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The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed - it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions. Ken Robinson

As Peter Coaldrake [QUT], in reference to cheating, says - “There will always be some smarties who will try to get around the rules”. Is this something new ? No. The biggest change has been the growth of technology and communication which has provided easier access and in many respects a greater cloak for people who want to provide such a service.

It is not even a sudden realisation. Recent revelations came with the MyMaster case in November 2014. Plagiarism, a variant of cheating has been active for some time with many institutions using special programs to detect this. It has existed in many shapes and forms for decades, probably centuries. It has led to recent questions such as Are we becoming a nation of cheats ?.

The overall answer is almost certainly no. However, it does not mean there is not a cohort amongst the vast number of students who will decide to take advantage of the availability of such material at reasonable prices. Nor does it suggest that those who believe they can benefit financially from this process will have a sudden, ethical revelation and stop doing so.

The most important question is how do we prevent this from occurring. This is certainly going to occupy many minds in light of the latest revelations. Harking back to the movies, we are now told we need “ Ghostbusters”. In Ghostbusters needed to beat fraud, the difficulties are clarified. Of greatest concern is the latest format. Text checking, as used previously, does not necessarily pick these up. They are of a higher [or lower, depending on your view] level of production. Universities may have difficulty picking them up using present systems, as they advertise 0% plagiarism.

There are ways, but they require expertise and time and possible changes to assessment procedures. For example, if you have not done the work, examinations tend to be very hard to pass. Even if you manage to pass, comparisons with submitted work soon shows up anomalies. Some processes are already being changed by institutions. Potential technological development may also assist. The important thing is that all institutions commit every effort to doing so. There are good reasons for this.

While Peter Coaldrake believes “it wasn’t as widespread as media reports might suggest”, it still has the potential for significant damage. Just the perception has the capacity to cause difficulties not just for a specific institution, but for the system as a whole.

Students should be encouraged to “turn in others” where necessary, as protection for the effort they have made. Every “direct means” should be used [see Major universities crack down on cheats for example], whatever these may involve. Every institution must be involved at the same level. As must the regulator. Steps have already begun in this area.

It must be done, not only to maintain quality standards for local students, but also for those in the international student program. Universities and other higher institutions would be devastated should this be affected. It is not as if Australia is the only global destination or option for these students [though a quick Google search suggests other major destinations continue to have their own problems in this area].

Hopefully, the steps already taken and those still to come, will provide an appropriate method for ensuring that people are unable to rip off the system, its reputation remains high and will be able to benefit not only the students it educates and the institutions themselves, but also the country’s reputation as a bona fide, quality place to receive such an education.

International education is in the news at the moment. A Draft National Strategy for International Education was tabled at a Coordinating Council for International Education meeting. A Simplified student visa framework was established. Even Private colleges had a win with this. At the same time VET had a significant increase as part of this.

A big change from the low point of several years ago when the program was beset by perceptions of racism and a range of related factors were in play. A lot of work has been done to assist in turning this around.

Not all are happy. Many would like to see greater detail about several aspects and this was evidenced in a number of submissions. However, it is good to see people working together in a common cause and a significantly more positive outlook than previously.

Other Areas of Interest

An interesting article by Kevin Donnelly, Set our schools free so students excel featured recently. ‘Diversity, competition, autonomy and choice are key to improving government standards’ which is seen as an ‘international trend’ seemingly being ignored [at least in the context of a recent Victorian paper looking at ways of improving educational outcomes]. Charter Schools [USA] and academies [UK] do feature as a type of option available for fulfilling such keys. Research is quoted to support his position. Other presentations such as this by Ian Brown beg to differ.

Claims by such people as Trevor Cobbold receive limited credibility. A comparison of both might be an interesting exercise. The possible inclusion of information from people such as Diane Ravitch [USA], might also prove interesting. In addition, you might like to read Education achievement comes at a high price which, while supporting a number of his statements, poses reasons why this might be being achieved.

Finally, we should perhaps take notice of articles such as Test scores aren’t good quality indicators for schools or students. They are only one indicator. As quoted, ‘Australians need to carefully consider how “quality” is measured’ and ‘we should at least be clear about how we measure quality and why we need to measure it’.

As Ian Brown also indicates - ‘The public-private divide still exists today with ongoing debates about’ a range of topics. Maybe it is time we forgot the divide and concentrated on ensuring every child reaches their potential in every aspect of their development and achievement.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : Curriculum, Subjects, Fees pages, Assessment [2]. They can be accessed via the Curriculum and Education links in the menu.

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

23 June 2015.

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