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Consistently good?

This is Webdiarist Evan Hadkins' second piece for Webdiary. His first, also on education, was Revolutionary? As in: the wheel goes round again.

In the Future of Schooling in Australia Report, launched by Victorian Premier John Brumby today, the states have for the first time agreed to uniform (I shall resist the temptation to bad puns) reporting of school results. It also commits the states to a national curriculum - initially for the core subjects of English, maths and science.

This should be good news for students who need to move schools – especially when they move interstate. One woman I know still finds it a hassle to do printing rather than running writing, because she moved primary and the styles of printing she was taught were different. The two teachers both told her that theirs was the right way and to not listen to anyone who said otherwise!

Perhaps the biggest difference between the states is year 12 exams. Queensland doesn’t have them (and, despite what the defenders of exams say, the world hasn’t come to an end). The ACT is also different in years 11 and 12 – being much closer to a college system, with students coming and going much more freely throughout the day. (This hasn’t led to streets full of marauding teenagers, despite those who think young people have to be controlled if our society is not to descend into the pit of anarchy).

So, the centralisation is a good thing from the point of view of those who move schools. It should also help administratively with things like university entry, and should make life easier for employers understanding the schooling results for interstate students. Perhaps the biggest question raised by uniformity is: Will it be harder for the curriculum to be altered? Having one system means that any changes made affect everyone (good if the changes are for the better, bad if they are for the worse).

I, for one, believe the curriculum desperately needs to be altered. When I consider what I would do to prepare people for a difficult future my answers don’t look much like school. I can’t remember the last time I actually used anything that I ‘learnt’ in high school. I would like subjects like: thinking clearly, creating a better world through innovatory design, how to organise a movement for worthwhile social change, feeling good in your own skin, and eating and exercising for health. I submit that each of these is of greater importance than my knowledge of the reign of Akhenaton (and I love ancient Egyptian history).

There are also questions about how it fits with the move to make local schools more responsive to their local area. It seems this would mean subjects that are quite specific to regions – perhaps even one region. This kind of thing is already happening with pre-apprenticeship type courses that fit in with local business. This would mean each school having a mix of the national curriculum and local subjects, designed to fit local circumstances.

It will be interesting to see in the years ahead what happens to the subjects beyond the core ones of English, Maths and Science. How the mix between the national and local, and the tension between portable and local plays out.

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Howards nationalism is a 1970's model of history.

There have been enormous leaps in our knowledge of large parts of the world over the past 30 years and historians are increasingly adopting a global approach to the study of history. An example is Felipe Fernández-Armesto's superb The World: A History that even includes a section on medieval Georgia.

In the face of this new, exciting world of history the proposed Australian history curriculum offers young Australians the study of Australia and virtually nothing else.

There is a nod to the need to provide some sort of international context for understanding Australia but it is not excessive.

Moreover, there so much Australian history to be taught that not only will Years 9 and 10 be used up, but it is also suggested that teachers could devote part of Year 8 to it. The more time that is given to Australian history, the less time there will be to look at any other form of history.

Now it is clear that this history curriculum is considered to be part of the Australian Government's desire to engage in nation building.

Australians must know about Australia in order for Australians to build a better Australia.

But this would appear to me to be a project that resonates more with the 1970s than with the first decade of the 21st century.

Howard's rewrite of history fails to excite our children. To really understand Australia's place in the global village of the 21st century, we should teach history from a global perspective. We should teach the rise of civilisations in the Middle East, Europe and China, How democracy came to be. The links between the major religions, and Australia's role in history of the world. The children of the 21st century will be global citizens.

Lib/lab educational turmoil

Labor's education policy has Cardinal Pell's support, with God's man on Labor's side, all must be well in Heaven and on Earth.”

I hope that was a tongue in cheek comment John, continued favouritism for the elite religious schools of the country by the religious right lib/lab, to the detriment of the masses, shows the elusive god sure is on control of the minds of mindless. Education in this country is in turmoil and the direction taken by the lib/lab will only make things worse. A real education system would alleviated most of our current social and health problems, currently it exasperates them as we see nation wide.

Blessing for Labor's education policy

Today, Cardinal Pell declared his support for the Party's current policy.

"I'm certainly happy to endorse the education policy for the Catholic and independent schools of the Labor Party," he said.

Labor's education policy has Cardinal Pell's support, with God's man on Labor's side, all must be well in Heaven and on Earth.

John Pratt, "Labor's education policy ...

John Pratt"Labor's education policy has Cardinal Pell's support, with God's man on Labor's side, all must be well in Heaven and on Earth".

How can anybody take seriously a person like Pell, this man lives in a fantasy world (as do all religious leaders) of miracles, saints and dresses up like the lead in a Christmas pantomime. His comments this week about contraception are a joke, if he does not play the game, he should not make the rules and that goes for the Pope as well. I think Pell has enough on his plate controlling the sexual abuse of children by his priests. 

No future with lib/lab

John, as long as the religious run and control our political system, nothing will change. Both lib/lab leaders are religious nut cases and will do nothing to redirect funding to where it is most needed, in public schools. On the contrary, after this election, we may well see more money going into religion, it's indoctrination programs and institutions. Without this massive unbalanced funding, religious schools would not be able to provide the education indoctrinations they currently do.

It's criminal our political leaders force our children to be brainwashed into being economic slaves and increasingly, brainwashed into religious enslavement, by directing the majority of federal funding to religious schools. Just as they are doing with the health system, it's the well off who get the best funding in all aspects of society, when ideologies are in control.

How can anyone rational enough to see this debauched and ultimately socially destructive direction, vote for lib/lab with a clear conscience. But I'm aware of how the unevolved humans of this planet, find whatever excuse they can, to continue living in denial of the reality of our unbalanced and discriminatory education system.

No future for church based schools.

THE number of Australians identifying themselves as Christian will plummet over the next 20 years as an ageing generation of dedicated churchgoers dies out, analysis of census figures shows.

Painting a bleak future for Christian faiths, the Christian Research Association predicts the ranks of non-believers will steadily grow while there will not be enough young converts to replace elderly congregations.

As the number of practising Christians falls, Australia will have to rethink its funding of church based schools. When the majority of Australians are not religious, we will begin to question the value of an education that has a religion at its core. The best way to educate our children on Australian values is to fund public schools and reject funding to all religious schools.

Paying Teachers

I am in favour of paying teachers more. They do important work under very difficult conditions.

I doubt it is a major factor in deciding to take up teaching though. When I consider taking up teaching the money falls well down the list. There are probably limits here - if teachers were paid the dole I guess it would get little interest. And if the salaries were multiplied by five it would probably lead to lots of interest. However, I doubt the changes likely to be made will influence many decisions about becoming teachers.

I think it would be more likely to make an effect by praising and honouring teachers. When Australia came second in an international student competition the Federal Education minister used it as a chance to criticise teachers (we came second!).

For myself, being of the male persuasion, there's no way I would go near school teaching, because I don't want to be treated as a potential paedophile.

I think there is much we could do for teachers apart from paying them more.

More money, more peanuts

Thanks Evan, lateral approaches, to me, always provide viable satisfactory answers. It just seems the human race is too indoctrinated to not to see outside the delusional square and that appears to be our ultimate downfall in all respects of society, the blind leading those who refuse to see.

John, money doesn't provide good teachers, experienced knowledge is what creates good educational outcomes. The highly experienced senior citizens of this country would fill the classrooms with their knowledge and not expect to be given huge salaries, but be proud of the opportunity to pass on what their lives have taught them, in whatever their endeavour. No amount of money makes up for hands-on experience. If we continue to have teachers with no personal experience of their subject other than from a book and a schoolroom, just like nurses, trades people and every endeavour in life currently, you get the outcomes we are seeing. 

I'm sure your own experience within the services would show you that those who have newly been through officers school and are paid more than very experienced seamen are virtually useless. When I was a bosun's mate, then a quarter master, I was aware of how much the captain and number one relied upon the experience of the Coxswain and senior ratings for advice in certain circumstances. That's why war ships function so well: it is experience that runs them, not monetary levels. Tell me how a war ship would operate under the control of officers and a crew who had all just come out of university or TAFE college and had learnt seamanship from books, or for that matter a dive team or SAS team. Your experience and common sense would give you the answer, so why not the same for our education system and other aspects of society. We already see the outcomes of the present university to teaching approach.

The ideological ploy, of pay peanuts, get monkeys, is debunked by the deplorable situation and operation of our public service. The upper echelons of the public service hold the biggest bunch of monkeys in the country. I doubt you could find one who can provide a business plan for their department that would give a beneficial outcome for the people and not just their political and corporate masters, and they don't get paid peanuts. Actually, I doubt you could find a senior bureaucrat who could provide a business plan for anything but their flexi time and retirement.

When we value teachers, we will get better education.

Over the past three decades, teachers have watched their salaries drop markedly in comparison with average weekly earnings. At the same time, the job of teaching has become immensely more complex and difficult as it is subjected to the pressures of an increasingly fractured society and unrealistic parental and government expectations. And respect for the profession has declined.

No wonder we're confronted with a crippling shortage of teachers.

We can argue over curriculum and centralisation, but until we pay our teachers what they deserve, we will never be able to provide our children with a good education.

A new education system is required

To change this society to one which actually addresses the future, you have to start with the education system, providing children with the right lifestyle education so they are able to be willingly involved in direct democracy. Currently our education system is orientated to pumping out economic enslaved clones and we wonder why they binge drink, are drug orientated, increasingly out of control and refuse to take responsibility for their actions until it's too late, or never. They have no future to look forward to as it's been taken away for the ideological greed of just a few.

Evan Hadkins starts the ball rolling with his description of how he sees education should be and not as it is. Schooling from 5-16 should be about how to understand and cope in life, be responsible for your existence, social interaction, how society works and how to become a useful individual within it. From 16 until 20, they should be put out into society to work for it in every public endeavour, the law, policing, all health areas, local government, defence, public service, emergency services and part time work experience in constructive private businesses. If they spent a couple of months in each of these essential aspects of society, we would always have enough hospital and aged care staff, emergency workers, as well as a changing and evolving bureaucracy. It would mean at the age of 20, they would know what life was all about and know what the law meant and how stupid indiscretions effect their futures. With our current academically controlled system, children are just programmed to slave for the elite and learn nothing of the reality facing them. From 20, they would then have the life experiences to choose the path or endeavour they wish to take. This would remove youth unemployment, reduce crime, homelessness and increase employment for the entire population.

Why have people teaching kids who have no experience in life, when you have a huge amount of people with a lifetime of experience, thrown on the scrapheap. It's the older generation who should be teaching the young, by passing on their experiences, not those just out of nappies whose only real experience has been a classroom and who have no idea outside of a programmed useless dogma.

A New System

Thanks Alga. An excellent proposal, I think. 

Save the holidays!

I do not have strong feelings one way or the other about a national curriculum - I live in the ACT and like, I suspect, many others I would be happy to have uniformity so long as our system does not change much!  That is to say, it's OK if you change to us, but not vice versa (NIMBY is my middle name).

However, I do not necessarily agree that school subjects such as Ancient History are less than useful.  Sure I learnt differential calculus to a high standard at school and have never used the subject matter again; and have indeed forgotten it almost in its entirety.  But I am not willing to take the extra step and say it was useless - it taught me how to learn something factual and challenging, and that skill has proven useful since.  I also did Latin to HSC level and while my saying this tends to make people roll their eyes, I have never for a moment regretted doing this.  As a person who does a lot of writing, I have found it invaluable background information.

So to my subject heading.  No, Jenny, no to standardised holidays.  At the end of next week I am going to Victoria - holidays here and not there, which is just the way I like it.  It allows some of us parents to take our kids away sometimes without having to fight crowds and holiday tariffs.

Richard:  Hi D Markham!  Is Nimby a kind of shellfish? 


Is Nimby a kind of shellfish?  Yesh.

Richard: Worth waiting for.

water water everywhere....media, education, needs and diversity

Standardised education across the States was something that I too at one time was keen upon. I certainly understand how the defence kids would benefit, and the high gov jobs kids and the high corp kids. I quite like the IB as an alternative as one can use it internationally as well.

Now, as I watch the results of centralisation of power I wonder if perhaps there are advantages in differing views having dominance in differing states. One such advantage would be how very difficult to stuff it up across the entire national board. How very difficult for a particular dogma to dominate across the entire spectrum of differing political spectrums and power groups and backroom round tables.

I used to think sciences and maths were the most important subjects and have disdain for English, art and ancient history. I discovered modern history by accident in high school having suddenly an inspiring teacher in the field who taught it in an interesting manner and actually taught me my first analyst skills that I were to later use in career. I was terribly lucky with good teachers and made it near the top in most subjects for our end of high school exams in the state. Looking at the complexity of what they learn now and the necessity to include post modernist English, I doubt that I could do it now. But now it is not as necessary as a passport to choice of study. Are the state differences a good thing perhaps?

With different curricula and different emphasis in each state one gets a variety of students excelling and this I also feel is good for our nation as a whole. Different talents are required at the top levels for so many different fields. A state that emphasises maths and sciences will encourage more engineers and scientists, history and English may produce our legal teams, free thought and analysis will produce more creative ideas and direction and critique, arts will give us means to enjoy life with local quality expression of what it is to be here now and to contemplate such......and all with those need the very important LIFE skills of how to organise yourself and how to appraise and influence community and government actions, just as this insightful article describes.

But naturally allowing such state biases to continue is not really an ideal way as those who are not fitting the mold of that arrangement for that state suffer.

Hence my reason for liking what we have here, now in my present state, in NSW. Schools with different emphases: language schools, sports schools, performing arts schools and academic selective schools and the under appreciated large comprehensive schools which have such a diverse choice available in both peer groups and subjects.

And in the private system we have almost any religion you choice and elitism at almost any price you choose. As well as sexual segregation options, good for girls it seems by the studies. (I was at a Girl's School, it is fine). I remember being at a certain private high school's presentation day, with minister present, who started with "You are the elite of the elite". Interesting attitude that, from a Liberal Minister.

 I do find the HSC a bit of a silly exam. It puts the kids through an enormous amount of stress when really there are few courses that require very high marks and most of these will end up taking some people who have done other things that show their prowess after HSC year. This is unlike the US system where you cannot study at college if you have not matriculated, period. No TAFE alternative there.

So I like our system in NSW with all the choices. I understand the need for UAI extra tests for some more demanding courses. Perhaps the universities will end up all using the external exam system for uni entry as an addition/replacement.

But if those students have not had life skills training are they to be good professionals for our society? Or just well qualified, materially satisfied tools, locked into the mortgage cycle, afraid of the rocking of boats that dissent threatens.

I certainly think we should learn more about civil accountability and our responsibilities as citoyennes, and the practicalities of how to do that. To understand the need for such we all need a better understanding of history, why a culture advances and then declines, how a culture/nation can lose independence of thought and choice, how a nation can come under control of groups and lose accountability and how one investigates history and questions it, and how one truly can learn from it. It is not hard to get kids interested in such concepts if taught with imagination and great graphics and humour. The boredom and banality that go hand in hand with so many teaching contents and styles is the greatest enemy of our children's future. I would happily retire quite a few and give huge pay rises to those who truly love their vocation and are inspirational to the kids. Most nations treasure their teachers; it is a shame ours have such low standards (easiest profession to get into with dreadful HSC marks, unlike other countries) and allow such a poor attitude to persist amongst so many and fail to acknowledge the other group, the carpe diem teacher, to whom one would gladly entrust one's child's mind. Our nation needs a rethink about teaching and the respect they get and earn. Both categories are dreadfully, as a rule, low. And yes, sometimes I "teach" in primary and high schools and universities so I do see a bit there. And having five currently in the system and in three other country's systems at some time (and read some of the studies looking at the education systems) helps too. Another in a year and a bit.

Some of the articles Margo (now with the new picture, where is your mouth? Are your words now in your hands? Speaking through them? Or just forgot the lippy that day :) has written about democracy and media and how the former can stay healthy with a questioning and demanding and independent and broadly owned latter, are inspirational. I had hoped WD was like that but it seems to have the same limitations.

I guess there are realities and there are realities.

The real thing. “Coke", a brand name, an idealised commercial product with universal acceptance and no controversy, cool, unable to be criticised as associated with the cool, is the superficial answer to the search for the real thing, almost an outrage to use that slogan back then, but did like the music. It all placates the searchers for the real, but is it real, is it what is really sought? Is the painless and easy the answer that is so sweet and easy to drink in such good sexy packaging the real thing?

 I think the real thing is water from an unfettered, unpolluted stream, preferably in the mountains above the cattle line. Trouble is sometimes one has to go so far above that line that one hits a rarefied atmosphere that few can breath easily, it tires one, a rare light an inspiring view, euphorically happy, even confusing and disorientating, and one needs the heavy lowlands to recharge. Just don't drink the water back down there - too many floaties.

Diversity of content, ideas and education can certainly help a group. Darwin would be a hit in history studies. And everyone needs their mountain visit.


National Identity

It's definitely still five in SA, Jenny, though I think it's now optional to spread Year 12 over two years.  Not a bad idea.  I know I learned integral calculus and the Peloponesian Wars, but regurgitated the cramming and have no recall of either.

Agreed on the holidays.  It's bloody ridiculous.  Except for summer its near impossible for kids from different places to cross paths when visiting each others home patches.   This can only enforce a sense of cultural separation.

The "unification" of a hundred years of Federalism would seem as a snail's pace if we get our internet-savvy kids educationally compatible.  Sometimes I wonder if keeping the state-by-state distinctions has been a deliberately cultivated cultural division, another divide-and-conquer tactic.  I'm sure, though, that I'm just being too cynical on the last point.

A crazy system

Richard: I could not agree with you more. With the greater mobility of the population there should be uniform standards and syllabuses. When families move between States their kids should be able to slot in immediately. We must be one of the smallest populations in the world with such a mish mash in our education system.

As for some States having five years and some six years of senior school, well that is really crazy. It means kids in the five year system would start behind the line when mixing it with kids who had virtually completed first year uni maths and the sciences in  their last year of school.  Does SA still only have five years in secondary? And Queensland, is it not on five also?

I guess those rich private schools would prefer six years!

It would be really nice too if the school holidays could be brought into line in all States, and in both private and public schools.  

The size of our system

The NSW education department is one of the largest in the world.  In the US for examply the control is much more local.

Whether this is a good thing I don't know.  It's probably mixed.  One piece of received wisdom is that the curriculum wars in the states are so on-going, and seem to consist mostly of that old pendulum swinging ,is because the local systems are so easily captured by vocal minorities.

Kids Wars On Adult Prime Time?

A Kindie version of Spics and Specs put up by Auntie in the same timeslot as Ten's premiere of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader.. sorry Ten.  Watching all those kidshow presenters not being able to pick "Kookaburra" in "Down Under" showed how off-frequency some of our babysitters are.  It also might have shown a slightly aggressive programming tactic.

(For bigger kids, see if you can spot the Goodies theme in the outro of Baby Elephant walk)

Sorry, I veered. I was going to post on how happy I was tonight that, after a couple of months of sneaking my daughter's radio onto ABC Classic after she fell asleep, tonight she chose it above other options.  It's the sort of thing that makes continually reassessing our educational program so important.  Nine year olds are now mixing dioramas with Powerpoint presentations, fer chrissake!  Confession.. my daughter downloaded her diiorama -fillers.

Great Idea

A friend has just returned from a couple of years of relief teaching in the UK.  There the primary school syllabus is implemented literally simutaneously across the country, I gather.  Not sure why it's necessary at such ages, but it would certainly ensure uniformity of education standards.

I moved from Vic to SA in Year 11, and found it hard going for a while. In some ways it's a bit like moving to an alternate reality.  Had good marks by the end of the year, but it was a longer and harder one than it should have been.  Given that Vic has six years of secondary schooling and SA five, there were bound to be hiccups.

ADF families have been campaigning for national educational uniformity for some time.  It would leave the poor little tackers slightly less perturbed as they're dragged from base to base.

I reckon that if you gave all kids in Australia the same teaching, they might become a little more attuned to each other.  Perhaps that's part of the UK rationale?

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