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Anytime you make the work public, set the bar high, and are transparent about the steps to make a high-quality product, kids will deliver. Ron Berger

Education funding is right up there at the moment, and this applies right across the board from early childhood to tertiary sectors. In recent times we have had articles and commentary. One example is where Geoff Sharrock said OECD data was misused to back funding claims. This certainly got some reaction. Much of the funding though was discussed in relation to other specific areas, as detailed below.

The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten committed to full Gonski education funding. He then went on to write to all Australian principals to garner their support. This followed on from the government making the offer to provide set funding and allow the states and territories to control what they spent it on. An offer rapidly refused.

Interestingly, one of the points raised by the government, the multitude of agreements which form the “Gonski agreement”, was also raised by ACOSS in Public education group calls for school funding agreements to be reviewed, simplified. Gonski, however, has become such an iconic idea that it will be difficult to make any modification, worthwhile or otherwise at the present time. Other responses were not based around the politics of the situation, but the need for funding. These included Money can’t buy you love but can it buy you a better education ? and even Does Money Matter in Education ?, an American article. One from a different point of view is If not Gonski funding, then what ?. With a likely early election, this is going to be a major debate over the coming months.

Student funding at the tertiary level has also been well and truly in the headlines. Some of the headlines have been enough to scare you, while others have been somewhat more reasoned. HELP for the future, fairer repayment of Student Debt was one of the of the more reasoned. Loan fiasco sets $185bn time bomb certainly grabbed your attention. University, vocational training debts to skyrocket costing budget billions, documents show was another [even though they may or may not be accurate].

Others soon followed. Andrew Norton, the author of the initial article above, had several replies on his Commentary from Carlton blog offering explanations for several questions about it. The Conversation had several experts respond about what had been raised. The topic is unlikely to die, taking into account continuing articles from a variety of sources such as Incentives matter in higher ed; Student loan : Poll backs current repayment threshold; The HECS hoax, Higher education fees, how did we get to this ?; Uni funding cuts no answer to higher education financial sustainability; and the list could go on. The primary question is how will the debt end up being funded. Will it mean something else has to go by the board whether it is to do with education or not ? Some tough decisions will have to be made soon by whoever has to solve the problem though the blame game is still being played.

Decisions regarding the Safe Schools program have now been made. Not everyone has been happy though the process seems to have died down somewhat. Maybe it has just been overtaken by more immediate, expensive concerns. Following the review several decisions were made. The Minister, Simon Birmingham, detailed most of these in a Press Conference and they make for a reasonable outcome which ensures the anti-bullying process remains as strong as ever. That presumably was the primary intent of the program as many people understood it. The NSW Government has described the changes as sensible, while Tasmania is to also follow the Federal Government’s lead on anti-bullying program. Victoria decided to continue funding and implementation and the ACT also seemed to be going this way. There was little likelihood of ever getting total agreement [or even close to it] on what was the appropriate path to follow but this would seem to be a reasonable result. Perhaps they should have talked to this ex-principal, who in a letter to the editor of a major newspaper had the following to say :

As a former high school teacher, then principal for many years, I feel there is something missing from the Safe Schools debate. Young people have an inherent sense of decency and wisdom, and the way to address bullying is to tap into those qualities. Bullying is a very straightforward issue : it’s about how we treat one another. The most powerful way to address it is to place it above school [or organisation] rules, and establish an agreed universal expectation of both the adults and young people - something like an inviolable covenant - expressed like this : At this school everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity, and the responsibility to treat others that way. Young people understand this, empathise with it, and it applies to every person in the school. We will know we have been successful when people say “that doesn’t happen here”. It’s more than a rule, it’s in the DNA of the school’s culture. If the aim of the framers of the Safe Schools program is to have young people empathise with minority groups, they are unnecessarily complicating the issue for the students, especially the younger ones. Leave out the details of the minority groups and engage the students in empathising with the hurt experienced by those being bullied, irrespective of culture, sexuality, appearance, race or any other characteristic. Make it simple and non-negotiable for the students and the adults.
It really does encapsulate everything that is required doesn’t it ? I certainly would have been proud to have expressed it that well.

When the principal of one of Australia’s most prestigious schools came out and warned that computers “distract from old school quality teaching”, one would have expected a huge uproar. Surprisingly enough there really wasn’t. Instead, we had what was a calm, rational response. Laptops can be a curse was the headline for a fairly similar view by the Australian Education Union. The article contains quite a number of valid points. Another interesting article, titled The elephant in the classroom stressing the view that “technology should be our servant rather than our master”. Similarly another principal suggested they were not a “quick fix” but did have a role to play. Students struggle with digital skills because their teachers lack confidence approaches the problem from another angle.

And an interesting follow up this weekend was an article in The Australian entitled Take note : ink well ahead of laptops which reports on interesting research from the US, suggesting those taking handwritten notes actually outperformed those who used a computer or laptop for the same purpose. Who would have thought it ? Now where did I put my pen ?

Other Areas of Interest

There have been a number of education reports recently from all sectors of education. Among these are VET funding in Australia : Background trends and future directions authored by Peter Noonan. In the introduction, it is indicated that “this paper has been specifically prepared to help inform consideration and debate about the future of VET funding in Australia”. In light of recent events, it could prove a circuit breaker in making better decisions for the future.

A second report, Read About It : Scientific Evidence for Effective Teaching of Reading may also prove of value. It “outlines the powerful research evidence on learning to read from the 1960s to 2015 and explains how having effective, evidence-based reading instruction in every classroom, every day can substantially improve literacy levels among Australian children”. If nothing else, you can find literature on methodology which seems to have benefits for those who need it most.

Finally, a third report, the Australian Early Development Census National Report 2015 will provide you with the latest information about early childhood developments in Australia.

For those who like a shorter item to take a quick look at, whether you agree with the content or not, then Schools : Cut waffle to parents says it all, while Paranoid parenting means university students are treated as kids by Frank Furedi may be tongue in cheek, true, or … , you decide.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : Subject Areas, Mathematics, Other Languages, Health & P.E., Science, Social Science including Australian History, The Arts, Teachers pages, Adult & Community Education, Education Technology and Schools pages. They can be accessed through the Curriculum, Education, Schools and Teachers links in the main menu. Other pages have also had link additions.

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

9 April 2016.

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