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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and made things happen. Elinor Smith

A recent article by Justine Ferrari, which commenced “School curriculum is national in name only”, set me thinking. I reminisced to a time when students moving into and out of schools to other parts of Australia [and even overseas] was a real difficulty.

Curriculum was different [by title, and especially in secondary schools]; children started at different ages and in differently named classes; school divisions did not always align [primary and secondary year groupings, e.g. Year 7]; major exams varied between internal and external formats; and the list went on and on.

While all difficulties arising were eventually surmountable with a lot of good will and effort, there needed to be an easier and more transparent way. I can remember messages to Western Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, even to the USA [children of sporting visitors]; bundles of work collected and dispatched with parents, lengthy notes from teachers, ... .

It was a bit hit and miss as there was no real requirement to connect if they moved interstate let alone overseas, and of course you were not always told a move was on. Eventually, however, some levels of a national approach began to appear.

Eventually there was a formal Interstate Student Data Transfer Note and Protocol, at least for government schools.

Then ACARA came into being and the first steps toward a national curriculum began. This is a process now well under way, though as that initial report above indicates it is not complete, nor is it necessarily wholly nationally based or being implemented at exactly the same time [see article above and this article by Professor William Louden, though the latter is fee-based].

We are also moving to alignment of school sections with both Queensland and Western Australia moving Year 7 to high school in 2015, leaving only South Australia commencing secondary schooling at Year 8. Now we have APPA wanting “the [school starting] age to be standardised across all states and territories”.

Are these small steps indicative of an overall move to standardisation of education across all states and territories ? Would such a thing be desirable ? What additional benefits might come from it ? Would states and territories be prepared to hand over full control of all aspects to the commonwealth ? Would the private sector be willing to do so ? Is the commonwealth the best level to be the controlling authority ? Would the educational process be better or not ?

We should be thankful for the changes which have occurred; considerate toward the things being suggested; and perhaps sceptical about going too much further than we presently are.

University deregulation and tertiary fees still bubbles along. There is still considerable media attention, though not necessarily a lot of political action at the moment. Stephen Matchett has used headlines such as “Who has the numbers depends on what’s being debated” and earlier, “Known unknowns : how many $100 000 degrees ?”; and “Student fees will decide the deregulation debate” Andrew Trounson writes the ATN says “funding cuts by both sides of politics and the unsustainable cost of the demand-driven system underpin the push for fee deregulation”.

John Niland is reported as stating “Price and quality ‘will be confused’ by deregulation of university fees”; several universities [e.g. La Trobe, UWS and Swinburne] are taking steps to handle whatever changes may occur; PUP senator, Glenn Lazarus is talking to and visiting sites to find what higher education really wants. Julie Hare reports “Australia set to push OECD average” [read the whole of the first sentence though]; Andrew Dempster talks about a potential backfire; John Quiggin discusses the “Three misguided beliefs of the Group of Eight universities”.

And finally in this area, what impact might the fact that reporting on the ABC states “Australia [is the] most expensive place for international students to get university education : survey” and what effect will this have on university numbers and funding ? If you have been spellbound by present media offerings, just wait till the Senate Hearing takes place. Not too long to go now.

For many reasons, VET has remained in the news with items including Sweeping VET deregulation; Changes to VET might be good for business, but not for students; TAFE and the damage done; and the ABC reporting “Proposed university fee rise causes rethink in value of learning a trade”. Perhaps the most interesting, however, has been an article by Francesca Beddie, sub-titled “educators and bosses need to create courses with industry relevance”. See what you think.

Other Areas of Interest

Science has hit the headlines for all the right reasons, not least the recent Q&A program. Ian Chubb [Chief Scientist] released recommendations for a strategic approach to science [and STEM]. Ian McFarlane stressed there was a “place for science in business”, that it is neither an “afterthought or addition”. Suzanne Cory is reported as stating “narrowing science could backfire”, when she included this discussion in the first of her series of Boyer Lectures for 2014. Great to see science actually being talked about in credible terms by people who are leading the charge.

While there are plenty of other aspects being discussed, an article entitled University admissions racket thrives on deceptive ATAR cut-off scores makes for fascinating reading. With input from several vice-chancellors and others, you could well end up thinking there has to be a better way.

With a greater push for “Independent” public schools [under whatever name or system], it is timely that a report on Making the Grade : Autonomy and Accountability in Victorian Schools provided the opportunity for commentary, rather than simply sinking out of sight. Jennifer Chesters in a piece for The Conversation, asks “Do parents know what’s best for schools ?” Interesting comments.

Finally, at the same time as the Prime Minister spends time with Aboriginal people and the needs of education in Aboriginal communities and for Aboriginal children being prominent, an article by Tony Dreise, takes a wide-ranging look at ways of “Keeping Indigenous teens in school by reinventing the lessons”. Well worth reading.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : Science Teaching Resources [International], Technology Teaching Resources; Education Software; the research sections of Education Standards, Education Technology, Teacher Librarians; Education Policy; Teacher Employment 2; Curriculum; Schools. They can be accessed via the Resources, Education, Curriculum, Teachers and Schools links in the menu.

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

21 September 2014.

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