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Our task is to educate their [our students] whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it. Ken Robinson

The winter months are a period when educational matters appear to go on the backburner. Yes there is still news and some educational matters always raise their heads, but the big items seem to be replaced by stories that do not raise the blood pressure levels as much.

Deregulation in higher education is still up there somewhere - maybe [?]. It is still way in the background, however, and appears destined to remain there for some time. Research discussion seems to have come to somewhat of a standstill. International education has had a its moment in the sun and appears to have settled into a new situation though not all believe everything has been covered as per Strategy requires global vision. Early childhood is perhaps bubbling along a little more but while there are potential bumps showing up, they have yet to reach a critical level.

One of few areas still to be hitting the headlines around the country is vocational education and this is so both at a state and federal level. Changes of government [or just newly elected governments in the case of South Australia] have mooted changes with an emphasis on going back to TAFE as opposed to private providers. A different Assistant Minister of Education in Simon Birmingham seems to be handling matters in a much more effective way.

If you follow his media releases and his willingness to be involved and take action, one wonders why others could not learn from his example. Skills links with India, Withdrawal fees banned, purging Up Front Fees, new Apprenticeship Network opened, MySkills updates which help the area and Apprenticeship Matters launched, are just a few of the steps completed recently. Added to which he has done work in the international field and hardly raised any commentary, let alone negative responses, in doing so.

In conjunction with federal vocational action, Victoria has instituted a blitz on numerous providers. Skills Training is to receive a significant boost in the Queensland budget including the rebuilding of the TAFE network. The less said about the clumsy handling of vocational education in South Australia, though, the better. One disappointing factor is that there are Fewer people in publicly funded training [NCVER].

Teaching is another area continuing to receive a more significant level of attention. With the coming demise of the OLT, we are still in the dark as to what or where a replacement will actually be. At the same time, Melbourne University is establishing a Hub to investigate how teacher training faculties stack up. Meanwhile, a recent study from Charles Darwin University entitled Pointers to stress triggers for teaching students, indicates first year teaching students are under greater stress than similar students in other study areas. There could be many reasons for this. Perhaps that may be the next piece of research or might even have been a more relevant one than that which raises the concern.

Finally, one matter which occasionally raises its head has been raised by Peter Shergold [Higher Education Standards Panel]. This is the area of university admission scores. In Uni entry marks must be clear, he raises a number of points. These include the awarding of bonus points along with the provision of particular scores required for entry to courses.

In addition it is made very clear that a move to address transparency concerns in this area must be carried out and this will be done within the year. With only one state presently publishing “real ATAR cut-offs for every course within the state’s universities”, it will not be before time.

In a recent report, Imperatives in Schools Funding : Equity, sustainability and achievement, it is suggested the authors, Lindsay Connors and Jim McMorrow, have taken the “2011 Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling as a vantage point, from which to consider the national funding of schools in Australia, past and future” .

An extensive report, with multiple sections, it “makes the case for a new schools funding architecture to be developed in the context of the federal system” and urges a “greater coherence between the provision of public funding and the achievement of educational goals for all children”.

Many would agree with what they are saying. Others will not. As in all cases of funding, such a move would involve winners and losers, and considerably greater costs. One side is always unhappy when such a process occurs. Current economic conditions mitigate against it. It is probably why there seems little enthusiasm [if any] for supporting the Gonski process at the federal level.

One review of the report by Jennifer Buckingham, looks at a range of aspects, agreeing with some and disagreeing with others. Among points she does make though are : “[Gonski funding] is now likely never to eventuate ”; “School funding reform in Australia is a diabolical problem for many reasons”; “It is not clear yet what will happen with school funding at the federal level beyond 2018”; and, “some creative new thinking is required, too”. Both report, and the commentary, are worth reading.

A second article, Give a Gonski ? Funding myths and politicking derail schools debate, has also appeared. An interesting presentation and one which looks at multiple “myths”.

Other Areas of Interest

A ‘research team at Monash University and the University of Melbourne has recently developed a new online parenting program aimed at helping parents raise resilient teenagers’. This an online program designed to provide practical strategies to help with mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, in teenagers. If you and your teenager are willing to take part in a free trial of the program, you can find details by visiting the Parenting Strategies site.

One bolt out of the blue has been the suggestion by Jay Weatherill of a proposal for a State takeover of schools and childcare, with the commonwealth taking over higher education and vocational training. If nothing else it would put an end to the blame game, but would certainly need a lot of thought to ensure it did not create a worse situation. Points to him for coming up with something different though.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : Assessment, Enrolment, Financial and Education Levels pages. They can be accessed via the Education link in the menu.

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

13 July 2015.

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