The Courier-Mail of Thursday 7 May 2015 carried, on Page 13, a story that reported that $17 million was being provided to AITSL (Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership) to fund:
- mandatory literacy and numeracy tests for teaching graduates
- an overhaul of practice teaching requirements
- development of subject specialisations for primary teacher graduates
- audits of teacher education programs
The following letter was submitted in response with the hope that it would appear on Saturday 9 May. Unfortunately, it was not selected for publication.
Spending education funds wisely
You report that the side of politics that claims to believe in small government is to spend $17 million on new bureaucratic measures supposedly aimed at improving teacher quality ("Unis facing testing for teachers", May 7).
Most beginning teachers already start work in schools on short-term contracts and all have to spend at least a year on probation before being eligible for full registration. This provides adequate opportunities for any who are not up to standard to be weeded out. With the sort of costly and unnecessary measures reported, it is difficult to see the federal government as serious about balancing the budget.
Minister Pyne is quoted as saying that it's not possible to provide first-rate education without first-rate teachers. That doesn't mean that every idea about improving school education is a good one.
It could equally be said that it's not possible to have first-rate government without first-rate politicians. Unfortunately, it seems that the country has to make do with the likes of Mr Pyne instead.
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Members interested in the topic of religion in education might be interested in the conference outlined below. John Carr, one of the convenors, is a former president of ETAQ.
SoFiA, the name of the organization, = Sea of Faith in Australia. Though not at all religious myself, I will be attending and conducting a workshop on NAPLAN and My School.
Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President
SoFiA Conference: Religion in Education
A conference exploring issues relating to the role of religion in education in Australia will be held at Twin Towns, Coolangatta, 22 to 24 May 2015. Religion, unfortunately, is becoming an increasingly divisive force in Australian life.
Everyone agrees with the adage 'Education is the answer' but the educational role played by religions and their many denominations, being sectarian, is sometimes part of the problem. What most Australian children and young people lack is access to wider, more objective courses on religion and religions.
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An edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail on Tuesday 5 May 2015. It was part of a sequence with a previous letter shown below. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones inserted. The paper's heading was "Key point missed". The letter was printed in a side bar and the paper formatted it as a single paragraph.
External exams not the answer
Tempe Harvey (Letters, May 4) agrees with my observation (me) (Letters, May 2) that NAPLAN tests probe only a narrow slice of the school curriculum. Unfortunately, she seems to have missed the key point.
In addition to the important "value adding" issue that David Gillespie explained in his opinion piece of May 1, this is what makes NAPLAN averages an unsuitable basis for assessing whole school quality. A major problem with NAPLAN is that people are encouraged to read too much into the results.
I also wish to dissociate myself from Harvey's call for external exams to replace the OP system. This expensive expedient would not be the best use of scarce funds for education. And it is hard to see what the Year 12 assessment regime has to do with standardized testing for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.
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The following letter was submitted for inclusion in The Australian on 30 April 2015 but it was not selected for publication.
Christopher's Pyne's pillars of schooling
I wonder does Education Minister Christopher Pyne realize that there is a logical contradiction between two of the federal government's policy pillars relating to the nation's schools ("Four pillars for education", 29/4).
The first pillar calls for a "robust" curriculum. What Pyne doesn't say in his piece in yesterday's edition is that it is not envisaged that schools will have any autonomy about what curriculum they teach.
At the same time, he claims that greater autonomy in governance and administration will improve educational outcomes. What a flexible thing school autonomy apparently is.
Pyne suggests that his push for greater school autonomy is supported by research. Fair minded people familiar with the research literature would see this as an overstatement bordering on a fib.
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A version of the following letter was published in The Courier-Mail on Saturday 2 May 2015. It was submitted in response to an opinion piece that had appeared in the previous day's edition. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones were inserted. The paper's heading was "MySchool and NAPLAN fail to give parents best advice on education".
David Gillespie provides (provided) sound advice (in his opinion pice, C-M, May 1) when he writes (said) that schools that genuinely add value to student learning are better choices than prestigious ones with slick marketing campaigns that fail to do this ("Find school that adds value", Opinion, May 1).
He recommends (recommended) using the MySchool website to identify such schools. There are, however, a couple of problems.
First, is that the NAPLAN tests report single-point-in-time performance on only a narrow slice of the whole school curriculum.
Then, if the perceived "value adding" school is not nearby, students will be contributing to traffic congestion and overcrowding on public transport. In addition, we would have a healthier nation if more students walked or rode bikes to school and for that to be viable, schools need to be relatively close to home.
Gillespie also reminds (reminded) us that NAPLAN results are often misused in inappropriate league tables.
With this set of problems, NAPLAN and MySchool are probably not worth what they cost the taxpayer. This has been reported to be $10 million annually but ACARA is not forthright about the amount. Could this be because they fear it would not stand up to a proper cost-benefit analysis?
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