In the news recently

1. Unfair?

Chris Bonnor former President of the NSW Secondary Principals Council (SMH 21/9/22) wrote about the Productivity Commission interim report on its Review of National School Reform. He complains that the report only looks at what is happening in classrooms and not the big picture. He likens the present system to a car where every player has their head under the bonnet of the car trying to fix it and no one has the design manual to guide how it might be fixed. He aims his comments directly at the Australian system with its inequity reflected in the long tail on performance data showing huge gaps in learning and the inequitable funding that perpetuates this model. He particularly laments the ignorance of peer effective learning citing the siphoning-off of students into well-resourced private schools and selective schools as a further embedding of inequity that is shown in educational outcomes. His views are worth consideration in the light of other funding issues.

2. Writing standards

The ABC reports (18/10/22) data from the Year 9 NAPLAN results that indicate Most Australian students writing at lower levels. Reporting results from 2011 to 2018 The Australian Education research organisation reports that students cannot convey a complexity of ideas. Some 85% of students at Year 9 level are at, or below, the level two years below them. Less students were achieving the higher scores and for many, punctuation was at Year 3 level. It is suggested that teachers may have diverted teaching of writing to a greater focus on reading, but writing needs to be taught systematically and explicitly.

3. More about resources

In Social injustice of our school funding is a disgrace (SMH 25/10/22) Ken Boston the former Director-General of Education in NSW highlights the finding of additions to Cranebrook school as an example of a wealthy school that receives government funding. He expresses his concern as “I have a fundamental objection to such schools – which enjoy charitable taxation status, have massive investments, raise millions of dollars in donations and charge fees approaching the minimum wage – receiving government funds.” Boston says that it is the considerable funding of recurrent expenditure by governments that allows all such schools to develop massive building programs and gain loans based on other income – fees, donations etc, His basic premise is that misdirected government funding has staved government schools or the resources they need to make a difference.

4. UAI (University Admissions Index)

Several articles in the news have targeted the UAI. The first indicating that International Baccalaureate marks will be more carefully scrutinise because of an apparent change in standards. More students have been achieving the top marks than can be explained by performance alone.

A second article acknowledged the increasing trend for universities to accept early entry based on school performance and marks from that school presumable based on overall performance of past candidates. Now the question is being raised as to whether the UAI is performing its purpose especially when comparable standards between states are difficult to judge with iterative scaling. Further developments and erosion of the UAI as the determinate for entry into university courses is to be expected.

                                    John Gore