
"It'll be searches of lockers and schoolbags and classrooms. The dogs' sense of smell is a million times more advanced than a human's, so they are very effective at detecting illicit substances."
"WA's police district superintendents are meeting monthly with principals to discuss combating the drug scourge.
"This year police have charged five students from Waroona District High School, in the South-West, with drug offences.
"A 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were charged with supplying cannabis, while three students were charged with possession of cannabis or a smoking implement.
"The latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey released this week showed 30 per cent of WA teenagers had used cannabis and one in 10 had tried amphetamines..."Full story in PerthNow / Sunday Times online at http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21498,19725178-2761,00.html
See Breaking News Archive for 14 July for reader comments on this story
- WA College of Teaching Advertisement in Sunday TImes
OBE = COS?
Open letter to the Western Australian Community
It is of concern to the Western Australian College of Teaching that there is confusion amongst parents and the community of the relationship between Outcomes Based Education (OBE) and the new Courses of Study (COS). In fact some individuals, groups and certain media outlets have tried to muddy the waters regarding the relationship between the two for their own purposes. COS is a part of OBE in Western Australia...
[Wonder how much that cost? Web]
- News Review: Backdown on OBE Courses [page 46]
"After months of wrangling, the State Government backed down further on its schedule to implement its watered-down outcomes-based education courses next year. Teachers will now be able to teach the OBE courses for Years 11 and 12 under the current system. They will be able to give students an assessment level as well as a mark out of 100. This is good news for parents who have claimed that under OBE school reports, they have not been able to determine accurately how their children have been progressing with their subjects. Many teachers in Years 8 to 10 claim that the OBE system they have been teaching to these students is also flawed and should be abandoned."
Full story in The Sunday Times
- The Weekend Australian
- States rule out consistency in education
by Justine Ferrari, Education writer
[Similar stories in most capital city daily newspapers. Web]
"The Howard Government's push for national consistency in school education was derailed yesterday with the states rejecting a national Year 12 certificate and a common minimum age for students starting school.
"Attending her first council of education ministers, federal Education Minister Julie Bishop was rebuffed on two key policies, with all the state and territory governments refusing to take part in a study comparing curriculum content across the nation.
"The idea of an Australian certificate of education based on a national core curriculum was dismissed, with the states and territories instead looking at ways of comparing their existing certificates.
"The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, meeting in Brisbane, also deferred Ms Bishop's proposal to give parents the option of sending their children to school from the age of four years and six months, with the states and territories asking for a study examining the benefits of a younger starting age. Ms Bishop said state interests had overridden the national interest in these areas but the commonwealth remained committed to harmonising school education across the country.
"We're talking about national standards, so wherever a child goes to school in Australia they can be assured of a nationally consistent high standard," Ms Bishop said.
"Do the states lack confidence in the standards of courses in their state-run system? I think they're concerned about the comparison. What are they afraid of? If their certificates are of the highest order then a comparison would be useful."
"But the states said the commonwealth had failed to mount any argument for the need of an Australian certificate of education and accused Canberra of making a power grab to control curriculums, which are a state responsibility.
"The council chairman, Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford, said the process that was begun under Ms Bishop's predecessor, Brendan Nelson, was politically motivated.
"The commonwealth wanted to undertake this huge approach that tried to nationalise everything," Mr Welford said.
"But the idea of consistency isn't so much in curriculums, but in how students' results are reported to families across the country, so we're focusing on that as a priority."
"Victorian Education Minister Lynne Kosky said comparing curriculums had no educational benefit and was being done for political reasons.
"Instead of agreeing to a national certificate, the ministers adopted Victoria's motion to investigate a quality assurance mechanism that would allow state certificates and student results to be compared.
"The ministers also agreed to a common marking scale to remove the variation in the way results are reported by the different states and territories.
"It will allow us to ensure that an 80 in Victoria equals exactly an 80 in Queensland or NSW or the other states," Ms Kosky said.
"There has been no case put why we need another certificate, absolutely no case. It wasn't an educational exercise, it was a political exercise designed to be critical of a number of different jurisdictions."
Full story in The Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19720362-13881,00.html
- Letters to the Editor
MOST TALKED ABOUT: HISTORY RESTORED
Modern schoolkids are being deprived of a broad canvas
- "I attended a Marist Brothers high school in Newcastle in the late 1940s / early 50s where history was an encouraged subject and compulsory in some circumstances. In my five years, we were exposed to the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome; Britain and Europe until the 1800s; the French, American, and Industrial revolutions; and Australia from it's discovery until World War II.
"We learned of our convict and colonial history, of Eureka, the shearers' strike of the 1890s, the origins of Labor as a political force for workers' rights, Federation, World War I, the General Strike in Britain and the Great Depression. We learned of the lives and deeds of great Australians.
"We were encouraged to read widely and to draw our own conclusions as to the influence of history on our daily lives and its lessons for the future. These were debated enthusiastically in class.
"When I see what my grandchildren now are given to study as history, I'm saddened that they are being deprived of a broad canvas. If Julie Bishop's agenda is to return to something like the way I experienced the learning of history, then I say more power to her hand."
Barry Noonan, Balwyn North, Vic
- "The determination of Julie Bishop to embed Australian history as a core component of the school curriculum deserves to be supported, but there are some crucial concerns that need to be explored. There is no doubt that history, as community memory, is a vital component of the development of any society and, as such, is essential to authentic civic learning and participation. History provides the brake on public forgetting without which we might find ourselves in groundhog day-type cycles of novelty from which we don't learn.
"The problem with Ms Bishop's elaboration of her rationale for re-embedding history in schools ("Our classrooms need to make a date with the facts", Opinion, 6/7) is that she seems to equate a narrative style of history with a single storyline. She focuses on the need for students to learn the facts, and the question becomes, of course, whose facts?
"Ms Bishop insists that students learn about why Australia has gone to war. If applied to the war in Iraq, is the answer the "fact" that it was over weapons of mass destruction, or is it to support a colonialist adventure on the part of a powerful ally? Similarly, students should learn the facts of post-war immigration from every corner of the globe. Would these facts include, for example, the reality of the children overboard episode in our history?
"If Ms Bishop is genuinely interested in students learning to interrogate the past in order to understand the present, one would assume that she would support the need for a critical engagement with the many narratives of the past. I suspect, however, that any such narratives that fall outside the scope of dominant national mythology will be painted with the political correctness brush and sidelined. I further suspect that the endorsed narratives of Australian history will be more examples of political expediency and camouflage than of a truly illuminating exploration of the past."
Jon Austin, Faculty of Education, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Qld
- "Like many of your letter writers, and as a historian, I welcome the federal Government's interest in the teaching of Australian history in our schools. Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric forwards the opinion that history teachers push a specific ideology and that Australian history has been somehow tarnished by left-wing bias.
"Historians are trained to trouble the past and this includes troubling their own pre-conceptions of the past, allowing the sources to substantiate or disprove their arguments. If the Government wants greater emphasis on Australian history in the school curriculum, it must be prepared to accept that history is a debate about the past in the present and that it is always inexorably tied to the concerns of the present. Otherwise, history is a lifeless thing not likely to arouse the interest of students.
"It's time that Australian history is debated in a professional manner, without foolish accusations of left-wing bias and so-called political correctness."
Anthony Yeates, St Lucia, Qld
- "Can Julie Bishop find a single example where a politician intervening in the teaching of history has made it less politically correct? To see what kind of history results from an interventionist approach to the syllabus, one only has to look at Japanese government-approved history textbooks which failed to mention their Pacific War crimes. What could be more politically correct than that?"
M. Mercurius, Ashfield, NSW
- "Captain Cook journeyed "to the other side of the world, and returned three times", says N. J. Pringle (Letters, 7/6). I thought he was killed in the Hawaian Islands on his third expedition, in which case he returned to England only twice."
Wayne Robinson, Kingsley, WA
- "History will judge John Howard. We will know some facts, like when the Prime Minister was first elected to office and how many visits he made to the White House, but the rest is up for interpretation. This is why critical thinking and an independent media is so critical for future generations."
Athena Vongalis-Macrow, Bundoora, Vic
Full Letters to the Editor in The Weekend Australian at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/index/0,,21223,00.html
- The Melbourne Age
- Op Ed: In a state of collapse
by Shaun Carney
"... Some might say that it borders on the bizarre that the publication of a new book by academic Brian Caldwell warning of a crisis in public education should have made an issue of the crumbling infrastructure, as though somehow the crumbling buildings, lack of facilities and unkempt grounds had been a secret until the past few days.
"But sometimes that's how things seem to work in contemporary Australian society; a situation can pick up a head of steam almost overnight. State schools are in no worse shape this week than they were last week, but the Caldwell book catalysed a reaction that has led, ultimately, to the Bracks Government and the teachers' union openly contemplating support of public-private partnerships to rebuild dilapidated Victorian schools.
"Clearly, some new way of finding money to pay for the growing needs of the education system has to be found. The present method, where the state provides most of the money, the Commonwealth chips in (while progressively shifting the burden of its education spending towards private schools) and parents provide the top-ups through fees and fund-raising, is unsustainable.
"The question is, even if the private sector can be brought in to speed up the construction of public school buildings, would that be anything more than a finger in the dyke, another stopgap measure that merely buys a bit more time?
"Public education is certainly going through some big troubles right now. The drift away from state schooling, to so-called independent schools and those under the control of the Catholic Church, is strong. Public education has also been subject to an extraordinary passive-aggressive campaign from the Howard Government for 10 years.
"During that time, the Government has had no shortage of positive, encouraging things to say about private schools - how they teach fine values, save taxpayers money, produce great results, provide choice etc - but not one good thing to say about state schools..."
"In the face of all that, it's surprising that the drift to non-government schools has not been greater or faster. Since 1970, state schools' share of total enrolments has fallen by 11 per cent. The independent schools' share has risen from 4 per cent to 13 per cent, the Catholic sector's share has risen by 2 per cent..."
"Interestingly, just as Caldwell shot up his series of flares, Treasurer Peter Costello was laying out the early markers for a campaign to reform the pact between the states and the Commonwealth, essentially a new form of federalism.
"Costello said the Commonwealth should take "full responsibility for the national economy", assuming the states' responsibilities for key markets including the ports, gas, water and electricity, as well as taxing powers.
"If Costello's goal is to integrate and - always a dangerous word in this debate - centralise the running of the economy, education and training could at least be considered as an addition to his list of targets for a Commonwealth takeover.
"It's not as though the Howard Government hasn't already shown its desire to get its mitts all over state schools, setting up a rival trades school network, tying extra funds to such things as flagpoles in school grounds, and regularly campaigning against teaching methods, assessment methods, report cards, teaching standards and curriculum decisions. This week, Education Minister Julie Bishop flagged her determination to make Australian history a compulsory, stand-alone subject all the way up to year 10..."
Full story in The Age at link
- Op Ed: Who wants to be head? Far too few, it seems
Principals need more support if their role is to be seen as desirable, writes Andrew Blair.
"Why do so few teachers aspire to be principals? Research shows that Victorian principals greatly enjoy their jobs but the number of those wishing to take on the role is dwindling. Across Australia and in Victoria the number of applicants per available position has progressively decreased over the past decade.
"The Department of Education and Training's report The Privilege and the Price, from August 2004, reported that principals and assistant principals had high levels of job satisfaction. They felt that they could make a difference in the lives of young people, and most would not consider changing their job.
"Data from the Australian Secondary Principals Association's national survey of 2005 also supports this view. Sixty-two per cent of respondents either loved the job or were going well. A further 26 per cent said that they were performing adequately.
"But the growing shortage of candidates indicates that the rewards of the role - despite its enormous challenges - are not making themselves clear.
"Many ambitious teachers look at their principal and see first the average working week, which in 2003 was 59.6 hours. They see that, like other professionals, principals are required to manage high levels of internal conflict. For them it is between their primary focus, the students, and the demands placed on them by state departments.
"Principals are required to deal with some harsh realities such as increasing welfare demands, disruptive students, difficult parents and dysfunctional families. They have to juggle complex budgets and human resource management issues.
"Teachers see principals battling to bring adequate levels of funding to the school and being faced with, in some cases, grossly inadequate buildings for students and staff to work in. It is clear the shortfall in funding for building maintenance puts the principal in the centre of conflict between the school community and the department. Poor buildings lead to perceptions of poor performance, which lead to reduced enrolments and, in turn, fewer resources.
"These stresses are all obvious to any potential principals.
"The Privilege and the Price found 78 per cent of principals reported high levels of stress. More than 40 per cent of principals reported health problems that connect to their work.
"The public values the work of principals, who, in many cases, are important leaders of their communities. This was highlighted by the leadership displayed by principals in Mildura after the tragic loss of six young lives in February.
"How can we increase the numbers wishing to lead our schools? There are some simple and clear strategies that need to be put into place. We must have a much greater level of training to prepare candidates. We need to get the technical elements (budgets, staffing policies, occupational health and safety) of the job under control early and allow newly appointed principals to concentrate on student learning and people management..."
Andrew Blair is president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals.Full story in The Age at link
- Schools 'need $1b boost'
"Victoria's troubled education system needs an instant billion-dollar boost to address pressing concerns, including the deteriorating condition of many school buildings, the Greens say.
"Launching their election campaign education policy in Melbourne today, Upper House candidate Greg Barber said Victoria was the country's lowest-spending state on education.
"Unfortunately, that is reflected in many of our educational outcomes," Mr Barber said.
"We believe it is a practical and modest ask to put $1 billion into Victoria's education system over the next term of parliament, above and beyond inflationary-type growth.
"Once you start talking about a billion dollars, then you can talk about a range of other improvements to the school system..."Full story in The Age at link
- 'Robust' push for private money deals
by Jason Dowling
"A wave of privately funded infrastructure projects in Victoria could be on the way, with the Government boosting staff numbers to help with public-private partnerships.
"The move comes as the Government considers private funding to rebuild some of Victoria's dilapidated school classrooms.
"Education Minister Lynne Kosky confirmed yesterday the Government was considering PPPs for schools and indicated the only thing holding the Government back was financial reporting conditions that required the recording of the entire cost of the project up front, rather than over the 25 years of an agreement..."
Full story in The Age at link
- Sydney Morning Herald
- Mixing public and private
Three schools share common facilities
by Anna Patty
"The industrial-sized kitchen facilities, gymnasium and music suites are better than you would find in any school. Any one school, that is.
"But put three schools together, one public, one Catholic and one Anglican/Uniting independent, and the quality of resources is raised.
"The three schools were established on the Golden Grove site in Adelaide about 20 years ago as the first education model of its kind.
"The three schools share a library, senior science, home economics and manual arts facilities. There is one combined choir and an annual musical production.
"Jude Leak, principal of the government-funded Golden Grove High School, said there were 3000 students on the campus of the three schools.
"The whole notion behind the campus is that while we are three totally separate schools with different cultures and perspectives, we have an area called the shared facilities," she said.
"That gives us the opportunity to maximise the performance of our students in a way that if we were a single school, we wouldn't be able to."
"Ms Leak said about three-quarters of the students were from middle-class backgrounds and the rest were from housing commission estates."
Full story in The Sydney Morning Herald at link
- Brisbane Sunday Mail
- Student debt $13b
by Lincoln Wright and Anooska Tucker-Evans
"More than a million Australians have racked up $13 billion in student debt.
"Of this, $2.5 billion is not expected to be repaid.
"Average individual debt has risen from $4787 in 1996 to about $10,000.
"Student debt under the Higher Education Loan Program has soared from $4 billion in 1996 to a record $13.2 billion...
"Figures reveal 1.18 million Australians have student debts with 1084 owing more than $50,000..."Full story in the Sunday Mail at link [And a similar story in The Sunday Tasmanian Web]
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