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Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. Jacques Barzun

Who would have thought Christopher Pyne could move so quickly ? Mk 1 of the Higher Education legislation had barely been sunk before Mk II appeared and was before the house. Wonder if we will get to see Mk III, Mk IV, … , before there is an actual closure of the process ?

That the legislation was lost came as little surprise to anyone who had been keeping up with what had been happening. Possibly more surprising was that the defeat was not greater. People both in and out of parliament have kept up their positions. Even with the modifications for Mark II, there would realistically appear little chance of changing numbers, though in politics most things seem to be possible eventually.

While Go8 thought Mark II was reasonable, Universities Australia was positive but continued to ask for increased funding. At the same time, the Minister was boosted [he certainly was] when QUT published Course Fee Scenarios for 2016 which did not approach in any way the $100 000 degrees touted by opponents.

Still, opponents had something else to complain about with the recent advertising being labelled everything from illegal through to poorly done. If you want to see what it is all about visit Your future is Australia’s future. Maybe you missed it on television or any of the social media where it has appeared. Gee, you would think it was the first time ever a government had advertised something - or maybe just tried to help people see what is involved ?

Meanwhile, numerous people have entered the debate [?] with commentary and suggestions. One was to consider reintroducing some degree of capping. Another was a statement that “a Labor Government would make unis more accountable for dropouts and employment outcomes” [The Australian]. Interesting to see how they do this. It brings to an agile mind Monty Pythonesque scenarios as unis strive to avoid potential dropouts and have certainty over the total funding they would receive for students.

Among others who have contributed are Stephen Parker with his comments about Universities Australia having “necrotizing fasciitis” [condition where the body eats its own flesh] and vowing not to attend further meetings. Warren Bebbington, who indicated “no-one should think the current system is fair : some students pay as much as 400 per cent of the cost of their education, others as little as 8 per cent” as part of “a circuit breaker statement designed to focus attention on what is on offer”.

Harold Mitchell “wants all sides of politics to be talking - not simply arguing - about higher education, which he complains has become a political football”. Bruce Chapman, ever thoughtful and highly experienced, also adds that sort of comment at the end of a recent article - “it is a matter of balance and considered discussion, but such concepts are close to anathema in the current environment” and goes on to indicate “the world is not black and white, although just about all the participants in this debate seem to want it to be”.

If we are to actually get anywhere, perhaps it is about time all involved started to listen to people such as these. Maybe then we might actually achieve a position where the various needs are part of a compromise acceptable to all. One can only suppose there is always 2015 to come and live in hope.

NAPLAN strikes a chord several times a year - when tests are about to be done, when results go out and when major reports are issued. The recent issue of the 2014 NAPLAN National Report has returned it to prominence. What we know from this is that results are essentially stable. Students not sitting benchmark tests are increasing. Numbers appear to be potential low scoring pupils, thus possibly skewing accuracy of results.

Trevor Cobbold, in an article for Save our Schools, titled Parents are becoming more disillusioned with NAPLAN presents a view culminating with the belief that “it is time to review the purpose of NAPLAN and reduce the high stakes attached to the tests”. But will it happen ?

It has not been the best of years for VET and TAFEs, though that could probably also be said about previous years. Certainly The Scan suggests students are opting for higher education rather than VET. Their presentation, based on the NCVER report, does not suggest a rosy future. Stephen Matchett is quoted, indicating - “Higher education is not the right path for everybody but it is becoming the only one young people think will provide a career”. Perhaps an unintended consequence of the push for demand driven entry to higher education, allied to modifications made to TAFE systems, and the expansion of the private sector.

This is a critical area and must be maintained at a level that will ensure the skills needed are available for the future.

Other Areas of Interest

The Early Childhood Digital Business Kit ‘is a series of online modules, downloadable PDFs and videos designed to equip managers, educators, leaders and other staff as well as families to understand the possibilities and impacts that digital technology brings’. One of a number of business kits being developed in conjunction with the government and created by Early Childhood Australia, it should prove of great benefit. As well as the site above, check this article by Patricia Karvelas.

In addition to the above, the Early Childhood sector will also benefit from changes planned for the Paid Parent Leave scheme, with money saved from these changes being channelled into Child Care, according to the Prime Minister.

Education Ministers met on Friday and one of the topics on the agenda was the recent review into the national curriculum. ABC News had information prior to the meeting and The Federal Minister released a statement indicating that all Education Ministers had agreed to referring the recommendation outlined in the government’s initial response paper to ACARA who will report back to the first meeting in 2015. Interesting to see how they respond. If you missed the response paper [or any of the other documents] you can find them all on the Review of the Australian Curriculum site.

All does not appear well with the National Union of Students. Reports indicate, to put it bluntly, they are virtually broke. A recent Audit report suggests they are losing money and have few reserves left. Big changes appear necessary and it will be interesting to see how they work their way out of this dilemma. Who will be best placed to look after the needs of students if they cannot ?

Home schooling has been a contentious issue in some countries, though not particularly so in Australia. Some countries prohibit it, others try to regulate it and others seem to have an even more laissez-faire approach. One of the most interesting things, even where it is regulated, is that often no one really knows the exact [or even approximate] numbers of those involved with any degree of accuracy.

One set of Home School Stats for Australia 2013 has been developed, with accompanying commentary. The section on Unregistered Students is really interesting and a potentially good estimate. Reasons for homeschooling, and for not registering, vary considerably. A second article in The Conversation comments on findings [or lack of some] from a recent inquiry into homeschooling in Australia.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : All remaining Teaching Resources pages, The Olympics, Children’s Fun Pages, Crosswords, Word Puzzles and Web Tests. They can be accessed via the Resources and Special Pages links in the menu.

Updates have been added to the following pages : Calendar, Conferences, Journals.

14 December 2014.

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