We are illiterate!

The release of a new report on comparative primary school education performance has the media going today. And probably not without justification. The report from the Australian Council for Education Research is credible and paints a lackluster picture of Australian primary schools.

The report bench-marked Grade 4 literacy at 27th internationally, along side a swag of small European states:

However, our best state (ACT) was in the top five:

This was the first time reading has been included so there is no historical comparison.

For maths, Australia did better, coming in at 18th:

Again, our best state was the ACT and came in the top eight:

The history of the study shows a flat-lining:

But, on the upside, by Year 8, we come in at 12th.

For science, we came in at 25th in Year 4:

And overall performance has fallen:

But the ACT again out-performs, placing seventh internationally:

Again, things improved in high school, coming in 12th.

The lesson? Remodel Australian education on the ACT approach. Liberal curriculum, massive funding, new facilities, stable ultra-middle class society. That’s all!

TIMSS PIRLS Australian Highlights (1)

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      • I assume Wing Nut means accepting that there are differences in kids’ abilities and schools being allowed to match that with different approaches.

        I understand (don’t have kids so do correct me if I’m wrong) that Aussie schools are quite egalitarian meaning that high achievers are not exactly challenged as much as they could be.

        If I assumed correctly then I agree with Wing Nut.

        • Was running out the door this morning getting the kids to school but that’s the thrust of it AnonNL. It’s one thing for kids to ‘feel good about themselves’ but it’s another when a child needs attention but the ‘system’ won’t do it because it’s beholden to some BS ideology that a child might have ‘low self esteem’ and now god forbid under proposed laws, ‘offended’.

          Disagree H&H about Canberra schools being the most PC curriculum in the country, having had kids in public primary and middle schools in three states. The worst we came across was in QLD where kids weren’t streamed, as above, ‘the others might not feel good about themselves’. Playing ball games at lunch was banned because it might ‘exclude’ students. It was an education system distorted by an ideology. We’ve found the ACT to be by far the best. They identified, and told us in no uncertain terms, learning issues with our youngest and we’ve worked to fix them. They identified that our eldest was intelligent (I dispute that) and streamed him accordingly even challenging him with maths two years above his year. That would never happen in QLD. Yes there are PC elements but education seems to be the priority and the kids are responding accordingly. You also mentioned iPads being in abundance – not sure where but they aren’t at our kids school and it’s one of the better ones.

          • Wing nut is correct. It comes down to a combination of various factors. PC bullcrap, where the childs self esteem is all important. They don’t even keep score anymore in kids sports, because you aren’t allowed to have a winner or a loser anymore. How does that prepare a child for real life? This applies to the way they test now too. Or god forbid holding a kid back a year because he really doesn’t deserve to go up to the next level. NEVER HAPPENS ANYMORE, EVER!!!!

            Parents siding with children too often, and when they shouldn’t. If a teacher tells a kid off the parent is more likely to throttle them in the carpark these days, rather than back them up.

            Parents outscourcing the raising of children, or parenting by sitting the kids in front of the Xbox or Wii. This is a direct result of a roof over their heads being unaffordable.

    • desmodromicMEMBER

      We’ll get somewhere when we get rid of the Howard doctrine that all the benefits of education flow to the individual, we value teachers more, and we stop using ‘academic’ as a pejorative term.

      • We’ll get somewhere when we get rid of the Howard doctrine that all the benefits of education flow to the individual, we value teachers more, and we stop using ‘academic’ as a pejorative term.

        Or that other disgraceful soundbite that gets thrown around all too much:

        “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

        • “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

          I used to say that, but realised the actual quote in real life is:

          “Those who can, do. Those who have done very well, want to teach others.”

    • WN: “When we remove political correctness from eduction system then we might start to get somewhere.”

      Unfortunately the blank slaters are well in charge, as you can see from the majority of comments!

    • Costello’s Dummies?
      Maybe we are starting to see the effects of the new generation who have spent the majority of their lives in full time child care.

        • Deadly, how many full time dual income couples were persuaded to breed and outsource the raising of their kids by Pete’s baby bonus, the effects of their developmental neglect are starting to be seen in this surveys results. The only winners Costello should have been picking were from his nose.

          • Ironic when you consider that “There is no problem on Earth that could not be solved quite easily if you could reduce world population.” (David Attenborough 2012)

          • You’ve got to be kidding me, Kochie. The baby bonus pays for about 6 months of childcare (after rebates) if you’re lucky, hardly a motivator.

        • I just feel sorry for the primary teachers when so many of Costello’s dummies are not even toilet trained when they roll up for grade one, I mean do you know how bad disposable nappies are for the environment?

  1. I have a 10yo kid in a public school. When I help out in the classroom I’ve noticed a huge range of abilities, with about 20% of the kids cruising through the curriculum, 20% really struggling, and 60% managing to get by. The bottom end seem to get a lot of help — remedial classes etc — but the top end is left to its own devices, and often leads to boredom. Mind you, with 30 kids in the classroom its a wonder the teachers have any idea what’s going on with each kid. I’m exhausted after an hour. I don’t know how they doing for six hours a day, day after day.

    • Like the Lorax, l have spent a lot of time in my kids classrooms.
      1.teachers work really hard at crowd control,and I couldn’t get through 6 hour days,day after day.
      Having said that;
      2.Reading has long been taught as whole word-it is the biggest intellectual fraud ever perpetrated. even children who manage with this method end up with limited reading vocabularies,and no way to decode previously unseen words. As the local school has moved back to phonic reading, it is obvious that most of the teachers do not teach it well, as they have never seen it before(most are too young to have had it themselves). I watched a very good teacher spend hours on the difference between ph and f sounds, as one of the early sounds taught. A complete stuff up and waste of time in a very crowded curriculum.
      If you can’t read,you can’t do much else well.
      3. Many of the primary teachers l have watched have poor general knowledge levels,dreadful basic science skills, and are often virtually innumerate. I’ve watched teachers struggle with basic fractions operations.
      4. We have many adults who read poorly, and in quite a few cases not at all.It is really hard for them to help their kids(l have spent time in the playground filling out school forms, as the parents can’t read well enough to do it-they are interested enough in their kids to bet there every day, but can’t help).and there are sufficient parents who lack the time(everyone working to pay that mortgage),or the interest, as well as the ability.
      We need a real assessment of teacher training, continuing teacher education, as well as good facilities. The current system ensures that children who’s parents are educated and motivated will do well, but the others are often sinking, not swimming.

      • Reading has long been taught as whole word-it is the biggest intellectual fraud ever perpetrated. even children who manage with this method end up with limited reading vocabularies,and no way to decode previously unseen words. As the local school has moved back to phonic reading, it is obvious that most of the teachers do not teach it well, as they have never seen it before(most are too young to have had it themselves).
        +1

        I was (and remain) exceptionally fortunate to have had multiple primary and secondary teachers in my immediate and extended family who were versed in “the old ways”.

        I was schooled in the ’80s and ’90s and received exceptionally good marks in English throughout – in no small part because of the knowledge imparted at home and outside of the official curriculum like word roots.

        It wasn’t until I started (and mostly failed) trying to learn French and German that I discovered how woefully poor my knowledge of English grammar was.

        • I recall being taught using phonics in a NSW state school in the mid-70s. The SRA system I think it was called.

          Worked well except when I first encountered the word rendezvous.

          By the early 80s phonics was out of fashion along with grammar. No grammar was taught in high school between 1980 and 1986.

          The only guys who got taught grammar were the ones studying foreign languages. Clearly, the idealogues did not believe they needed to protect foreign languages students from the dangers of phonics and grammar.

          My primary recollection was being told over and over again that what really counted was our subjective opinion, our reaction, our response. The world is all relative and there is no objective truth.

          A lot of post-modern cobblers.

          Unfortunately, in academia there are still many who see the post modern teaching ideas as being “politically progressive” whatever that means.

          In fact those ideas condemn many kids from humble backgrounds to never acquiring the skills that kids who have access to the “old ways” will learn outside of the class room.

          • FWIW, my kids (10 and 7) were both taught using phonics, but they also did sight words early on as well. Certainly my 7yo will attempt to sound out words she hasn’t seen before, and usually makes a pretty good stab at it, despite the quirks of English spelling.

      • dumb_non_economist

        It’s not hard to see why teaching standards have fallen. In Perth, ECU dropped the entry score requirement to 50%, you can also get in via your yr 11/12 school portfolio, as a mates daughter has done (this goes back 3 yrs). Teaching has turned into a last resort degree.

        If you what to improve standards improve the status of the profession to attract higher achieving students.

        My daughters mother who is a teacher has certainly steered the girls away from any idea of entering teaching, due to not just the pay, but the treatment of teachers in general by politicians, commentators and the public.

      • I spent several years being trained and teaching English as Foreign Language, amongst other subjects areas, internationally. Very curious seeing how things are done in Oz (via M. Ed. classmates from mainstream education), palpable fear of good professional and intrusive, teaching and learning, evaluation and development, to maintain quality. Further, you need both the “whole” and “phonetic” approach (with grammar) to English literacy, plus maths/science literate teachers (but latter is precluded by qualitative issues in teaching, domino effect….). Plus, motivated and/or educated parents has significant impact on most students as well.

        • “…palpable fear of good professional and intrusive, teaching and learning, evaluation and development, to maintain quality…”

          aiecquest, can you elaborate on this. Cheers.

    • . I don’t know how they doing for six hours a day, day after day.

      Haven’t you been listening to our resident right-wingers ? Only six hours a day (and 12 weeks holiday a year !) for a below average wage means teachers are on easy street.

      That’s why there’s a waiting list to fill teaching jobs, and this high demand is reflected in tertiary entrance scores, don’tcha know.

  2. Remove negative gearing and pump it all into education. Then we will have a society smart enough to make money other than on property.

    Ps totally agree with you on this HnH

    • I think you’d be surpised how many educated ppl bet their future on property
      It’s the Govt support, it cant be helped

  3. reusachtigeMEMBER

    I don’t think this is about throwing money at the problem. That’s like saying to factory workers that their productivity is poor so we’ll increase their wages substantially to improve their productivity. The issue is cultural. I saw it all the time growing up. There is a massive intergenerational hate of schooling out there. It is real and a lot of people are brought up to be totally disinterested. It’s the opposite of the Asian cultures.

      • I could mention several very prominent private primary schools that have been tardy in re-introducing phonics into the curriculum. These schools are funded to the max, with very well off parents, yet have a significant number of kids in reading recovery programs when they hit secondary school.
        Money and facilities make a big difference, but teaching standards and teacher abilities, as well as using appropriate teaching methods make a very big difference.

    • rob barrattMEMBER

      +10
      It can only be cultural. When you see rooms full of young kids throwing up their hands in Hong Kong schoolrooms to answer the question “what’s 232 * 96” and you compare that to the children of the “lucky country” who think it’s all coming to them, nanny will do it all for you, you see immediately what the problem is, and unfortunately, what the future holds.
      The Chinese (for one) and Asians in general do not believe the world owes you a living. They’re damn right.

      • The Chinese (for one) and Asians in general do not believe the world owes you a living.

        It’s got nothing to do with the world owing you a living, it’s the growing anti-intellectual sentiment in the Anglo world.

        The two poster children for this sentiment are climate change denialism and creationism.

      • yeah 232 * 96 and plenty of by heart learning but ask them about geography/philosophy/proper thesis-antithesis argumentation and you will not be that impressed.

        • agree – you need a basic level of maths and literacy to get by, and a high level is a required ticket to higher education. But as long as we have these (which we do) i see international comparisons on these things as irrellevant. I think nouse, confidence, networking, passion etc will play a far greater role in later life. Not sure how many Hong Kongians have these.

          Also, lets not forget that when it comes to literacy we have the greatest advantage (ie English is the language of business, while this remains the case a semi literate native English speaker will outperform most highly literate native mandarin speakers.)

          • You guys have no idea what is happening in China in the areas of education. Look at the PISA results for Shanghai, now if you think that is impressive (maybe even unrepresentative) then look at the preliminary results for wider testing that is ongoing within China.

            I know I helped my daughter do her Math and I can say that the Shanghai math program is probably the best I’ve seen (Singapore is also very good) BTW the way they teach math in China 232*96 is a trivial problem =(232*100-4*232) they learn this method in 1st grade (honestly). Their method does not teach rote learning (again read the PISA reports hint: look at the differences between the Russian (also good at math)and the Shanghai results)

            BTW: Most primary school kids in China are learning English as a second language, which second language are Aussie kids learning?

          • BTW: Most primary school kids in China are learning English as a second language, which second language are Aussie kids learning?

            The unfortunate fact is that there is (currently) very little external incentive for the typical native English speaker to learn another language.

            That’s because pretty much every other native language speaker either wants to, or is, learning English.

      • Rob – from what I’ve seen of Chinese education systems, they aren’t the be all and end all either. They churn out robots who work hard and can reproduce something that has already been built before, but have no concept of critical thinking or creativity.

        I’m working in a fabrication yard in the PRC and their engineers scratch their heads and lose all confidence when they need to troubleshoot a problem, or modify one of our designs.

        • Jason, I recall a very capable graduate of Beijing U (a good university) telling of the amazement they felt when at Harvard the penny dropped that the correct answer and what was expected (well within limitations) was their own answer – in other words – think! But from my understanding this is recognised in China and key to the drive forward is innovation. Expect success.

    • Money is certainly a problem, but not the biggest one. The biggest one is the culture and society in the anglo world that sees an educated person and cries fraud. With the dwindling proportion of true anglo population—with respect to asians in particular—in Australia, the kids born in that culture are going to get royally outcompeted. Essentially a premonition of future cluster*uck that is bound to happen.

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        Yeah, but why get educated when you can work in the mines, construction, or pick up an easy trade and earn just as much money, if not more, as the well eductated.

        • spot on.
          Not just money tho. High performers in schools, and well educated people are highly regarded in those cultures.

  4. This one is an issue very close to my heart. As I became a father recently I want my kids to have the best education a first world country can provide.
    I come from Argentina which has a lot of economic problems, but it has a really good and affordable education system including university which is almost free. I am university educated and can attest the difference it makes in opening opportunities and improving one’s quality of life.
    I am not qualified to say how good/bad Australia’s education system is, for what I know so far, there are very decent public schools with good level of teaching, although in my opinion they tend to be in the more affluent suburbs (happy to be proven wrong). University seems to be relatively affordable and there is HECS/FEE Help schemes that help to pay for it if parents can’t afford it, so I like that.
    It would be great if a good education and university degrees are something everyone can aspire to get regardless of social/economic background, not only something “elites” can get.
    In today’s society if we are going to stay on top of the lists of per capita income we should fund & improve education as part of an ongoing program as the future is in the “knowledge jobs”.

  5. These results are part of a puzzle. Emotional intelligence, critical and independent thought should be valued highly as well. What are our rankings in these areas? My understanding of singaporean education is limited, however anecodotally far too much time is spent learning 296×29 rather than, particularly after school, focusing on allowing children to have fun, play sport, making things and develop social skills and relationships. So fine jump up and down about this stuff, which gets attention but at the same time we need to embrace the development of the child and the challenges that causes us teachers and parents.

    • Singapore realised it had a problem, similar to what you are espousing.

      There is a lack of non-artistic creativity within east Asia.

      Thae last bit of global technology invested in China for example was the wheelbarrow.

      Singapore tried to overcome this with a national creativity day.

      They scrapped it due to poor results.

    • China is the same.. they seem to struggle with troubleshooting or thinking ‘outside the box’ more than we do. Although perhaps that’s only viewed through my perspective as an engineer.

  6. I reject the whole notion of measuring acheivement in education. It is in fact this desire to quantify everything in terms of literacy, maths and science that is destroying the ability of schools and teachers to mentor children as they find their way in life and society.

    How do you assess the philosophical development of a child? How do you teach a child that the binary model of the scientific method is infact unable to adequately describe phenomena (e.g. wave/particle duality)?

    We need to stop thinking of education as producung a vocational product that can be measured and tested. There is no acheivement in producing automatons who are intellectually content with the false dicotomies (apple vs PC, left vs right, bull vs bear, alcohol vs marijuana) presented to them through the economically captured media sector and unable to see the bigger picture (role of technololgy, hierachies of power, markets, dependence).

    • Excellent point. Sadly, studies like the one mentioned in this post will probably spur on even more idiotic and reductive approaches to evaluating education.

    • Exactly right, it’s this attempt to quantify results that lead to systems that are even more rigid and designed to produce biological robots rather than people.

  7. And it flows into house prices in NSW as families who value education highly (often identified as Asian families by vendors) bid up prices for houses in the catchment of certain public primary and high schools and refuse to consider those houses just outside the catchments.

    There is also evidence that a similar approach applies to renting.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Yep. From Ashfield to Homebush where the best inner west schools are in Sydney, and a good train line to boot.

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        And Anglo/Europeans just aren’t interested in these areas anymore. The schools don’t even come into their consideration, but I’d say those that are now keen on these areas do get considered. Sad.

  8. Disappointed HnH. You could have scored a joke with the headline and MB’s tendency to typos.

    How about: We are Unliterate!

  9. Just spent 4 months in Denmark. Wife working at the uni, me from home. Sent our 5 year old to school over there, and out 18 month old to daycare. The big things that struck me-
    -Primary schools are obviously well funded and well kitted out – but the big difference I noticed – the teaching approach – completely different to what we experience here. All classes at set up with a range of age groups to foster peer responsibility. The curriculum seemed much more flexible – much more self directed learning. And much more informal approach to the teacher student relationship. No Mr of Mrs.
    Was really interesting chatting to a couple of teenagers in their last year of school over there (which isnt till 19 and no problem repeating if you feel you need to). They spent 6 months in Australia in about year 9, at a public high school in the inner east of Syd – a good school. They were blown away by the disrespect shown to teachers and the lack of self discipline by their peers.
    Funding must be part of the solution, but also the way we teach needs to change.
    I think you would find Denmark is up there on both the academic results and critical and independent thought areas – many lessons can be learnt from the Danish and Finnish systems.
    Daycare was also amazing – of course, half the price of here and highly paid (relatively) and uni qualified carers with small ratios.
    To really make a difference the change needs to encompass the whole approach to education from childcare through to high school, with proper funding, and a more nuanced curriculum and teaching approach.

  10. I heard ACT has a strong home schooling community. Is this actually true, and if so, how can it be related to the results?

    Just wondering because I’m not exactly a fan of the home schooling idea but wondering if I should change my tune.

    • Indeed, and also remember that the possessive of pronouns hers, its, theirs, yours, and oneself have no apostrophe.

      And the plural of Jones is Joneses… such a simple language!

  11. Taiwan is a country which has a very strong education ethic particularly in respect to science. Maybe Garret should go there and get some ideas.

  12. Teach economic principles from year 3 primary up…….children are very fast learners! They will very soon cotton on to why they are at school, that they will eventually be expected to work for a living, how money works, what the benefits of education/learning are-the children will demand good teachers. Once this happens and children realise that they have a real value for excellent teachers/facilitators things/politics in education will change for the best.
    Yep, economics!…..

  13. The problem with ‘massive new funding’ as some sort of answer is that compared to many states on that list Australia already spends more.

    The idea that ‘more money’ will solve the issue is fatally flawed.

  14. The response of people says more than the data.

    Our lives are contextualised by a mythical competition focussed on the relatively new construct of discipline that hangs on the corporate culture. Something built on a strange mix of fear and aspiration and is not for our benefit.

    For all those kids (and adults) that grow fat and greedy as they seek more and work more and more, and have never spent lazy days sailing or riding, swimming or exploring. Then that is the very definition of sad.

    The education debate – to win is to lose.

    • +1 (and it should be out there) the debate around this run by those with fortunate economic circumstances is sharp at best.

    • ^100. I still dont understand why the gubmint of this lucky country is in the business of meddling with private affairs.

    • If you want to send your kids to a private school, fine, but you pay for it, all of it. Its your choice after all, no-one is forcing you to do it. This idea that all kids, whether they’re in public or private schools, should get equal funding is complete bullsh*t. We’re just funding rich kids.

      Bring back Latham’s private school hit list! It was actually quite popular.

    • A stupid plan, like getting rid of mining. Let’s get rid of the part that actually works and produces good results;

      http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=14221&page=2

      “As noted in a report on school autonomy by Professor Brian Caldwell, principals are concerned about being denied the freedom and flexibility to best manage their schools. Caldwell writes, “There was consistency in the views across the nation among principals in government and non-government schools that the compliance requirements of the two levels of government were adversely affecting their capacities to serve as educational leaders”.

      “While Prime Minister Gillard always looks overseas when attempting to identify the characteristics of stronger performing education systems and schools, first New York and now Asia, the reality is that Australia already has high performing schools that achieve excellent results.”

          • Jesus, its the WingNut echo chamber again.

            Who said anything about getting rid of non-government schools? If you think they work better and produce better results, great, send your kids there. No-one is stopping you. But why the f*** should I have to fund your choice with my tax dollars?

          • “But why the f*** should I have to fund your choice with my tax dollars?”

            Do the real math- who is funding WHO?

            The households who send kids to a private school pay the vast majority of income taxes in Australia. So you also advocate a proportionate tax cut for them, as they dont use the system?

            Indeed, why should I fund YOUR choice?

          • Because in a civilised society access to education is a right.

            If you know of some dog-eat-dog country where all education is user-pays, please move there.

          • The households who send kids to a private school pay the vast majority of income taxes in Australia. So you also advocate a proportionate tax cut for them, as they dont use the system?

            Let’s just get this clear. Are you arguing for the removal of publicly funded education entirely, or some form of tax credit for those who do not use it (ie: effectively making education a user-pays system, and thus inaccessible to the poor) ?

          • doc,

            That is what Lorax advocates, removing public funding for all of the education system for the favour of a select group.My response was to his preposterous assertion.

            My belief is that there must be a balance in funding, but that the funding is by no means the main determinant of outcomes.

            I happen to agree with your statement;

            “It’s got nothing to do with the world owing you a living, it’s the growing anti-intellectual sentiment in the Anglo world.”

            But for different reasons. The skepticism you disparage was largely brought on by climate holocaust extremists themselves, in the AGW debate. That is backfiring big time. They must blame themselves for that. Not going near religion- the AGW kind is enough.

            But I will add ; The Home sets the standards in education,not only the classroom. That is why money is not the issue. If academic achievement is not elevated on the Home agenda , there is little chance that the classroom will produce elevated achievement for the child.

            We can only truly know our own experiences with education. My child has participated in the education systems on now 3 continents. 2 things I see as pivotal to so far much much success : Primacy of education at home and stimulating, envigorating learning environments ( engagement with the child).

            Education is culture and we all know Australia’s. Not easy to change the “lucky country”.

          • That is what Lorax advocates, removing public funding for all of the education system for the favour of a select group.

            That would be a lie.

            What he _actually_ said was:

            “Stop funding private schools.”

            Which in no way resembles:

            “[…] removing public funding for all of the education system for the favour of a select group.”

            The skepticism you disparage was largely brought on by climate holocaust extremists themselves, in the AGW debate. That is backfiring big time. They must blame themselves for that.

            This is also utter bullshit.

            No-one “disparages” skepticism, they “disparage” the populist, naive, analysis-free, anti-intellectual, anti-science tripe that passes for journalism in most media.

            The former is something you get with rational hypothesis, argument, and supporting evidence.

            The latter is what you get from paranoid conspiracy theorists who think climate change science is just an excuse to usher in socialism/world government/right-wing boogyman of the week.

          • Lorax,
            Then think before you open it. All people who pay taxes have rights to receiving benefits from it. Your plan discriminates against those who contibute the most. Hardly egalitarian.

          • Your plan discriminates against those who contibute the most. Hardly egalitarian.

            It does nothing of the sort. All people who pay taxes have rights to receiving benefits from it. No-one is prevented from sending their child to a public school.

          • To be fair, and I cringe at extending fairness to MB’s very own Forrest Gump, but your quote

            It does nothing of the sort. All people who pay taxes have rights to receiving benefits from it. No-one is prevented from sending their child to a public school.

            If the ‘benefit’ is to receive an eduaction, then it’s not against what he says.

            If a public education, and sometime around the mid naughties for example, the cost per primary school student was something along the lines of $7,000 per student.

            That means via a public schooling regime, you not only are guaranteed that, you are also limited to that.

            If I felt the schooling of my child warranted a $10,000 outlay, and I have the motivation and means to add the extra $3,000 for 3/7’s extra education, this faciltity does not exist via a public school.

            That is where, arguably, the private schol enters the market.

            A taxpayer wanting to exercise their $7,000 education benefit should have access to it. The benefit is ‘an education’ for one’s child, not a ‘public education’.

            Would a coupon system equal to the amount of a public schooling be a suitable system?

          • GSM: Every child is entitled to free education. That is bedrock right of every developed nation, and many developing nations.

            Yes you fund it with your taxes — rich childless people doubly so — but pretty much everyone accepts that public education should be funded whether they benefit from it or not.

            People who don’t own a car subsidise roads. Healthy people subsidise hospitals. Should we stop funding roads and hospitals as well?

            I also strongly believe that people should have the choice not to take up the public education option, but if they do, they should be willing to pay for it, all of it. The money currently spent supporting students at private schools would be redirected to the public system.

            That’s my opinion. Its different to yours. Hopefully we can agree to disagree, but please don’t put words in my mouth and accuse me of not thinking.

          • That means via a public schooling regime, you not only are guaranteed that, you are also limited to that.
            No, it doesn’t.

            Nothing prevents you from sending your child to a private school, or hiring one or more tutors to target specific subjects.

            No-one (that I noticed) suggested private schools be banned, merely that they not receive any public funding.

            If I felt the schooling of my child warranted a $10,000 outlay, and I have the motivation and means to add the extra $3,000 for 3/7′s extra education, this faciltity does not exist via a public school.

            Can you outline how this is any different to any other publicly funded service. Like, say, healthcare or police ?

            A taxpayer wanting to exercise their $7,000 education benefit should have access to it. The benefit is ‘an education’ for one’s child, not a ‘public education’.

            As already mentioned, your “education benefit” delivers you an education. If you choose not to take advantage of that education, you don’t get a refund, just like if you don’t own a car, you don’t get a refund on the portion of your taxes that pay for roads.

            Because that would defeat the whole point of publicly funded services.

          • Falacious argument – the Government already rebates part of the tax collected to run public hospitals.

            You advocate removing funding for private schools, that’s fine. But if you’re going to say treat it like healthcare then you should also advocate some kind of tax deduction on private school fees.

          • You advocate removing funding for private schools, that’s fine. But if you’re going to say treat it like healthcare then you should also advocate some kind of tax deduction on private school fees.

            Not in the slightest, because I also advocate the private healthcare rebate – simply another example of Howard’s middle-class-welfare vote-buying – be abolished. A view, I’m reasonably willing to bet, shared by The Lorax.

            Of course, there are plenty of other publicly-funded services that could be used as an example instead. Roads, police, fire fighting, legal representation, public transport…

          • For the past decade or so, private schools have been investing most heavily in facilities. Not teacher support, not curriculum development. Facilities. And with them, the accordant increases in ongoing maintenance expenditure. Beyond the additional classroom capacity, it’s additional land for enlarged sporting fields, enlarged aquatic facilities, cricket score boards, gymnasiums, audio visual rooms, and expanded boarding house facilities. Nothing that would actually affect their ability to improve the educational outcomes of their students. Plenty of the stuff that parents of privately educated children expect for their money. The perception of quality, prestige, privilege. (I’m talking your WASP private schools here, the Catholics take a far more austere, low cost approach generally).

            Most of this expenditure all funded by debt and government grants. Based on forecasts for ever increasing enrolments, at ever increasing fees, and all underpinned by continued government funding for each student. It is not for nothing that these schools are lobbying HARD behind the scenes to ensure the status quo is maintained. The Churches who underwrite the schools have in some instances been absorbing big losses from the over capitalisation of the past decade, and the need to increase concessions to keep enrolment numbers up (every student represents about $6000 in govt funding). The WASPy private schools aren’t about better education outcomes (most of their success is the result of self-selection). They are just another in a line of vested interests looking to maintain the facade, and keep the party going.

          • To be fair Lorax, there need be some push-back against the left-wing agenda in schools. Wait ’til your kids get to secondary and enjoy the pleasures of the dogma of the social sciences…

          • To be fair Lorax, there need be some push-back against the left-wing agenda in schools.

            Ah, yes, the “left-wing agenda in schools”. What is that, exactly ?

          • As an example start here;

            You’ll need to be more specific. I have no way of knowing what your mind will identify as “left-wing agenda”.

          • On the one hand, GMS, you want us to absorb the lessons of the Finnish education system (which shuns league tables). On the other hand there is a sinister left-wing agenda trying to remove league tables for Australian schools, the argument for which based in part on the Finish experience.

      • A stupid plan, like getting rid of mining. Let’s get rid of the part that actually works and produces good results;

        “The part that actually works and produces good results” has nothing whatsoever to do with whether a school is entirely, or only partly, publicly-funded.

      • GSM trots out the same tired old lines…if ever there was a social equity issue it is education funding. Only those with hardest of hearts, and the emptiest of souls, would willingly fund a wealthy private school over a struggling public school.

        This is only selfishness dressed up in the clothes of the free market myth.

        At best a case can be made for supporting small and low fee independent schools. Sickening greed on display here.

        • I don’t think that is what anyone is suggesting – although longitudinal studies may support such a move based purely achievement on levels (more bang for your buck) obviously not from a social justice perspective.

  15. Educating the parent on proper parenting will do more than educating the kids, but that would be too hard.

    • +1

      Teachers have little chance when a kid has a home unsupportive of education. But not sure how this can be fixed.

      • In my experience, it would be interesting to test literacy skills of the parents in poorly performing schools. My work often involved writing letters of introduction, outlining the issues. I learnt very quickly that I had to read the letter out to the recipient for screening, as they could not read it adequately themselves,and would get very upset -and I had a reputation as a good communicator, so the letters are in plain English.
        Women in the under 50 age group( which is roughly when the whole word reading strategy started) tend to be better readers than the males- many of the men l deal with could not read the instructions on a medicine bottle. This was general community in a rural city which has a university.

      • Its all interrelated though, if parents have to work every hour god sends to pay for housing, then they may not get sufficient time to help their children with homework at home etc.

  16. “Between 29 per cent and 37 per cent of Year 4 and Year 8 students failed to meet the minimum standard for their grade in maths and science, rising to more than 50 per cent of Year 8 students in Tasmania and the Territory.”

    You expect lower rates from States with higher indigenous population but what is going on in Tasmania?

  17. I thought we just had the Education Revolution spending program a couple of years ago…

    Seriously though, what do we expect, the past few decades have seen, in general, those with the lowest score enter teaching. Teaching courses are full of theoretical clap-trap, not enough classroom experience for prospective teachers, not enough supervision/mentoring of new teachers from competent experienced teachers, too much deadwood biding time, too many teachers that don’t particularly like kids, constant changes to the education program and an overall reluctance by the education complex to really revolutionise our approach to education.

    And as aj says above, not to forget that just hanging out, riding a bike, climbing a tree, exploring, imagining are dangerously undervalued.

    • ‘just hanging out, riding a bike, climbing a tree, exploring, imagining are dangerously undervalued’

      Steady on there, Three Dogs. You are suggesting that we value things that can not be measured with reference to an economic/political construct that gives primacy to ‘productive’ behaviour. If it can’t be measured, if our competitors take a dim view of those kind of laconic shenanigans, then it must be eradicated. It must ! Don’t forget – our business leaders have exhorted us to stop being lazy. A person in your position of power should know better than to encourage the proliferation of such an archaic, leftist, soft-parenting philosophy.

      • Of course that is what I am saying. But I think it difficult to quantify, construct accurate measurement of or, in some cases, even define. We remain cognizant of ‘the other’ while engaging our economic life largely in the world of the ‘measurable’.

        My son spent early years in the Waldorf/Steiner system (late emphasis/introduction to formal learning like most Nordic countries, belief in the primacy of imaginative play, music and handwork); has been home-schooled (unschooling) following a year or two in local primary school where the policy seemed to be zero fun, conformity, crushing deadening of language, worksheet boredom beyond belief; high school, doing very well but both he and I are attempting to negotiate part-time high (something more like uni which is the future of secondary education – given certain parameters).

        We are captive to the false promise and unending demands of the education complex. 😉

        • rob barrattMEMBER

          “maginative play”
          Steady 3D1K, I hope that doesn’t include handstands, cartwheels, ball games that could lead to personal contact or any other form of potentially litiginous activity.
          Nanny is watching.

          • ain’t that the truth.

            I remember a few years ago schools and councils across the nation in an effort to to reduce potential for liability for accidents and in true nanny fashion went about removing playgrounds or replacing them with the metal variety.

            Although come to think of it, nanny probably would have said ‘go outside and climb a tree’.

          • The blame for that sort of stupidity lies solely with helicopter parents and over-enthusiastic lawyers with dollar signs in their eyes.

        • I agree that we need to start thinking outside the square about how we educate our kids, but politically that same education complex is being made captive to the kind of easy rhetoric about keeping up with our Asian competitors. There are limits to the competitive advantage of offering up your workforce at lower wages or with a very limited set of specialised skills favoured by a dominant business sector. As you rightly allude to, the ability to think creatively and adaptively is dangerously underrated, more so among the dries who tend to set up shop politically in the LNP.

          • spleen,

            You are talking nothing less than a cultural change.It has nothing to do with the LNP or whatever.

            Go out to any kids sports field on a weekend. A great time to be had in a wonderful country. But you will see where parents priorities tend to be placed.

            The simple fact is some get it , some get most, some get a little and some just don’t and never will. The system has to be that flexible.

            Food for thought;

            http://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12?op=1

          • GSM, nice link and I have a similar photos of my kid from his Waldorf school (which was selected largely for similarities with Nordic education approach in the early years – and not a worksheet in site!).

            Spleen, given the Gillard’s Asian century rhetoric and Gillard’s ownership of NAPLAN, My School, Gonski and stated intent as to the future direction of education in Australia(top 5 in global terms) I suggest your assumption re ‘dries who tend to set up shop politically in the LNP’ in need of reassessment.

            On the other (offering up the workforce at lower wages) this paper may be of interest: Offshoring and Directed Technical Change by
            Daron Acemoglu, Gino Gancia, Fabrizio Zilibotti

            http://papers.nber.org/papers/w18595#fromrss

          • spleen,

            Please read the link. Finland also shows it’s NOT the money. It is the system and the culture.

            The guide in the link ;

            “Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States.”

            How does Australia compare?

          • You’re right – it’s not just about the money. It’s about the culture. Which is also about the money.

            You’ll also note from your link that education in Finland is provided for solely by the state. No private school funding. Which is about the culture. But also about the distribution of money. Which enables the culture. It’s all a bit inter-linked, yeah ?.

            “Finnish early childhood education emphasizes respect for each child’s individuality and the chance for each child to develop as a unique person. Finnish early educators also guide children in the development of social and interactive skills, encouraging them to pay attention to other people’s needs and interests, to care about others, and to have a positive attitude toward other people, other cultures, and different environments.”

            Anneli Niikko, “Finnish Daycare: Caring, Education and Instruction”

          • Dont want to put words in his mouth, but I think GSM is advocating spending less on public education, getting families to sort out the culture issue, while reducing taxes and keeping government out of our lives.

          • Not mis-representing, just speeding up the conclusion. This site is no place for mischievousness misrepresentation.

          • GSM advocating the socialist, completely-publicly-funded, private-school-free, merit-pay-free, Finnish education model ?

            drsmithy: GSM obviously didn’t read the story very carefully! “The school system is 100% state funded” jumped out at me.

            MineBot: You sent your kid to a Steiner school?! Un-frickin’ believable! Where I live we have more Steiner schools per-capita than anywhere in the country, and only the hard-core greenies/hippies send their kids there.

          • Lorax, I suspect GSM was advocating flexibility and choice in education. As a parent I am prepared to pay additional for the education I desire for my child.

            “…only the hard-core greenies/hippies send their kids there…”. Lol. How do you think I know so much about the aspirations and all too prevalent hypocrisies of those of the green/left?

          • Mate, Steiner is step to far for me. All that spiritual mumbo-jumbo strikes me as a bit anti-science. Someone told me Steiner kids aren’t allowed to play with Lego. FFS!

            Well I’m absolutely gob-smacked. You are the last person in the world I’d have guessed would have a kid at Steiner. I hope he has been “re-educated” since, and is now studying geology.

          • Yes, the anthroposophical aspect is not for all. Not being an ideologue by nature, did not bother me – yes some were diehards (funny how you encounter those personalities in all spheres…). Certainly the experience in the early years – the play, the absence of formal learning, the music, the festivals etc – was great and like the kids in Scandanavian countries, Steiner is proof that the rush to introduce formalised education might just be wrong. Plenty of time for that.

    • not enough supervision/mentoring of new teachers from competent experienced teachers,

      Well this was the ‘education revolution’ the likes of Greiner and Kennett brought us in the 90’s.

      Culling back operations to bare-bones, that there was no resources to properly conduct succession planning.

      too much deadwood biding time,

      Great.

      please qualify this one. please point out where the ‘dead wood’ is in the system, and how widescale it is.

      Please offer something other than a glib line.

      too many teachers that don’t particularly like kids,

      For those that do like kids, then the role has to compete more to attract their commitment.

    • And what a revolution it was, spending money faster than a speeding bullet and having nothing to show for it …

  18. I think H&H has highlighted that the ACT gets the best Oz results. He has also highlighted the fact that the ACT has a very large cohort of uppermiddle and middle class parents. The ACT also prides itself on having the highest proportion of any state/territory with gradutae degrees as well as having a higher income.

    These parents value education and this is probably inculcated into their children from a young age. Unless parents and kids value education and we have good teachers, more money will not see any improvements.

    Until more parents value better education I don’t think we will see better results.

    • Well it was easy for the ACT, historically, to ‘value’ education.

      When I first atteneded UNSW and came across Canberrans, and from observation I guess correctly they had a good schooling system.

      Until either the late 80’s or early 90’s, the ACT education system was funded directly from federal revenue.

      For them, there was much less budgetry restraint on eduaction that state governments faced.

  19. Don’t all those so called smart people in the ACT live off the government teat? How smart will they be when Abbott rips the guts out of the public service?

    I’d like to know what we’re going to do with all these smart kids should we create them? Because a lot of the smart people work for banks living off the ponzi. Also you could create a whole bunch of engineers but manufacturing occurs in Asia, and it would be extremely cruel to create an engineer only to have their salaries obliterated by engineers from India.

    If I ever have kids no way in hell will I be forcing them to be academically smart.

    • Themoops, you are quite right in that there will be many, many kids, probably the majority, who are not academic and will never finish high school let alone go to university. It is better for these kids and society for them to find a job that satisfies them and earns them a good living. In Oz we are lucky that they can become tradies or do something for themselves if they are willing to work hard.

      However it is important that as many kids as possible have good reading/writing/arithmetic skills at whatever level they may be at in the school.

    • “If I ever have kids no way in hell will I be forcing them to be academically smart.”

      If not smart, then what will we teach our kids to be?
      In the world that I inhabit smart people make the wheels of industry turn. They invent new products, they create new methods and systems to achieve outcomes that benefit society.

      I’m not sure what welfare recipients even do with all their available time, but I’ve long ago concluded that they do not seek to educate themselves.

      In my life I’ve had the pleasure to work with many very smart people so I can’t imagine a life without this exposure and I certainly wouldn’t wish such an existence on my kids.

      • What you are observing are the symptoms of the decline.

        When intelligence and enterprise isn’t rewarded, when meritocracy is not just a falsehood, but the lie is rubbed in everyone’s faces.

        When the property flipper or mortgage broker, or the guy who bought a whole bunch of penny dreadful’s… makes 2 times the wage of a G.P or a world leading research scientist, then aspiration dies.

        The latter requires a commitment at a very young age, when aspiration and idealism directs many.

        The response is not ‘boo hoo, you’re so entitled.. look at Asians busting their arse you lazy sod, you’ve suffer 1st world problems’ that is arising.

        It is ‘I am not letting large tracts of the valueless members of society live off me anymore’.

        It is the proverbial middle finger to rent-seekers, spruikers and other bottom feeders, saying ‘Your system can not be supported without me. If I regress (and I may choose to), then so will you’.

        Nihilism is a completely rational response.

        “There’s nothing here, but what’s here is mine”.

      • China-bob

        Here’s an ad for a mechanical engineer

        http://www.seek.com.au/Job/mechanical-design-engineer/in/brisbane-cbd-inner-suburbs/23675111

        Pay is $90-$110k

        A cop gets about $80k after about 5 years, a teacher or nurse the same after about 10. Unless one is madly in love with all things technical how is it not pointless to do the really hard stuff like mechanical engineering?

        Or maybe it’s not that hard, maybe I’m just a dumb ass. But I think it is. I think the sort of people who could become mechanical engineers would be what? About 5% of the people, the amount who could be cops or teachers, about 50%?

        • Engineering graduation percentages vary between disciplines, but in my cohort it was something like 10-30%.. A lot of people drop out in the first and second years, those that remain are so determined to finish that they persevere.

          • “A lot of people drop out in the first and second years, those that remain are so determined to finish that they persevere.”

            My first degree was EE and even over 30 years ago only 30% of First year EE’s ever graduated with a EE degree (from good schools). Masters (ME) percentages were higher about 60% but PhD’s/Dsc’s dropped again to about 30%. So there is nothing new in these numbers, however EE drop-outs do not drop-out they usually end up with ME or computer science or similar technical degrees, just not EE.

            On Wall St the very best Quants are EE, Astrophysics and pure math graduates. As a matter of fact, you wont even find a job at a good hedge fund if you graduate with a finance/economics degree. So if you are only interested in money than EE’s (at my favorite Quant) start at about $200K USD plus big performance bonuses.

        • “Pay is $90-$110k……..Unless one is madly in love with all things technical how is it not pointless to do the really hard stuff like mechanical engineering?”

          What is wrong with $90K for an engineer, except the fact that a cop, a nurse and a teacher can also make about this much?

          In Taiwan (which has a similar GDP to Australia an similar population) an Engineer fresh fro school with a Masters gets about $40KUSD to $50KUSD. In China they get about $3500RMB/month which is about $6KUSDpa with a few year experience In China they will earn about $20KRMB/month ($40K USDpa)

          In Taiwan an Electrical Engineer is about the highest starting salary, way more than what a doctor or Lawyer gets. They also have very efficient Stock option schemes so the engineers can get very rich, IF they pick a successful company (I mean VERY rich). Look at all the TSMC millionaires. In places like Chupei (Taiwan) the gold-diggers (female kind) are trying to wed engineers (honestly that is what is happening)

          In Australia we basically overpay everyone else and destroy the market for the technically inclined. We then trade land at absurd prices and think we are building valuable businesses that our kids can inherit. We create tax schemes that are biased against small business while our pollies work out sweet deals for their favorite contributors.

          AND you wonder why nobody want to study Engineering!

          • China-Bob – you are gooood. You remind me of another (sadly former) contributor, you know what you are talking about. Cheers.

          • 3d1k I’m pleased if my rantings are of some value on this site.

            Since returning to Oz, I’ve noticed that I need to be very careful where I share my opinions. I got a rude surprise recently when I was asked to leave a country RSL because the locals (over hearing my conversation with another Aussie returnee) considered my opinions to be completely un-Australian.
            The conversation was about how incredibly smart and inventive/resourceful one of our old colleagues from India was and that this drive to really succeed was missing here in Australia.

    • Exactly Velocity. Which is why I think secondary education needs to become far more flexible in approach to learning and expectation of student face-to-face involvement.

      Easy enough to put measures in place to ensure kids combine some school time with independent learning at place and time of their choice – provided independent measures ensure progress.

      • I would have thought your idea of education reform was compulsory geology, and a free shovel for every student!

      • Which is why I think secondary education needs to become far more flexible in approach to learning and expectation of student face-to-face involvement.

        A flexibiltiy that will be enabled thanks to the NBN.

        Good to see you onboard!

  20. Besides labelling a place like France as a small European state, I believe HnH is mistaken in identifying the funding for the schools as the primary factor for ACT’s results. It is far more likely to be the fact that parents in the ACT have a higher level of education, families are likely to have higher incomes and you’d probably there is a lower level of separation; and people in the ACT have migrated there with a drive to make more money.

  21. The NSW education system is pathetic. It is probably the worst system that I’ve had children attend schools. Heck it is worse than DISD (Dallas Texas) and that is saying something.

    Absolutely no foreign languages being in primary school is unacceptable. This is the time in a child’s life when they can best learn languages. Our brains actually allocate extra space in critical areas if children are exposed to new languages when they are young. the older the child the less adaptable their brains become.

    Now don’t get me started on the complete lack of rigor in the math programs, the worst part of this is that we are robbing our best and brightest Aussie kids from rewarding careers in the sciences.

    • brightest Aussie kids from rewarding careers in the sciences

      Erhh, this is Australia we’re talking about.

  22. Loads of comments. Who here has actually taught a kid to read?
    I can tell you from a wealth experience the most successful teachers are parents. Virtually all the kids I coach reported (in a blind survey) they learnt to read on their parents knee. The few that didnt don’t read.
    A four year old can’t be told this skill, reading, is going to be useful in the workforce. He feeds of the enthusiasm of his parent.
    Go back and read those early books, there is nothing intrinsically interesting about a cat sitting in a mat. If Australia is failing it’s children, throwing more money at schools isn’t going to solve it.