Aussie Educator

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called “truth”. Dan Rather

Welcome to the latest update of this page. Over recent times there have been a number of educational events, discussions, reports, claims, counter-claims, suggestions, opinions and much, much more. To cover all would be, if not impossible, a mammoth task. Some will have a minor effect [if any] on education. Others, if taken up or even responded to, may have long term effects of a significant nature. Several are covered in commentary below. Meanwhile ...

  • The Australian Computer Society will be running a Global ICT Educators Event in Sydney on 6 November 2018, Brisbane on 7 November 2018 and Melbourne on 8 November 2018, in conjunction with Lego Education. Registrations close on 1 November 2018 for all three sites. A major bonus is the presence of Mitch Resnick as the speaker. All other details are available from the relevant pages listed above.
  • There has been a lot of comment about the pressures applied to teachers, not only by their employers, but also by others in the wider community. The attrition rate for beginning teachers is quite noticeable. In many instances, teaching generally is not regarded very highly. This is not just restricted to Australia. Most People Wouldn’t Want Their Child to Become a Teacher, Poll Finds [Education Week] provides research from the USA indicating negative concerns expressed by parents about the possibility of their children wanting to become teachers. It is probable this would also be the case in a number of other countries, even though there are some where teacher status alone would not allow this to occur. Interesting findings and food for thought.
  • A few days ago, Robert French, Former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, gave the Eighth Austin Asche Oration in Law and Governance at Charles Darwin University. It was titled ‘Free Speech and the Law on Campus – Do we need a Charter of Rights just for Universities ?’. Information about the event indicated “There has recently been public discussion of the concepts of academic freedom and of freedom of expression generally on university campuses in Australia and other countries. The Oration will canvass the content and history of those freedoms, whether they are under threat and whether special measures are necessary to protect freedom of speech and diversity of views in our institutions of higher learning”. I have not yet found a copy, but from all reports it is well worth hearing. Why not see if you can find it over the next few weeks and see whether you agree or disagree with what he has said.

We have also included new articles in the relevant section. Some of these may also be referred to in the commentary. There seems to be an unending supply of documents and articles being produced in this area. It often proves difficult to select only the few that appear. However, as someone once said - ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’.

Among interesting talking points are ...

What curriculum ... ?

Fascinating to read there is to be a Shift to a ‘radical’ curriculum and that this has already been started by ACARA. Supposedly to be included were a range of “fashionable but contentious 21st century skills, ranging from critical and creative thinking through to ‘mindfulness, gratitude and resilience’”. Who would have believed it when we have only recently bedded down the Australian Curriculum across the country, which already included a number of these as general capabilities.

A number of references were made to individuals, groups and speeches Its major thrust also elicited further support with an opinion piece from Kevin Donnelly. Among the various groups and individuals referenced were the OECD, the American Centre for Curriculum Redesign [which was said to have been working on a new Maths curriculum], Rob Randall, Steven Schwarz and Fiona Mueller. Several positions about the concept were put by a number of these people.

Interestingly, a few days later Rob Randall issued a statement from ACARA titled No review of the Australian Curriculum. He indicates ‘Contrary to media speculation over the weekend, there is no review of the Australian Curriculum underway, and there is no “shift” away from what has been agreed for Australia’s students to learn in school’. Maybe there is sanity after all. At least we might be stable for some time to come.

Probably an unwinnable position ...

Dan Tehan, the new Minister for Education must be facing one of the most difficult decisions relating to schooling. Catholic school funding support has been an itch of significant proportions that simply will not go away. It has now become his task to find a solution to the problem. An article about the need to fix this festering sore followed close on the changes in parliament. Dan Tehan as the new Minister, is the man cited to achieve it. .

As yet it has not occurred. However, whatever is done is likely to bring down a volatile reaction from one party or another - as funding discussions always seems to do. If he allocates additional funds to one group, others will make their feelings known. If he doesn’t satisfy a particular group then their reaction will be just as volatile. One hopes he has the wisdom of Solomon. Either that or a suit of armour.

Mark Scott on how we might prepare our future citizens

In light of the current broo ha ha about curriculum, this article by Mark Scott makes for interesting reading. One of the most interesting features is that he does not provide you with an agenda or a prescription on why and how this might be achieved. Included among these factors are some that seem to fly under the radar for many others - using the expertise of teachers in particular as well as researchers in multiple areas of education.

He quotes from people as diverse as Woodrow Wilson and Dylan Wiliam. The first indicates “it is easier to move a cemetery than change a curriculum” while the second says “Our world is becoming more and more complex, and so higher and higher levels of educational achievement will be needed to be in control of one’s own life, to understand one’s culture, to participate meaningfully in democracy and to find fulfilling work”.

While both have relevance, it is his own final comment which one perhaps should consider most - “What a timely and important conversation to be having now”.

Uni Mergers ...

Two mergers in adjoining countries are proceeding afoot. Australia’s is in South Australia. This is going slowly and carefully but there seems to be a degree of likelihood with a number of positive comments [though not all] being made at this early stage. The interesting fact is the end product appears likely to be a unified university that is perceived to generate a number of positive benefits because of the increased size. Whether it will eventuate or not remains to be finalised.

Interestingly, in New Zealand there is also a potential merger. This is between Lincoln University and the University of Canterbury. In this process, a single larger university is not what is being sought. James McWha [Vice-Chancellor, Lincoln] is actually pushing for Lincoln to remain an independent entity as part of any merger or partnership. Not sure how that will/could work, but one can understand the desire for a university not to be subsumed and lose its history and any specific capacities it may do well. Whatever happens, it should be decided by the end of the year as they have to report to the government at that time.

Teachers, the ATAR and more ...

A few weeks ago we were told there would be Tough NSW standards for teaching graduates with graduates requiring a credit average and being able to ‘show they have superior emotional and cognitive intelligence, to ensure only the best teachers are being hired’. It was also suggested those gaining their degree online would be placed at the end of the employment queue - NSW nearly closes classroom door on on-line teaching grads. Now we have a situation where headlines have changed significantly. One example is Students with lowest ATAR scores being offered places in teaching degrees : secret report.

This was soon followed by a number of others such as ‘Secret report’ reveals teacher training crisis : AEU; Another ATAR disaster for teacher education faculties and even Secret ATAR report ordered destroyed. A different approach came in Viewpoints : should universities raise the ATAR required for entrance into teaching degrees ?. In addition, there were some defences of the position which left much to be desired.

It is true that academic results as a single criteria do not necessarily result in the best teachers. This comes back to the second point of the initial link above. However, it says a great deal if you are taking students initially whose scores are in the bottom quartile. One would really have to think those who see acceptance of these students must have faith in their capacity to improve them dramatically. More worrying is being given the opportunity to read into this, correctly or incorrectly, that they do not see teaching as a profession which both requires, and can only benefit from, those with higher qualifications and capacity. This is not the case in several other countries with highly regarded education systems and achievements. I’m positive it would not be the case in numerous other areas of tertiary education [evidence suggests it is not]. It is certainly not good enough for teaching.

Graduate wages, non-Graduate ages and Gender pay gaps ...

Money is always a big thing and is often found at the base of simple differences through to disputes. The difficulty is that there are often statistical claims about who gets what and when, as well as what the people they are being compared with earn and when. Machiavelli would have been proud of many of these affairs. This can be particularly strong at the tertiary level between those advocating for either university or vocational outcomes. Numerous instances have appeared among headlines over recent times.

In the recent report, Mapping Australian Higher Education 2018, the Grattan Institute looked, among other things, at employment related to the number of graduates and to the gender pay gap. From this they drew a range of conclusions some of which can be found in Graduate incomes : the good old days aren’t back as well as in the report.

The latest spate of media entries about this include articles such as Sparks fly over claims that non-grads earn more. Using the figures provided this might be the case in the scenario covered. It may even prove true later on depending on specific individual achievements. As expected, there was a strong reaction. Graduate wage premium remains – despite economic challenges was a response from Universities Australia. Again, what is stated may be entirely accurate. Surely though, we can move away from arguing that one is better than the other - graduate, non-graduate, male, female, .... .

I would think a more important factor is whether we are providing opportunities for people to find employment based on interest, skills and overall capacity. Does it really matter whether you go to a vocational or academic institution ? Does it not matter more that, irrespective of the path chosen, you have employment, you are paid the same for doing the same job as someone else, you have opportunities for advancement and you have the possibility of achieving realistic expectations ? Perhaps, then, we could commit all this effort into more productive endeavours.

Gonski - will it ever be solved ?

Money is still the major factor here. A solution [?] is said to be close, but it will be based on a large sum of money. Not only is the Catholic system unhappy, but now many of the Independents are also raising voices and more. Independent schools hire Labor-aligned lobbyists to fight for school funding and Principals launch revolt against government reflect some of this group’s current activity.

$4bn deal to avert schools backlash runs one headline. Suggestions are that a decision will be reached soon and with terms such as ‘sector blind’ and the figure suggested, one hopes there is a reasonable solution which is both sector blind and satisfies all parties.

As this page is uploaded, we are now aware a deal has been struck, as outlined in this report by Michelle Grattan. However, as these reports from The ABC, The Educator Australia and The Guardian indicate, all is not well with everyone. The Catholic and Independent sectors may be quite satisfied, others are not. Only time will tell what the end result will be, even only allowing for potential political difficulties.

Why can’t we just get to a position where those with greatest need get the most funding so they can each achieve their maximum. While it will always be the case that some will achieve better than others in different areas - academic, sporting, artistic, ... , all should receive an equal opportunity to achieve their best, and isn’t that what the core of Gonski was really about ?

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

Australia’s hidden asset : Universities are the New Wealth of Nations
Professor Ian Jacobs, Chair Group of Eight. This was a National Press Club of Australia address presented in mid-August of this year. Ian Jacobs bases it around three major points which he elaborates at the start. A clearly thought out and presented position. It makes for quite interesting reading irrespective of your views about what is being said.

Does Attendance in Private Schools Predict Student Outcomes at Age 15 ? Evidence From a Longitudinal Study
This is often a topic raised in Australia, so it is interesting to see what comes from other sources. Read the abstract as a starting point and you will see the conclusions the study reached. The full article expands considerably on this. Done in the USA.

Demand Driven Education ...
Merging work & learning to develop the human skills that matter. ‘The global forces shaping the future of work are making an impact on the teaching, learning, and assessment systems that must prepare workers for the future’. In Demand-driven education may spark “new wave of reforms”, David Myton provides an interesting summary of some of the potential impacts which will be felt and is a good introduction to the report.

Independent review into regional, rural and remote education : final report
‘The review commenced with an extensive literature review which focused predominantly on publications since 2006 and included relevant peer reviewed articles, reports and grey literature mainly from Australia, the USA and Canada, and then other OECD countries and elsewhere as appropriate. From the literature review and other relevant sources, nine themes or factors were identified which have a major impact on students’ achievements and which also provide new opportunities’.

PISA Australia in Focus Number 2 : Educational expectations
‘This report seeks to explore how students’ expectations for further education are measured in PISA 2015. It addresses educational expectations across countries and across Australian jurisdictions, as well as educational expectations for different demographic groups in Australia. It also considers changes in educational expectations for Australian students over time, and for different demographic groups in Australia’. An overview of the report is provided here by ACER.

Sustainable growth in International Higher Education
‘Concerns around the sustainability of Australia’s international higher education exports are starting to emerge for two connected reasons. First, it is now well documented that growth over the past eight years has led to a two-speed economy and concentration of risk. Second, concentration risk at the institutional level is leading to polarisation risk at the system level’. Note that you need to provide some details to download the document.

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