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FUTURES

Saturday, November 6th, 2021

As humanity ends the second decade of the twenty-first century AD there is active consideration in some quarters of what the world will be like after the pandemic, the Covid-19 infection which has brought many countries to a near halt. Consideration of “futures” has been pursued for many years. Unfortunately, that seems to remain no more than an academic pursuit so far as many governments are concerned.

An important element of the exploration of the future is the nature of work and of jobs. That was a topic pursued in 2015 by the Royal Society of New South Wales and “learned” academies concerned with science, technology, humanities and the social sciences in the first of the forums now held at Government House in Sydney toward the end of every year.

The forums invite people notably interested in a particular topic to speak about their ideas. In 2021 the topic is the digital age.

The principal speaker at the 2015 forum on the future of work was the prominent scientist and technologist Dr Alan Finkel. He noted the enormous challenges which would face Australia in future decades.

The challenges addressed in the 2015 forum have only increased in the last six years. Therefore what was said six years ago remains relevant today.

I have added here the text of a paper submitted to the Journal of the Royal Society for its issue concerned with the 2015 forum on work.

This is the abstract.

The future of jobs and work in Australia is reviewed against the background of recent economic and other policies in Australia in the last several decades. The impact of technology is only one of the issues to be addressed. Some of the assumptions as to what factors contribute to prosperity and community wellbeing are explored. The role of government and behaviour of business is considered. Attention is drawn to some recent reports on jobs and the future in Australia and the world and some suggestions offered as to actions that should be taken in Australia to achieve outcomes that benefit all.

PISA 2018 and the Future of Australian Education

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

The results of the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment or PISA were announced in late 2019. The responses to the results raise issues about Australian education policy and the factors considered most significant. In a summary statement and a set of four essays together with supporting notes, I examine the contrasts between the approach which governments in particular have taken over the last 40 or so years and the issues which really are most important.

Australian education policy focuses on school. What is actually important is the first 4 to 7 years.

Policy concerns standardised testing. That is summative and assumes the primary influence is the teacher and the school class. In fact, it is formative evaluation by the teacher and attention to each child and their progress which makes the greatest contribution. The most important factors are the family, the growing environment and peers.

Most of the discussions in policy concern financial resources. There is general agreement that what is important is how the resources are deployed.

Increasingly, government funding has privileged independent schools and parent choice, sometimes justified as a democratic right. In fact students from independent schools achieve no better results than those from public schools, fuinding of which has been largely left to the states resulting in underfunding of public schools and excessive funding of independent schools.

The most important factors influencing eventual learning outcomes are in the home and the intellectual and physical environment in which the child grows. Issues such as early childhood support and the contribution especially of the mother, social and economic factors such as the work environment of the father, and mother, and opportunities for a diversity of experiences supporting the cognitive growth of the child are critical.

At school the teacher makes an important contribution but the dynamics of the school as an organisation and the role of the principal as learning leader, as well as support for the professional growth of teachers, are vital.

Overall there is inadequate attention to these issues, inadequate recognition of trends, prejudices derived from neoclassical economics and choice theory and a failure to understand that the achievement of 18 year old students, who are tested by PISA, are the accumulated experiences of 18 years and not mainly the influence of school teachers in the previous 2 or three years! Despite PISA reports over 18 years pointing out the negative consequences of inequality in resources, Australian policy, most especially in the last few years, has increased the inequality.

I address the major issues in a summary statement to which the five separate essays, each of which are supported by short notes on related subjects, are linked.

Two shorter essays are contemplated for the near future dealing with learning from the experience of others, the analogue of which in the natural world is convergent evolution, and secondly the folly of efficiency and the analogue of redundancy, both genetic and ecological.

Finally, I intend to summarise some issues about the lessons that First Nations people have given us to learn from their 65,000 years of occupation of Australia. They have been ignored through a combination of arrogance and ignorance which largely continues to this day.

The unfortunate characteristics of contemporary Australia, which Donald Horne long ago pointed to in The Lucky Country, have been largely ignored.

Education in Australia 1973 to 2019

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Over the last 15 or so years I have posted on this website many essays about education, especially in Australia including as it concerns government policies. In four essays posted in the last few days I have returned to this topic and summarized two of the most important inquiries of the last several years and the responses to them, both by researchers and academics on the one hand and commentators on the other and the response of government.

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See related articles below

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The first inquiry on the funding of schools has been the subject of a large volume of commentary and argument and some of the recommendations from it have been incorporated in legislation. The second inquiry on teaching has attracted far less commentary

A consistent theme has been that the government response has been inadequate to the purpose whilst the research relevant to the inquiries has been increasingly of high quality: along with developments in other countries, the research has largely been ignored by government.

The first essay related to this post summarises developments from 1996 and the other three concern the two reports by the panels chaired by distinguished business man David Gonski AC.

Gonski, in a speech shortly after the publication of the first report commented on his experience visiting and talking with the people who were consulted in the preparation of the report. His comments contrast very strongly with the general tenor of the commentary in the public sphere, the assertions about teacher quality, union and government bureaucracy involvement.

It would be entirely appropriate for a lot less notice to be taken of much of the commentary in favour of much more attention to the wisdom and knowledge of those who have, through research and experience in the industry, contributed so much to what we now understand. And of course, most of all to the best understandings possible of what would bring the greatest gain to those who should benefit.

One of the most important factors contributing to educational achievement is equity, extra support for those having difficulty for whatever reason from socioeconomic background and health through disability of various kinds. IN the 1970s and the later 2000s under Labor governments, inquiries addressed this issue so far as school education was concerned. However, as we near the close of the second decade of the 2000s more funding is allocated to the more advantaged than ever before. Any attempt to reverse this will be an almost monumental task as those benefitting push back.

There is a parallel with the response to attempts to remove provisions which benefit the advantaged in superannuation, taxation and investment. Support for investment in early childhood has hardly advanced in 50 years, certainly not to the level found in several other countries, in Europe especially.

Australia has almost the most inequitable school education funding of any OECD country. Australia lags comparable OECD countries in terms of participation of younger children in early learning, especially of three-year-olds. The effect is greatest amongst lower socioeconomic status families.

Funding for schools, public and independent schools including Catholic schools, comes from both the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments. State governments have for the most part reduced their funding though the Commonwealth has maintained they should take up the balance of funding for public schools. Several states claim to have made progress. Victoria promotes itself as the “Education State”; New South Wales has claimed benefits from application of the funding flowing from the agreements with the Gillard government as part of the National Plan.

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Whilst Australia ranks high as a place to live, it ranks low in areas like innovation and funding of scientific research. In business the level of oligopoly is high, one commentator reporting that Australia is referred to as “Treasure Island”. A disturbing example of how conservatism has affected the response to major challenges can be found in availability of digital communication, climate change and energy prices.

Australia is second in the world in delivery of online services, according to a UN survey. But in respect of internet speed Australia ranks 55th in the world.

Contribution to carbon emissions per capita is amongst the highest in the world.

It is true that there have been 27 years of annual economic growth (due principally to action taken by the Rudd government in response to the Global Financial Crisis) and Australia is the second most wealthy nation, after Switzerland, in terms of median wealth per person. In terms of GDP Australia ranks 13; however, GDP is increasingly recognised as an unsatisfactory indicator of actual wellbeing.

Much of the wealth is due to booming house prices: the huge household debt is overlooked. Much of Australia’s wealth is due to exports of resources and not to value created within the country! Comparisons with countries like South Korea and Vietnam, countries overrun by armed conflict in the last 70 years, as well as Scandinavian countries, are revealing!

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These essays review school education and related issues since 1970 and especially since 1996.

Several particularly important statements are below. Following those I list the previous essays which are most relevant to the present discussions.

The following three statements are amongst the most important pronouncements on education policy of the last 50 years. They are from the second report of the panel chaired by David Gonski, entitled “Through Growth to Achievement”, a panel comprising distinguished educators and others, a report drawing on extensive submissions and consultations and on some of the most important relevant research.

“Australia has a strong educational heritage and committed educators. Since 2000, however, academic performance has declined when compared to other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, suggesting that Australian students and schools are not improving at the same rate and are falling short of achieving the full learning potential of which they are capable. As a nation, we need to act now to raise our aspirations and make a renewed effort to improve school education outcomes.

“As a nation, we need to act now to raise our aspirations and make a renewed effort to improve school education outcomes…”

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Enabling all Australian students to realise their full learning potential, and re-establishing Australia’s education system as world-leading, is an ambitious but achievable goal, which requires a commitment to sustained, long-term reform.

The strategy set out in this report, and articulated in the 23 recommendations, will transform Australian school education.

The Review Panel recognises that the scale of these reforms is ambitious, particularly given Australia’s federated education model. The challenges, however, cannot become an excuse for inaction. The evidence is clear; the reforms embedded in the strategy are necessary to achieve educational excellence in Australian schooling.

Taken together, and implemented in a sustained way, these reforms will reverse the decline in student outcomes in recent decades, and prepare current and future generations of school students to succeed in life and 21st century careers…

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“Australia needs to review and change its model for school education. Like many countries, Australia still has an industrial model of school education that reflects a 20th century aspiration to deliver mass education to all children. This model is focused on trying to ensure that millions of students attain specified learning outcomes for their grade and age before moving them in lock-step to the next year of schooling. It is not designed to differentiate learning or stretch all students to ensure they achieve maximum learning growth every year, nor does it incentivise schools to innovate and continuously improve.

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“Although this problem is widely recognised by teachers and educators, schools’ attempts to address the issue are hampered by curriculum delivery, assessment, work practices and the structural environments in which they operate.

“The constraints include inflexibility in curriculum delivery, reporting and assessment regimes, and tools focussed on periodic judgements of performance, rather than continuous diagnosis of a student’s learning needs and progress. This is compounded by a lack of research-based evidence on what works best in education, the absence of classroom applications readily available for use by teachers, multiple calls on the time of teachers and school leaders, and a lack of support for school principals to develop their professional autonomy and prioritise instructional leadership.”

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The following statement is from a review of “Through Growth to Achievement”

“In a world where education defines opportunity, schooling must support every one of Australia’s 3.8 million school students to realise their full learning potential and achieve educational excellence.

“Australian students should receive a world-class school education, tailored to individual learning needs, and relevant to a fast-changing world. They should be challenged and supported to progress and excel in learning in every year of school, appropriate to each student’s starting point and capabilities.

“Schooling should enrich students’ lives, leaving them inspired to pursue new ideas and set ambitious goals throughout life.”

Chris Bonnor, “Gonski’s second coming”, in John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations 1 May 2018

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However, the following statements arguably have more bearing on policy than anything in either of the Gonski reports.

Developments in fake news and fake reality, facilitated by social media, artificial intelligence and complex algorithms, together with conditional ethics, have made the pursuit of rational decisions based on reviewed and agreed evidence very difficult. The proposition that whilst people are entitled to their own views but not to their own facts is not everywhere accepted, as evidence is counteracted merely by assertions of the opposite. We are possibly moving to the margin of the enlightenment, overturning some 400 years of the development of knowledge and understanding.

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It is a tragedy that government continues to see everything through the lens of funding, especially costs. Progress is not anywhere principally linked to money. It emerges from how people work together and how decisions get made, on innovation and creativity, on clear, agreed and supported understanding of what the intention of action is and who is supposed to benefit.

Government’s focus on money does no more than exit the stage by trying to spend as little as possible so that the citizenry and the corporate sector can pay as little in taxes as possible. It is based on the proposition that government creates very little value indeed and that its activities hinder other parts of the economy in creating value. Unfortunately, much of media commentary goes along with this together with an effort to identify potential conflict between players.

The pursuit of small government is an inevitable consequence and has left the community to be governed by people often lacking the necessary knowledge and skills.

The result is the pursuit of populism and a search for someone to blame.

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The following statement, an extract from a response to a proposed health policy initiative by Jennifer Doggett, “Labor’s big-ticket risk-minimisation strategy” (Inside Story 15 February 2019) is pertinent:

Progress … is so slow not because of a lack of mechanisms but because of fundamental differences in the interests of the two levels of government. They have different constituencies, political roles and constitutional responsibilities, and a new federally funded and run health commission won’t change that.

“The real problem is not a lack of independent … policy advice. Governments and oppositions have access to numerous sources, both within the public sector (not only from relevant departments but also through processes such as Productivity Commission inquiries) and outside it … The problem is that this advice is routinely ignored.”

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One of the most important statements about school education is from a study of a school in San Francisco whose 950 students with passports from more than 40 different countries. Despite its test scores putting it at one of the lowest-performing schools in the nation, 84 per cent of its students were accepted to college.

Diane Ravitch, education historian and former administrator wrote in the New York Review of Books March 24 2016, “What [Kristina] Rizga [author of “Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph” (Nation Books)] learned is worth sharing. For one, she discovered that “there are too many politicians, powerful bureaucrats, management and business experts, economists, and philanthropists making decisions about the best solutions for schools.”

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In the last few months,

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Continue to the four essays:   

Related articles

These are among the earlier essays most relevant to the present series of four essays

School Leadership and School Autonomy: The outcome of any change in the management structure of schools must be improvement of student outcomes. That school principals might become responsible for budgets and staffing does little more than turn them into glorified administrators. Much of the financial and staffing area is no more than instrumental.

Tests, League Tables and Accountability: A Democratic Right to Know?: … the demand for accountability and transparency, is common. So is the demand for quantitative data to achieve accountability. This is true of transport, hospitals, government services and activities generally. That quantitative data are not always indicators of the most critical aspects of the actions and performance of an enterprise, any more than they are of a person, is ignored in this. There is also the implicit assumption that the people responsible for the enterprise’s activities cannot be trusted.

Public or Private: Marketisation, Parental Choice and Competition: … average educational achievement levels are significantly influenced by the performance of those children who come from less advantaged backgrounds. The debate about the “education gap” is a debate about the distribution of resources within society. Establishing independent schools does not address the education gap in any way. Surveys of achievement internationally show no gain from independent schools when the data is controlled for student’s socio-economic background.

Teaching and School Performance: Amongst recent studies those about Finland are particularly interesting to many. Pasi Sahlberg lists three fallacies of teacher effectiveness common in the US:

  1. teachers work mostly independently, in fact they mostly work in teams
  2. the teacher is the single most important factor in improving quality education, in fact this ignores family background and peer influences
  3. a succession of great teachers in a row would lead to very significant educational improvement of students, arguably judging capability of teachers at recruitment is difficult and superior competence takes time to develop.

The School Education Bunfight or how Populism, Ideology and Political Cowardice distorts Policy: a link is asserted between educational attainment as measured by test scores and economic growth as if all that is needed is to improve educational achievement. The social determinants of education are ignored.

 

Our Common Future

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

I have added to the pages of this site the text of an introduction which I gave by invitation to a forum on Museum Futures held by Museums Australia 9 years ago.

I do so because of my increasing despair over what is happening in cultural policy and indeed policy more generally in Australia at this time, August 2017. The seeming failure to meaningfully address so many issues from climate change and energy policy to marriage equality, from recognition of the primacy of Indigenous Peoples in their quest to be heard and achieve genuine self-determination, as set out in “The Statement from the Heart” issued after the meetings in Uluru at the end of May, the failure to address issues of inequality, homelessness as well as health and education and so much more, is of the greatest concern.

On ABC RN Breakfast 10 August 2017, Dr Anne Summers spoke of her upcoming Kenneth Myer address at the National Library of Australia.

Dr Summers, journalist and feminist urges “a full reboot” of Australia in the 21st century.

She will argue Australia is no longer equipped to deal with the challenges of the future: “our tendency to elect governments based on slogans rather than policies has left us desperately in need of economic, social, emotional and even spiritual reconstruction.”

In respect of museums the approach has in many cases been worse than dismal, driven by a seeming passion for market economics and small government, policies which have manifestly failed. At the National level, museums and libraries have had years of efficiency dividends applied which have downsized staff and limited programs and most especially what should be a major focus on creativity and innovation. In New South Wales museums policy means trying to move to the inner western suburb of Parramatta a major institution, the Powerhouse Museum, from its site in Ultimo near Darling Harbour, which features the National Maritime Museum and just nearby the ever expanding University of Technology (UTS).

The Executive of the Council of Museums Australia, the organisation established in 1993 to represent museums and museum people, sought in the last couple of years to address ongoing concerns about the level of representation of both arts museums and other museums by changing its name to MuseumsGalleries Australia. Objections to the lack of consultation on the proposal led to the abandonment at the annual meetings in May 2017 in Brisbane, of a constitutional change to give effect to the name change.

The way museum policy, and cultural policy generally, in Australia is being developed needs, as Anne Summers has said, a reboot.

Addressing the future is never just a matter of changing a few words or titles: that is as useful as reorganising the structure and getting a new logo. Nor is it simply a matter of satisfying those who seem to have most influence by “papering over” genuine concerns which significantly affect the way people live their lives by drawing upon a few well-known phrases appealing to fear of change, fear of difference, fear of uncertainty and fear of ideas.

A future of security, of peace, based on tolerance and respect and the opportunity for all to achieve their potential, set out so well by Nobel prizewinning economist Amartya Sen and many others, is being sidelined by nothing more than a wish by those with power and influence to enrich themselves. It represents a massive failure of accountability.

The 2009 report of the UN Development Program pointed to the fact that major advances in health and education had come not from increasing wealth but from the cross-border transfer of ideas. Wealth in not unimportant – though how it is defined and measured is a matter of great importance – but it is not enough. In Australia at this time, the importance of ideas is subservient to the continued pursuit of failed dogma.

Summers decries the deployment of slogans by our political leaders. Amongst the most dangerous is the accusation that a strong leader does not change his mind!

Our Common Future is at risk.

Note: The frequently quoted statement about changing one’s mind when the facts change is usually attributed to John Maynard Keynes. The evidence seems to be that it was actually 1970 Nobel prizewinner Paul Samuelson.

 

 

Education Reform is going Where?

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

As has been pointed out in several earlier posts and essays on this website, education policy in the last 40 or so years, in a number of western countries though not to the same extent in much of Europe and Asia, has increasingly focused on the school years, emphasised parent choice as to the school the child attends, demands accountability in the form of standardised tests on a few core subjects, tends, in a few countries, to favour independent schools rather than public or government schools and seeks to hold teachers to account for the achievement of the students.

The high quality research on the other hand reveals early childhood as critical in terms of brain development and cognitive gain and recognises socioeconomic status of the family to play a major role in the early years which follows through to later experience. The reason is to be found in the very different advantage enjoyed by high socio-economic level families, the greater variety of experiences and much higher level of support of the growing child. Just like health, as Boyer lecturer Michael Marmot so lucidly explains.

As to school, substantial research shows that, by controlling for socioeconomic background, independent schools return no greater student performance than do public schools. It is the value added and the fact that school is by no means the only influence: there are also peers and out of school informal learning experiences. Teacher competence is vital, greatest successes being achieved when entry standards for teachers are high, teaching is recognised as important, teachers trusted and school leadership focuses on supporting the role of teachers in learning and encourages cooperation, preferably among schools, not just within each one.

It is not schools that make the difference but teachers. Competition among schools hinders cooperation which New Zealand found in its 1990 reforms. And parents don’t choose schools only on the basis of academic performance: the background of other students enrolled, something more amenable to parental investigation than learning achievement relative to that at other schools, may be very important. So what is the point?

In a number of countries debate focuses nearly exclusively on the release of results from standardised tests and media commentary attends hardly at all to agreed understandings from research as to what makes a difference: there is an obsession with school average scores and rank, and in international tests with country rank and trend across test years of the individual country. In the US, the UK and Australia this is especially so.

Important results of tests were released in the last two months of 2016 and debate followed the usual course. But extremely important research and commentary also appeared: the research was not of much interest to media or politicians in Australia. Social determinants of education were not exactly ignored in Australia but the strong position of non-government schools achieved very much as a result of increased funding by the Australian government from the time of the Howard government made consideration of inequality much less of an issue than it should be: some commentators ignored or denied the importance of such issues.

Inequality was a major feature of the very important report by the Panel chaired by David Gonski: the adoption of some of the recommendations led to legislation envisaging increased funding to address school need, something also addressed 40 years earlier by the Whitlam government. The government of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull refuse to recognise the importance of this and continually talk of substantially increased expenditure on schools that their government has provided, an increase which is illusory, and of course, the importance of quality teaching. Meaning what, exactly?

The latest national tests administered as part of the NAPLAN program in December produced the usual flurry. The fact is the program’s value is suspect and there is no evidence it has contributed to improved ahcviement, a point made already! Disability of various kinds, remoteness and indigeneity are revealed as negative contributors. One does not need standardised tests to reveal that.

Tests are summative and not accompanied by any real analysis of contributory factors. Minister Simon Birmingham, like his predecessor Christopher Pyne, intends to bring the tests on line and favours introducing the test to an even earlier school year than at present. Some people ridiculously obsessed with accountability in the name of finding out which students need special help, as if teachers do not know that already, want tests introduced to preschool kids. Creativity anyone? Is play irrelevant? Important research on formative evaluation, to which student self-assessment makes a vital contribution, is ignored in the government’s approach.

Some of the commentary in the context of the NAPLAN talkfest addressed the need to trust teachers and others asserted the Minister was wrong in his intention to not fund the reforms resulting from the Gonski Panel. Presumably the Coalition would have agreed. So it was interesting to find that Minister Birmingham raised the fact that a number of schools – specifically a large number of independent ones – were overfunded and presumably should lose money through redistribution. Researchers were able to identify the overfunding and its location. Next?

It is hard to go past the most recent claims by Senator Simon Birmingham’s recent claims about funding and achievement as an indication of the way in which the government continues to distort claims about school education. Birmingham continually claims huge increases in funding by government and points to poor results from the funding.

A recent “Education Brief” from Trevor Cobbold of Save Our Schools addresses the claim by the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, that a 50 per cent increase in Federal funding of schools since 2003 failed to improve student achievement is highly misleading in several ways. Cobbold’s research “Birmingham is Wrong Again on School Funding and Outcomes” of Sunday January 22, 2017 shows that “the increase in total government funding (from Commonwealth and state/territory sources) per student, adjusted for inflation, for the nine years from 2004-05 to 2013-14 was only 4.5 per cent”. Most of the increase in total funding per student favoured private schools (9.8 per cent) who enrol only a small proportion of disadvantaged students; for public schools it was only 3.3 per cent.”

Cobbold also pointed out that Minister Birmingham ignored “significant improvements in Year 12 outcomes that are in sharp contrast to the PISA results. The average retention rate to Year 12, the Year 12 completion rate, the proportion of students achieving an ATAR score of 50 or more, and the proportion of young adults with Year 12 or equivalent vocational qualification have all increased significantly over the past 10-15 years”.

Last, Cobbold again pointed out that the Minister ignored the many academic studies, “including five in the past year”, which showed that increased funding does improve school outcomes, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The shortfalls of NAPLAN are to a large extent offset in the OECD program PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) because its reports are not just lists of scores but includes substantial analysis of contributory factors, a fact generally ignored in commentary. PISA results largely confirm and amplify other research so when some in the US particularly seek to downplay the results because of behaviours in some countries such as intense after school coaching or because, non-random sampling to game the system – really? – it isn’t much of a contribution. Much of the analysis is ignored in a lot of the commentary though not by researchers, or the conclusions even contradicted.

Years ago, a leader of the ALP Opposition proposed that independent schools had too much money and should reallocate some of it to government schools. He was roundly condemned. Prime Minister Julia Gillard tried to avoid this outcome by having as one of the terms of reference for the Gonski Inquiry, which was to focus on school funding only, that no school would lose funds as a result of any reforms. The renewed debate forgot that small point and didn’t got to the fact that the Gillard Government in legislating recommendations from the Gonski Panel did not provide for an independent body to establish and monitor school need. Now the issue has resurfaced. Is inequality being kept to the fore? Problems do exist with the measure of socioeconomic background of the students at each school and that is not being addressed either.

There is a view that support for almost any approach to school education can be found in the PISA results; moreover, last year’s results are not the product of last year’s teaching but of the previous 10 years, based probably on policy formulated 10 years before that.

Continue to The School Education Bunfight or how Populism, Ideology and Political Cowardice distorts Policy

Two major contributions appeared but received not much attention. Both are among the most important of recent years. Distinguished researcher John Hattie of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education presented a special lecture reviewing the current situation, emphasising many of the most important features of successful schooling and teaching and learning and criticising some of the abject failures of the present system. Hattie’s research involves substantial meta-analysis. He called for a rebooting of school education and also lamented the presently inadequate attention to teacher training, explained the importance of classroom feedback to the teacher and the tragic neglect of early childhood.

A major study at the Mitchell Institute’s Centre for International Research on Education Systems by Professor Stephen Lamb and colleagues gathered data from many different sources to review educational opportunity, who succeeds and who misses out at important stages of life from early childhood through to the early years of adulthood after emergence from the formal education system. Very important commentary is contributed about the factors contributing to why some win and others loose.

Continue to the associated essay Educational Opportunity and Education Reform

One of the major areas of real concern is the achievement level in science and mathematics and related subjects. Substantial research in this area elucidates what is likely to lead to superior achievement through genuine engagement of students, schools working with students and portrayal of the scientific enterprise as conducted by real people struggling to understand, not a litany of facts. There are many examples of exciting success though they don’t necessarily end up on the front pages or Minister’s speeches, even when they are Prime Minister’s prizes. A recent post by Professor Russell Tytler of Deakin University merits attention.

Continue to Improving Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)