Tuesday, 9 December 2014
THE OZ 9/12 High scores hide schools’ failure to improve
Sending your children to private school is NOT about better education with two serious exceptions: phonics and the opportunity to try stuff (music, drama, sport etc.) Private education is about paying to ensure your kids (and yourself) have access to a social cohort that both includes "people like us" and excludes "yobbos" (the definition of "yobbo" is relative to the definition of "people like us"). There is nothing wrong with that. We all want our kids to spend their days surrounded by others with values that reinforce our own.
However... from an education point of view things get very tricky. A narrow definition of "education" limits itself to the 3Rs plus lots of facts(history, science etc.). A wide definition will also ADD to that RAVE: religious and values education plus "extras" (sport, music, drama etc.). The problems arise when the RAVE is pushed without bothering with the 3Rs. "Education" then becomes indoctrination.
For those of you who care it is worth reading up on the Trivium and Quadrivium which was the long standing education system (1,000+ years?) where skills were taught first and then analysis later (if deemed possible, necessary or appropriate). Actual content in this system seems to have been refined with a view to inculcating the capacity to decide, analyse, and sort sh*t from shovel...
The author of this article is correct: who would pay a gardener to simply watch the plants and weeds grow? And... of course low socio-economic schools are going to who most improvement. From nothing to something is far more impressive than good to great. Add to that the belief that once a "competency" is achieved you move onto something else. Once you can hop then you can hop. Time to learn to skip and then to jump... much more likely to learn to skip in the private sector...
As a nation, we keep trying to cure the cancer deep inside by applying soft, scented band-aids to a small lesion on the skin. This was, yet again, abundantly proved in Qld. when the Minister for Education recently noted that, after anadditional $40 million has been spent (read: wasted) over the past ten years, school results have not increased but worsened. Australia has a deep-seated 'mental illness.' Few - especially our leaders - understand what that 'illness' is because it has become part of the national 'psyche'; part of what we as a nation determinedly believe to be 'right', when history has long proved our fondly-held, oh-so-feel-good beliefs to be totally wrong. As evidenced by Australia's ever-worsening education outcomes - not to mention drugs, violence, crime and corruption - feel-good beliefs that ignore or dismiss reality invariably result in very feel-bad consequences.
Primary education has abandoned the hard work and discipline of pedagogy and instead grasped at the straw of appearance and appeasement. Appearance, as in anything that makes my school look progressive, inclusive and hip..appeasement, as in, we don't have those problems here, every child is catered for as an individual and we really can contain our small handful of miscreants.
I rarely see children actually taught anymore..you don't believe me?, spend a day in a class and learn..directed teaching is all but replaced by forests of paper handouts that would be better used to construct paper planes.Children require structure and discipline so that a foundation can be established for more independent learning, particularly in the early years where habits or skill deficiencies can set the pattern for life. Sounds really old fashioned, doesn't it.
Yesterday I saw some work that a year one pupil had attempted..writing skills..practiise between two widely spaced blue lines..the teacher wondered why the child's work was all over the place..with nothing to guide the process, that's what you can expect..perhaps the trendy term 'scaffold' might be applied here in the form of some appropriate guiding lines so that a hapless novice can develop an internal memory of what goes where.
The mis-steps of method apply to all subjects pretty well, with the exception of a teacher of French who I witnessed teaching grammar..formal, directed, disciplined and effective..vive la difference!
I think the quality of teachers is to blame for a lot of this. The universities pump them out, then they find life-long employment in the education system. How about testing teachers' achievements and progress too, and if they don't measure up, then reduce the funding of the institution that produced them.
It is of course more difficult to significantly lift results of students with an existing higher score!!
Th conclusion regarding private schools not being better schools than public suggests that the author has rejected his own graphs.
Give me a break!
In my experience many teachers do not have the skills to challenge high achieving students and these students are able to coast through schooling. The biggest factor in motivating high achievers to advance their learning is having other high achievers at the school.
So, public funding of elite private schools is shown to have a lower return in terms of raising education standards i.e. there is a better use for the money. So why persist with public funding of such schools? (Presumably some notion of equity - that all families deserve part of the expenditure.)
Furthermore, an international comparison would show that some other countries essentially only have a public school system and have good educations outcomes. And a more inclusive attitude in societies (rather than, say, kids from rich suburbs schooling together, going to uni, and then dominating law, business etc).
But none of the above excuses any barriers put up by Unions (or anyone else) to improving outcomes in public schools.
We are finally getting around to what is important about schools and schooling. It is not about the number of school halls each school has or that there is a computer for every students. It is about student performance and it is about maximising that performance for each and every student to give each student the opportunity to be the best that they can be. The recognition of this is long overdue and it is time to make the changes which will put this into effect.
Illiteracy breds illiteracy and then illiteracy becomes the norm. Have we reached the point of no return. Fixing this trend will not be easy without a huge about face of the Labor Party and Teacher's Union.
Why isn't this more widely known? Surely when each school announces it's top students it should be made to state all levels of student outcomes?
When you consider the millions splashed around with Gonski and the absurd subjects being taught from grade one (!!!) is it really suprising upwards that so many students are floundering - especially when you consider that those same students are entering Uni to become teachers and then they just continue the teaching circle.
Posted by Geoff Seidner at 10:07 am