Posts Tagged ‘Curriculum’

Education New Year’s Resolutions 2014

January 1, 2014


With resolutions abounding as the new year arrives, I think it’s apt for our education system to undertake some resolutions of its own:

  1. Work Harder to Manage Cyberbullying Issues – Schools seem more interested in covering themselves legally than actually fixing a problem. Because cyberbullying usually happens off premises, the argument has been that it is a parental issue rather than a school issue. This is an insensitive approach. Schools, administrators and teachers must see themselves as crucial stakeholders in dealing with this problem. The welfare of their students rely on a multi-faceted approach.
  2. Stop Changing the Curriculum – In a bid to be seen to be doing something effective to improve student results, politicians continually change the curriculum so that they can boast about how they overhauled an ineffective syllabus.  In the last ten years I have seen 4 changes of curriculum, each of them decidedly more complicated and inferior to the one being replaced. This makes us teachers dizzy, costs the tax payers a fortune and achieves nothing for the student. We must resolve to put a moratorium on any changes to the curriculum. I don’t want even a comma or full stop tampered with for at least a decade.
  3. Respect Teachers’ Time – Even before the school year starts I have to submit Yearly Planners for literacy and numeracy, term planners for literacy numeracy and science, integrated planners covering my overriding topic of inquiry and weekly planners for maths and literacy covering my lesson for the first week. Then I need to continue the weekly planners and term planners throughout the year. These planners are incredibly detailed and onerous. They simply take a disproportionate amount of time. To deliver fun, engaging lessons, I need to spend less time on the paperwork. It is becoming fashionable for teachers to copy/paste their planners from specially made internet subscriptions sites that contain lessons covering the curriculum. Whilst this saves time, the lessons on these sites are often excruciatingly boring for the students. The best way to get teachers to teach in a fresh manner is to keep them fresh by reducing the paperwork.
  4. Make Politicians Accountable by Not Accepting Their Spin – Lazy politicians like to brag about how much money they are pumping into the system or how they have changed the curriculum, when neither is a major determinant in student performance. Politicians should start to focus on the major areas requiring change such as improving teacher training quality, support for new teachers, reducing teacher stress and helping schools achieve better welfare outcomes for their students.  In fairness to the current Federal minister, he has spoken about some of these matters. Let’s hope he is is able to deliver.

Click on the link to read Eight Fundamentals that Every Student Deserves

Click on the link to read 21 Reasons to Become a Teacher

Click on the link to read  25 Amusing Signs You Might Be a 21st Century Teacher

Click on the link to read  20 Questions Teachers Should Be Asking Themselves

Click on the link to read School Official Allegedly told a Teacher to Train her Breasts to not Make Milk at Work

Standardised Testing Meets Spin City

May 15, 2012

A few weeks ago I sought to have an interview with Australia’s Education Minister regarding the upcoming NAPLAN standardised tests. I am still waiting for a reply.

Luckily, I came across his op/ed piece over the weekend, where he tries to allay the fears of the parenting community and make a case for these highly pressured, incredibly unpopular series of tests.

In his piece, he claims that:

Parents and the community should rest assured that the NAPLAN tests are simply a way of measuring how our students and our schools are performing in the three key areas of reading, writing and numeracy. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I assure you Mr. Garrett that parents of 8-years olds subjected to 4 rigorous exams in 3 days understand that these tests represent much more than just a simple way of measuring child progress.

There is nothing in any of the tests that students need to learn above and beyond what is already being taught in the classroom, namely the curriculum.

I am not sure that is true. Whilst my students are expected to write persuasive essays, there is no mention of persuasive writing in the Grade 3 curriculum.

By measuring how our students are performing as they progress through school, we can get a clear national picture, for the first time, of where we need to be directing extra attention and resources.

This is just spin. This implies that these tests exist to help direct the Government in regards to spending and programs. There is no evidence of any Governmental response whether it be financial or a simple change of priorities based on the yearly NAPLAN results. Instead, the outcome of the NAPLAN is designed to expose failing schools, inept teachers and anything and everything that can divert attention from a Government good at measuring performance but poor at performing themselves.

It needs to be made clear to schools and teachers that excessive test practising ahead of NAPLAN is unnecessary. While it helps to be familiar with the structure of the tests, carrying out endless practices should not be encouraged. NAPLAN matters, but it is not the be all and end all.

Unnecessary to whom? If you and your staff were to be tested on the performance of your portfolio wouldn’t you take the time to prepare? When a class gets appraised, so does the teacher. Are we meant to sit back and watch 8-years old kids sit for their first formal exams without preparing them for the kinds of questions and scenarios they are likely to encounter?

Mr. Garett, your opinion piece tries to win over parents, yet it completely deviates from the very issue that parents are most concerned about. Parents do not like seeing their young children exposed to so much pressure. They don’t like to see their children who may currently enjoy learning, subjected to such a negative learning experience.

Today, one of my students was so frightened by the prospect of these exams that he was reluctant to get in the car. We are talking about a child that loves learning.

I have no problem with High School children being tested. But 3rd Graders? Is it really worth it?


Smartboards Must Become More than Just Classroom Decoration

April 24, 2012

As a classroom teacher, I see new parents taking guided tours of our school all the time. Nowadays parents find it particularly important to sign up to a school while their child is still a newborn. This means that schools are becoming inundated with requests from new parents for guided tours.

During these tours parents openly show an appreciation for the Smartboards that adorn the classrooms.

“So there’s a Smartboard in every single classroom?” they ask in amazement.

As impressive as Smartboards look, in itself they haven’t revolutionised teaching. The challengef or us is to get the technology to compliment our teaching rather than become the focus. Similarly, it is also essential that this technology doesn’t become a mere piece of decoration that manages to impress parents without actually being used for any real educational benefit:

A disruptive technology is one that radically alters an existing market – the iPod displacing the Walkman, for example, or tablets eating into sales of PCs. In the same way, new technologies have the potential to disrupt the education system, bringing about major changes in the way pupils learn and challenging the way schools and colleges are run.

… everyone seems to agree that, as exciting as new technologies are, they should not be seen as a panacea for all ills, or a short cut to more effective teaching. “We’ve seen a lot of whiteboards go into schools, and that’s good because you can have more interactive things on the screen,” says Mills. “But it doesn’t necessarily shift the paradigm of a teacher talking to kids. If done badly, all that investment can just reinforce a model of teaching that isn’t putting the tools in the hands of children.”

Teachers will need more support and resources to embrace the digital classroom idea. “When people spend so much money on the hardware and software, the advice would be you need to spend at least the same amount of money on staff training and development,” says Doug Belshaw, a researcher at JISC infoNet, which provides resources promoting good practice and innovation within the education sector, and co-kickstarter of the Purpos/ed Community Interest Company. “Otherwise you’re never going to get any effectiveness from it.”

Of course, many teachers already know the obvious: that new technologies have the potential to be a disruptive force of the good kind, breaking down barriers between schools and the wider world, the timetable and more flexible forms of learning, pupil ability and the requirements of the curriculum. They can empower children and better prepare them for life in our fast-paced online world. But we are yet to make the leap from pockets of innovation to a mainstream embrace of the digital classroom within our schools.

The Education Version of “Moneyball”

December 23, 2011

The continued debate between private and public school funding tires me out. I am a big believer of a well-funded (i.e. wisely funded) public school sector as well as a thriving private school sector. There is no reason why parents can’t be given choice and why supporting private schools must come at the expense of quality public education.

This is where the “Moneyball” analogy fits in.

Moneyball is the true story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. Oakland is severly restricted due to the lowest salary constraints in baseball. Winning means beating teams with much better infrastructure and player payment capacities. Billy is presented with the unenviable task of finding a winning team with the miniscule budget offered. Together with a Harvard economics major, a system is devised that uses statistical data to analyse and value players they pick for the team.

Public schools need to take the same approach. Just like the big baseball teams of the time, plenty of money is spent on public schools, but much of it is wasted money. I look at education in a very traditional way. Whilst it is ideal to have the best sporting fields, technologies and building designs, none of these ingredients has been proven to be essential for teaching and learning the curriculum. The school across the road may be able to give each child their own i-Pad, but that shouldn’t explain a marked difference in maths, science or english results. A teacher should be able to deliver on the curriculum with or without such devices.

Whilst many get worked up when Governments subsidise private schools, there is a good reason why they do it.

1. It takes billions off the budget bottom line. This saves Governments money, resulting in reduced taxes and smaller class sizes in public schools.

2. It allows private schools to lower their fees. This is crucial for parents who are by no means wealthy, but are prepared to scrimp and save (and sometimes take on multiple jobs and a second mortgage) to get their children into private schools. These people should be commended. They work long hours, weekends, give up overseas travel and big screen TV’s, just to give their kids the best education possible. Government subsidies allow that to happen.

In Australia, the Government gives $13,000 to every public school per student. Private schools get $5,000. Factor in to the equation that many private schools are not elite schools with truck loads of money and resources (I work in such a private school, where I earn considerably less than a public school teacher), and you realise that the subsidy shouldn’t detract from a thriving public education system.

By constantly drawing attention to private schools, we risk bringing the private school system down to the public level. What we should be doing instead is trying to get the public school system improved to the level where it gives its private school equivalent a run for its money. That way, you have a private school that sets the bar for top quality education and a public school system that is structured to be able to go toe-to-toe with them based on prudent spending, good decision-making and a workforce of supported and fairly paid teachers.

Cramming the Curriculum With Nonsense

August 20, 2011

I’m sick of losing valuable curriculum time for the purposes of teaching yet another program or peddling yet another campaign.  Whilst I believe that women should be able to breastfeed whenever and wherever they choose to, I don’t see why that message has to interfere with a literacy or maths lesson:

TEENAGERS may be taught in school that it is OK to breastfeed in public.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association wants future generations of mums and dads to view public breastfeeding as acceptable as seeing breasts on TV, in movies and in advertising.

Melbourne TV presenter Andi Lew is joining the awareness campaign, addressing a group of female students at Lalor Secondary College during an ABA presentation this week.

The ABA said research had shown exposure to breastfeeding at an early age positively influenced attitudes later in life.

“The evidence is accumulating that breastfeeding needs to be promoted in schools,” ABA spokeswoman Karen Ingram said yesterday.

“Despite every national and international health authority recommending exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, the latest research suggests that the mums and dads of the future don’t fully grasp the importance of breastfeeding.

Please stop taking the workload of teachers for granted by making them continually stop what they are doing in the name of yet another campaign?  Our primary job is to teach literacy, numeracy and science, please let us leave the breastfeeding advice to parents and doctors?

“They are unlikely to breastfeed in public because they feel it’s embarrassing.

The Education Version of Groundhog Day

January 14, 2011

In the classic 1993 Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, Murray was forced to relive the same day over and over again until he learnt from his mistakes.  Whilst only a light-hearted comedy on the surface, Groundhog Day was a timely reminder that mistakes and there consequences are repeated over and over again until they are learnt from.

Every time the curriculum changes I think of Groundhog Day.  I’ve only been a teacher for a short time, yet already I have seen the curriculum change 3 times.  First it was the CSF, then it became the CSF 2, followed soon after by VELS. And the curriculum is about to change yet again!

Why do they do it to us?  Just when you get used to one curriculum, they change it from another.

The cynic in me says the Government is bereft of ideas.  They know that education outcomes are underwhelming, that there isn’t much satisfaction in the quality of schools and performance indicators are not painting a rosy picture.  Yet, they don’t have a clue what to do about it.  They neither have the money, vision or gumption to make any real change, so they go for the obvious alternative – perceived change.

When asked to reflect on their achievements in Education, the Government will proudly point to overhauling the curriculum.  In Australia’s case, they will triumphantly declare that by introducing a national curriculum, they have been able to do what previous administrations couldn’t.

But they will know the truth all along – you can’t change the fortunes of a countries academic performance by altering and renaming a curriculum.  In fact, from my experience you can’t expect any change at all.

Even if my cynical take is wrong, and there is some good intention behind this new curriculum, it wasn’t evident in the released draft, which like its predecessors, didn’t seem to be adding anything of substance.  A bit more grammar, a deeper focus on handwriting and a greater emphasis on history sounds good.  But when it comes down to it, it is just like my boss said both this time and last time, “Don’t worry. It is going to be very similar to our current curriculum.”

From reports the states don’t want their current curriculums meddled with. Critics like Chris Berg from the Sydney Morning Herald have slammed the draft curriculum:

The plan was to have the curriculum rolled out in the 2011 school year, but only the ACT will meet that deadline.

New South Wales and Western Australia have decided to delay the curriculum to 2013. The Victorian government announced recently it would do the same. But there are problems with what’s in the curriculum too. //

Take, for example, the history syllabus. After a full quota of compulsory schooling, Australian students will be none the wiser about the origins and central tenets of liberalism: the basics of individual rights, representative democracy and the market economy, and the importance of civil society.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are the absolute fundamentals of Western civilisation. And they are missing from the national curriculum.

One need look no further than how the curriculum purports to teach ”struggles for freedom and rights”, a ”depth study” for year 10 students.

The struggle for liberty against tyranny is one of the most important themes of the history of the past 500 years. From the English Civil War to the American and French revolutions, the proclamation of the rights of individuals has given us a rich inheritance of liberalism and civil liberties. That, at least, is how you’d think it would be taught.

But according to the national curriculum, the struggle for individual liberty started in 1945. Because that’s when the United Nations was founded.

To hinge the next generation’s understanding of individual rights on such a discredited institution is inexcusable. And it says a lot about the ideology of the curriculum’s compilers: as if individual rights were given to us by bureaucrats devising international treaties in committee.

At the end of the day, all we are really left with is a bad case of Groundhog Day.  The results wont change, yet the same mistakes are being made over and over and over again …

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