Aussie Educator

I’m not a fan of technology. I’m a fan of pedagogy, of understanding how people learn and the most effective learning methods. But technology enables some exciting changes. Donald A. Norman

Are you a home-schooling parent ? Would you be willing to take part in a survey ?

Dr Robyn Reaburn [Robyn.Reaburn@utas.edu.au] is a Lecturer in Mathematics Education in the School of Education at the University of Tasmania. She is currently conducting research into mathematics education for home-schooled children. Her research involves investigating the beliefs, attitudes and confidence of parents of home-schooled children with regard to mathematics. I would also like to explore what guides parents’ choices of mathematics resources and the level of satisfaction with the choice of resources available.

She would like to invite you to participate in this study. She would be very grateful if you could take up to 30 minutes to complete the survey by clicking on this link :

This link will be available until Friday 30 Dec 2016.

Anyone who is interested, and prepared to be involved, can either contact Dr Robyn Raeburn [see above] or simply complete the survey using the supplied link.

What is it about the ATAR ?

Some things in education seem to appear and re-appear on a regular basis. The ATAR is one of these. Aspects covered include what it is, what it does, what it means, does it really work, how fair it is and the list goes on right to the point of asking whether there is a better method to be used for the designated purpose.

How do we know it keeps coming back ? While it has only been in use since 2009-10, try this link from The Conversation and see the variety what has been said since the beginning of 2013 as one example. During this time it has gained supporters, The ATAR system is really not that bad [2016] and questioners, Year 12 results day : does the ATAR actually matter that much ? [2015] and ATAR system labelled ‘confusing and inconsistent’ by panel of education experts [2016].

Again, it has raised its head above the parapet. One of the problems has been that many people expect its use to provide certainty about course entry [which it doesn’t, see more later]. Does it do more than provide an entry level - for example predict success in courses [perhaps] ? Is it the best method to use or does it just provide an efficient, and essentially simple, methodology designed to aid in student placement across a range of universities ? There are many more questions that could be posed ranging from the mundane [What if my ATAR is too low ?] through to why isn’t the system more transparent ? The latter is the real basis of the latest round of angst.

Transparency is the latest issue with the transparency of admissions processes the basis of the recent report from the Higher Education Standards Panel [get a copy here]. Among points raised were “the consultation process highlighted the increasing diversity of Australia’s higher education admission processes” and “the increasing diversity of higher education admissions criteria is inadequately comprehended”.

For example, entry could be via secondary education with [or without] an ATAR, another Higher Education course, a VET award course, a different professional qualification, mature age entry, admission tests, ranking modified by the addition of bonus points for special circumstances [special entry schemes], … . In fact, they state in 2014 “only 44 per cent of students were admitted on the basis of their secondary education - and of these, only 70 per cent were selected on the basis of their ATAR”. That is, roughly one in three of all entries was based on the ATAR alone. The transparency factor has brought forth a wide range of commentary.

These have not just been now. Should we scrap the ATAR ? What are the alternative options ? Experts comment was done in March this year. Recent commentary includes In the ATAR [some] trust [Campus Morning Mail]; ATAR charade : Universities will be forced to increase transparency on admissions [Sydney Morning Herald]; ATAR improvements a good start [The Age]. One interesting presentation is Making university admissions process more transparent is important, but won’t help improve equity which goes beyond the standard approach, e.g. the section headed Is the ATAR still useful ?

As one commentary says “The bad news for universities is that from 2018 they will have to be more transparent about how they use ATARs and other criteria in admissions”. Some have already started, as at The University of Sydney. Other university bodies have also responded to the recent interest through groups such as Universities Australia and the Innovative Research Universities. Other comments came from places such as the The University of Melbourne.

The Minister’s Press Conference covering this topic is worth reading and leaves us looking forward to what emanates as the government’s response. One looks to one lot of clarification leading to a second one, so all know exactly what is occurring at this crucial time in people’s education. It will, of course, require coordination between multiple groups who work together to ensure the end result is in the best interests of all involved.

Perhaps, this will then put an end to the perennial rise of queries about this topic. A system which is fair to, and well understood by, students and seen as possibly the most effective way of operating by higher education groups and many commentators, can finally be put to bed and we can get on and work with problems of a greater magnitude in education.

There are recently produced items that warrant at least a brief mention. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. Follow each link that piques your particular interests.

No Mind left Behind Sub-titled Building an education system for a modern Australia, this document is from the McKell Institute in Australia. As part of the Executive Summary, they indicate “the report concludes by proposing a series of interventions that can assist in restoring Australia’s education system to being the ‘ultimate equaliser’, to reduce inequality in our nation, and to give Australia the skilled workforce it requires to drive our economy well into the second half of the century”.

The New Work Mindset follows a similar theme. This report is part of FYA’s ‘New Work Order’ series. A major conclusion is that “by understanding the skills and capabilities that will be most portable and in demand in the new economy, young people can work to equip themselves for the future of work more effectively”. Much of the report is based on the concept of 7 new job clusters where skills are considered portable.

Focus on Phonics Why Australia should adopt the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check, from The Centre for Independent Studies is part of their Five from Five Literary Project. You can download a PDF copy from this site.

Media and Young Minds, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “reviews the existing literature on television, videos, and mobile/interactive technologies; their potential for educational benefit; and related health concerns for young children [0 to 5 years of age]” as a main core. This is certainly an area of concern to many people.

Personalised Learning : The Next Generation is a multi-part document from Education Week. Many sections could be relevant in Australia. You can download an Interactive PDF version here. The introduction at the top of the home page is important to read for a clear understanding of the scope of the report.

National Education Evidence Base is a draft report from the Productivity Commission. A major statement is ‘Improving the collection and management of education data in Australia will assist to create a more robust national education evidence base for effective policy and program development to meet our national education objectives and lift our national productivity’. While initial consultation meetings have now passed, the document will provide a good introduction to the thinking behind the process.

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