School level hiring of teachers

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 31 August 2015

The following letter was submitted for possible publication in The Australian of Monday 31 August 2015 but it did not make it into print. 

Independent public schools and teaching quality

West Australian Education Minister Peter Collier is reported as claiming that his state's system of independent public schools "is improving the calibre of teachers" (Inquirer, "Head or heart what makes a good teacher", Aug 29-30).

This is surely nonsense. Whether teachers are employed centrally by the state department or by individual schools can have no impact on the overall quality of the available teacher workforce. It will just deploy it in different ways. The most likely result is that existing relative advantage and disadvantage will both be increased.

Collier's comment seems like another example, sadly all too common in public debate about schooling, of ideology trumping logic and evidence.

Posted in:General news   0 Comments

External exams

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 29 August 2015

A slightly edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail of Saturday 29 August 2015. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed one inserted. The paper's heading for a collection of four letters was "External exams fairer and limit cheating".

External exams and the 21st century world

Clive Newton and Paul Thomson (Letters, 28/8) provide (provided) useful balance to the inflated claims by some about the benefits of external exams.

One thing this change represents is the return of time-pressured handwriting marathons as an educational gate-keeping mechanism.

In the contemporary world of ubiquitous keyboards and touch screens I wonder how well that will genuinely prepare students for the real world beyond the school gates.

Posted in:Assessment   0 Comments

Teachers' pay and conditions

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 29 August 2015

The following letter was submitted for possible publication in The Australian of Thursday 27 August 2015 but, alas, it did not make it into print.

Teachers' pay and conditions

Chris Curtis (Letters, 26/8) is quite right about the relative decline of pay and conditions for teachers in Australia over the past 40-50 years, He's also right about how that impacts on efforts to attract and retain a reasonable share of the best and brightest for the teaching profession.

Indeed, given the relatively low level of pay and conditions of teachers compared with other graduates and the lack of respect accorded in public discourse, it is probably true that the country currently enjoys  a much better teaching workforce than it deserves.

Posted in:General news   0 Comments

Education academics and dumbed down journalism

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 13 August 2015

Natasha Bita is the National Education Correspondent for The Australian. The email below was sent in response to a piece she had in the weekend edition of the paper for 8-9 August 2015. I have not received a reply but I was not absolutely sure of the email address so perhaps she did not receive it.

Hello Natasha

In your Inquirer piece in this weekend's edition ("New school of thought on early intervention", August 8-9) you identify Kevin Donnelly as "one of the two education academics who reviewed the national curriculum for the Abbott government".

This clearly implies that Professor Kenneth Wiltshire is an "education academic". I suggest that this is not accurate. Wiltshire is certainly an academic but I think you will find that he has never worked in a university school or faculty of education. He is definitely not a member of the staff of the School of Education at The University of Queensland. I am sure of this because I work there part-time as a sessional tutor. He is, instead, the JD Story Professor of Public Administration and works in the university's Business School. See https://www.business.uq.edu.au/staff/ken-wiltshire .

Your piece refers to "the dumbing down of a generation of Australian students". There was a time when even cadet journalists were expected to get the basic facts right. Has there perhaps also been a dumbing down in journalism?

Regards

Garry Collins
President
Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)
 

Posted in:General news   0 Comments

Change to the Australian Curriculum

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 12 August 2015

The following letter was submitted for possible inclusion in The Australian of Monday 10 August 2015 but it was not selected for publication. It was in response to a front page story in the weekend edition (8-9 August) which had the (not very accurate) headline "Curriculum shifts focus to core skills".

Change to national curriculum

When I attended primary school in Queensland in the 1950s, one of the subjects I studied was a combination of history, geography and civics that was called social studies.

At high school in the 1960s, I did history and geography as separate subjects and this was still the case at high school level when I started teaching in 1969. Later, history and geography were merged into a subject called SOSE (Study of Society and the Environment). By then, I was teaching only English but this seemed to me to be a sensible response to concerns about a crowded curriculum.

When John Howard was Prime Minister, there was a call for all Australian students to study history as a separate subject. As I recall, that push was supported by this newspaper.

Because of this background, I enjoyed some wry amusement while reading your front page report that there is to be a new amalgamated subject in the Australian Curriculum called Humanities and Social Science.

I thought of that useful French expression "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". It also occurred to me that it is often not really helpful for politicians to meddle with the details of school curriculum.

Posted in:Branch News Townsville   0 Comments

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