Posts Tagged ‘Government’

Pitting Private vs Public Schools is Bad for Education

February 22, 2012

The fallout of the Gonski Report into educational spending has resulted in the typically predictable bashing of private schools. There is a misguided notion that by funding private schools, Governments are robbing the needs of struggling public schools.

This is simply not the case.

I stand by my remarks from last year:

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 severely 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.

Let’s Teach 4-Year Olds How To Drive

December 20, 2011

Before you disagree with my proposal let me explain the rationale. At some point people need to know how to drive. We all want capable drivers on our roads, so what better time to teach them the intricacies of driving than when they are young.


Of course not.

Not only are 4-year olds too young to drive but they are also too young to learn other important life skills such as cyber safety. Why the Government expects kinder teachers to educate their young pupils on proper use of internet and the dangers of purchasing goods online beats me.

KINDERGARTENS will be urged to teach cyber safety to four-year-olds amid fears they could fall prey to online predators and bullies.

The Gillard Government will write to state education heads to encourage the take-up of cyber safety programs that teach children not to be mean online and keep their private information to themselves.

It comes amid revelations Victorian primary school children are “sexting” their friends and posting hate messages about their teachers on social networking sites.

A parliamentary committee report earlier this year recommended the Government consider the feasibility of helping deliver programs in preschools and kindergartens.

The Government yesterday accepted the recommendation in principle, but was waiting for a paper on cyber issues to be released in mid-2012 to give a detailed answer.

 In the meantime, it will encourage use of Australian Communication and Media Authority programs, including Cybersmart for Young Kids.

It features a bottlenose dolphin called Hector Protector and his friends teaching young children to keep “special information” private and tell mum or dad if they see anything scary or upsetting online.

It also encourages children to share passwords with their parents and to “be nice” to others.

And parents can download a “safety button” that children can click on to cover up anything upsetting they see online with a friendly picture.

Cyber safety expert Susan McLean said flexible, compulsory education should begin as soon as children switched on a computer, from kindergarten onwards.

“I’ve seen cyber bullying in grade 2. I’ve seen kids buying things on the internet at age seven after their parents have told them not to. That’s commonplace.”

Teaching kids skills too early is like not teaching them at all. I can’t see the value of making young children endure a program that will surely be too advanced for them and doesn’t relate to their present day lives.

Whats next? Teaching four-year olds how to work an electric drill?

Summer Born Children Are Disadvantaged

November 1, 2011

I have seen first hand how the youngest children in the class are often among the most behind.  Some clearly aren’t as mature as the others.

That’s why I was not surprised to read that children born in the summer may need more help to come up to the same academic standard as their older classmates.

Children born at the start of the academic year achieve better exam results, on average, than children born at the end of the academic year.

This matters because educational attainment has long-term consequences for a range of adult outcomes. But it is not only educational attainment that has long-lasting effects: other skills and behaviours affect adult outcomes too, and can also matter for children’s current wellbeing.

In line with previous research, our report shows that there are large and significant differences between August- and September-born children in terms of their cognitive skills, whether measured using national achievement tests or alternative indicators such as the British Ability Scales; these gaps are particularly pronounced when using teacher reports of children’s performance.

Those born in August are also significantly more likely to take vocational qualifications after leaving compulsory schooling and slightly less likely to attend a Russell Group university.

I was one of the youngest in my class and really struggled to keep in touch with my classmates.  I was slow to mature, and in hindsight I probably should have stayed down a year to maximise my academic potential.

Having said that, I believe that parents can get fixated with their children being among the youngest and can use it as an excuse. This then filters down to the child who rationalises their performance by making the same excuse.

Protecting Kids From Living Freely

October 10, 2011

I am an over-protective father and proud of it.  I am hesitant when my daughter takes any risks and hate to see her in discomfort.  Yet, at the same time, I realise that cuts and grazes are part of life and growing up.  You can’t shadow your child in the playground to prevent them from tripping and you can’t ban them from low-risk activities on the off-chance that something might occur.

That is why I am so opposed to the persistent interference by Governments and local councils in banning everyday activities.  It is not their place to decide what toy my child should play with.  They may choose to advise me about the risks and encourage me to supervise my child with graet care, but the constant banning is taking things too far.

It is such a shame that we live in an age where children are being banned from blowing balloons and playing with whistles:

The EU toy safety directive, agreed and implemented by Government, states that balloons must not be blown up by unsupervised children under the age of eight, in case they accidentally swallow them and choke.

Despite having been popular favourites for generations of children, party games including whistles and magnetic fishing games are to be banned because their small parts or chemicals used in making them are decreed to be too risky.

Apparently harmless toys that children have enjoyed for decades are now regarded by EU regulators as posing an unacceptable safety risk.

Whistle blowers, that scroll out into a long coloured paper tongue when sounded – a party favourite at family Christmas meals – are now classed as unsafe for all children under 14.

As well as new rules for balloons and party whistles, the EU legislation will impose restrictions on how noisy toys, including rattles or musical instruments, are allowed to be.

All teddy bears meant for children under the age of three will now have to be fully washable because EU regulators are concerned that dirty cuddly toys could spread disease and infection.

The EU and other Government bodies will continue to come up with irrational and overbearing legislation, but no matter how hard they try they will never be my child’s parent.


Education on Climate Change, Not Scare Tactics

July 10, 2011

No matter how strongly teachers may feel on the subject of climate change, there is no place for scare tactics in a Primary classroom.

PRIMARY school children are being terrified by lessons claiming climate change will bring “death, injury and destruction” to the world unless they take action.

On the eve of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s carbon tax package announcement, psychologists and scientists said the lessons were alarmist, created unneeded anxiety among school children and endangered their mental health.

Climate change as a “Doomsday scenario” is being taught in classrooms across Australia.

Resource material produced by the Gillard government for primary school teachers and students states climate change will cause “devastating disasters”.

Australian National University’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science director Dr Sue Stocklmayer said climate change had been portrayed as “Doomsday scenarios with no way out”.

The fear campaign must stop.  It is a manipulative and immature tactic by a desperate Government.  Our job as educators is to empower and motivate not scare our students senseless.

I refuse to teach Government resource material that has the potential to frighten my students.

Teaching to The Blasted Test!

March 29, 2011

It sickens me to see the Government so smug about the upcoming round of National Testing.  In Australia it’s called the NAPLAN (I refer to it as “NAPALM”), and like other National tests around the world it compares student data against the average.  The Government uses the National tests as an easy way out of doing something constructive about Education.

Before I slam these pathetic tests, in the spirit of goodwill, I will acknowledge some advantages of National Testing:

  • It uses these tests as a vehicle for pressurising schools and teachers to lift their game and secure good results for their students.
  • It forces teachers not strictly following the curriculum to adhere to the syllabus
  • It gives parents some real data to consider, rather than the deliberately vague school reporting, which essentially tells parents nothing.
  • It gives parents an opportunity to become more involved in their child’s education.

Now for the disadvantages:

  • It forces teachers to stop what they are doing, and spend weeks if not months practicing for the test.  Everything gets put on hold while the sample test papers get wheeled out.
  • It fills students as young as 8 years-old with anxiety, pressure and insecurity.
  • It causes schools to “encourage” the parents of special needs students to keep their kids at home during the testing week.  This is to ensure that their child doesn’t affect the school’s results.  It also achieves in further marginalising these children who, in many cases, already feel disconnected from their peers.
  • It puts enormous stress on teachers.  This stress has an effect on their quality of teaching.
  • It turns education into an extreme negative at a time when kids still show an interest in learning.

I am currently teaching Grade 5 for the first time.  I am preparing my students for the rigours of NAPLAN (they sat for them 2 year ago).  It means that my emphasis has had to change.  Instead of teaching in an engaging and creative way, I’ve been forced to teach to the tests.  The result has been a succession of comparatively boring and turgid lessons on strategies for answering multiple choice questions, “debugging” sample tests and revising basic skills.  My students are not enjoying these lessons at all!  I fear that when they sit these tests they will sabotage the process by rushing through it as revenge for what its done to their enjoyment of school.

What makes these tests even worse is that they are testing the children at Grade 5 level even though they have just started Grade 5.  Because of that, my students haven’t covered some of the concepts being tested.  Surely, if they wanted to test a Grade 5 class against the Grade 5 benchmarks they should have done it at the end of the school year, not at the beginning!

When are Governments going to stop being so lazy and start taking on a fresh and innovative approach to learning?  Why must my students be subjected to sample tests and other turgid preparatorylessons, instead of conventional, authentic lessons?

Parents have the right to know how  their child is progressing.  At the same time though, their children deserve the right to have a pressure reduced primary education, where the teachers are able to harness their natural curiosities, instead of burden them with weeks of test prepa

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