Education

Reforming an Education System Beholden to Mediocrity

As a conservative, I baulk at the word “revolution.” In late-nineteenth-century Holland, a conservative party formed under the banner of the “Anti-Revolutionary Party,” and that phrase sums up where I sit on the question of revolt. There is one exception, though, and that is in regard to modern education.

Ask parents who send their kids to schools to get an education (rather than child-minding) and they will tell you there is something wrong, a malaise that sees their kids being neither exposed to nor absorbing what they should be learning. The statistics have been telling us this for years. Basic literacy and numeracy results have declined steeply. Students are being subjected to 21st Century Learning, which amounts to less reading, writing and arithmetic, and more ideological teaching of history, race, gender and climate. And don’t get me started on the impact and consequences of lockdowns.

On the climate issue, we see students’ declining mental health outcomes due to alarmist indoctrination. Today’s students, if surveys are to be believed, are more than ever feeling hopeless about the future, in part thanks to the catastrophism preached by teachers. Today’s kids need to be the generation making the changes that will save the world. No pressure, though!

For argument’s sake, let’s set aside ideology for a moment —  gender-bending, climate change propaganda, racism. Leave it all in the picture and uncontested. On the basis of student academic outcomes alone, anyone can see ever-increasing federal and state funding has not led to better results. Need it be said education standards affect a nation’s economy? Productivity is going to be a long-term challenge for Australia as our population ages and the proportion of productive workers decreases. Is a poorly educated person more likely to be productive; I’m concerned that the obvious answer is ‘no’. The current generation of school-leavers is not exactly setting the world on fire in terms of productivity and innovation, which seem two reasons why we need to keep importing workers from overseas. Immigration, however, is never better than a stop-gap, even when it is a stop-gap that has been applied year-in-year-out over decades. The structural problems and long term, poor education standards will make us both a dumber country and a poorer one.

Fixing this requires nothing less than a revolution of four steps: The first, bring  the teachers’ unions to heel. Two, implement a school-choice voucher system. Three, commit to sacking underperforming teachers and, before it gets to that stage, focus step four on the reform of teacher training. To lead the revolt, we need a Margaret Thatcher, and I’m not just talking about the Thatcher who liberalized the economy. I’m interested in the Thatcher who took on the unions. We need a Liberal leader who will take on the teachers unions until their power and influence is broken.

The teachers’ unions are a structural problem when it comes to Australia’s future productivity. The Australian Education Union (AEU) represents teachers across the school sectors, primary and secondary, public and private. Many of these teachers are very good at their jobs, but many aren’t. Indeed, the teaching profession is beset with mediocrity, in part because of the AEU, which consistently rejects all calls for interrogating teacher performance. It refuses to allow performance to be tied to pay. It blocks any efforts to move against under-performance. It always argues for more money for schools and smaller classes, which result in more teachers and, crucially, more union members. The AEU is a huge problem. And that is leaving aside all the ideological barrows it pushes.

Step 1 is to smash the unions. Really smash them. Start the policy implementation at the beginning of a new electoral cycle to give the government time to win the electorate over. The AEU will hate vouchers and they will hate performance monitoring and sackings. It goes against everything they stand for, which is in the end their own self-interest. They will give a Coalition government hell for doing this. Heck, they might even grind the system to a halt for a while.

But that would be a ‘don’t throw me into the briar patch’ moment because Step 2 puts vouchered money into parents’ hands. If your school closes because unionised teachers get cranky about being required to demonstrate their competence, you can take your voucher and go somewhere else that is offering the service you’re looking for, at least in the short term.

Indeed, in the longer term the principle expressed here matters a great deal – personal choice. Households can choose where they deploy the vouchers each and every child is allocated. Say the government spends $17,000 on a child’s education per year, which sounds shockingly high but that is roughly what is being spent currently. If parents had that money in voucher form they could take to any institution they favoured. Would they choose the local state school? Maybe they would. But I bet many would choose well-run, high-performing, cost-effective private schools. Some might even choose homeschooling.

With the voucher system’s incentive, more high-performing private schools would be founded, market forces  would kick in and schools that are both good and cheap would find themselves flush with students and funds. And they would be staffed with better teachers because the unions wouldn’t be keeping everyone beholden to mediocrity.

Which leads to Step 3, Performance. The government implementing this revolution should commit to a comprehensive performance review of the entire system, with every teacher found to be an under-performer shown the door. The time frame could be, say, five years, which would give teachers a window to get their act into gear, also buying the government time to balance the policy.

That balance would be in teachers training, which is Step 4. Currently, students studying to be teachers are often, to put it delicately, not fit for purpose.  Some can’t complete a basic mathematics problem or write a coherent and grammatically correct essay. Generally, an ATAR score of 60 is sufficient to study teaching, but as University Reviews notes:

…you should know that you’ll be towards the bottom of your class in terms of academic achievement if you enter university with a 60.00 score. As you look around the room in your first lecture and think about which students might be the ones to fail, the first person you probably should be looking at is you. You’ll need to step up from what you did in secondary education to do well at university.

It’s an appalling situation. Teacher training should be overhauled to encourage outstanding talent to prepare for the classroom, thus improving standards more generally. This could be done through generous scholarships and, of course, rewards for performance. A key method of achieving this demands making teacher training predominantly classroom-based. Abolish Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education or Teaching, except for those who want to become education academics. Such a credential shouldn’t qualify anyone to stand before the blackboard in an actual classroom. Rather, every prospective teacher should be required to have completed a minimum three-year undergraduate course that gives them specialist knowledge in one or two disciplines (e.g. Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws).

Upon completing their undergraduate studies, these students would then enter what is effectively an apprenticeship program administered by a university. This could be a Graduate Diploma in Teaching, or an 18-month Masters. It could have some theoretical components, but at least half the training course should be practical, in the classroom, with mentors involved.

The result of this plan? Better teachers, better schools, better student outcomes, better academic results, and, ideally, more productive citizens in the long run. That’s the kind of revolution this conservative can get behind. Now, where to find the antipodean Margaret Thatcher.

Simon Kennedy is Associate Editor at Quadrant. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Danube Institute

29 thoughts on “Reforming an Education System Beholden to Mediocrity

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Everlasting thanks to Gough Whitlam for the present system, and as Marc Antony said –the evil men did lives after them…….. and for the life of me I can’t think of anything good Gough did to be interred with his bones. Mr Kennedy is probably correct in all of the above but we must remember that the parents are also to blame for poor parents make for poor kids and poor educational outcomes. I had no education as such but ensured all my kids did in the State School system and all are in medicine, law, science etc. but interestingly enough, the ones who insisted that their kids (my grandkids) were given guidelines and direction as we gave to our kids are also Uni graduates in like professions but the couple who allowed their kids to run their own race as it were, have Uni degrees in disciplines not yet invented and work as labourers or check out chicks. QED. As in real estate it is parenting, parenting, and more parenting. Someone gave us a book on child psychology written by a Dr. Spock and I never did read it but it came in handy as “applied psychology” when applied to a young backside as the kids reached the age of reason that today would make one some kind of ogre.

  • Paul W says:

    I have never understood why teaching requires any kind of degree. The fact that there are programs to train teachers in just a few months strongly suggests that it is bloatware. At the end of the day, you can either prepare good material and teach it effectively, or you can’t.
    The problem with firing underperforming teachers is that it’s very difficult to distinguish between an underperforming teacher and a good teacher with really bad students. I have never seen anyone suggest a method by which we can actually distinguish between the two – and make no mistake, it’s very, very difficult.

    • Brian Boru says:

      Yes Paul, the article was a good description of the problems but I waited in vain to read of any objective method of evaluating performance. As you infer, maybe it’s not possible.
      .
      Compounding the problem of objectively evaluating performance would be the individual judgement of principals.
      .
      I guess the idea is that the voucher system (which I tend to like) would sort it all out. Again the article is lacking in that it provided no examples of this system working well.
      .
      After saying all that, my opinion is that a switched on, enthusiastic, caring teacher is gold. A trapped in the job, bored, time serving teacher is leaden.
      .
      I also have to say that I deplore the ideologies pumped out by teacher unions. However, they have a legitimate interest in ensuring objective and fair treatment for their members.

  • lbloveday says:

    The problem is to get worse, it seems, with, according to an article in The Australian Oct 1:
    .
    “Disability special schools must be phased out faster, say Greens”.
    .
    The thrust is to have disabled students integrated with main stream students. My comment was, as expected, REJECTED:
    **********
    “… segregation is abuse”

    Integration can place an unfair burden on other students. My daughter’s case is instructive.
    .
    She came home at the end of year 4, shoulders slumped “Why me Dad? I’ve got X in my class again, 5 years in a row, no-one else has”.
    .
    X had severe Down Syndrome, could not speak (grunts my daughter said), let alone read or write, but was in the same class as my daughter and sat next to her at his mother’s request – X took a shine to her as she was initially a very caring child and the only one who invited X to her birthday party.
    .
    So her education was diminished and for what educational reason? X was never going to matriculate let alone study at uni or complete a trade qualification.
    .
    But it did not end there, X followed her around at recess and lunch times, impinging on her social as well as educational advancement.

    • BalancedObservation says:

      lbloveday you’ve made some insightful points here. And congratulations on having such a caring daughter.
      .
      You’re obviously a glutton for punishment at The Australian. But although I cancelled my subscription I suppose I can’t talk. I still buy the weekend Australian and wrote a letter to them on the same broad area. It wasn’t published. It’s probably my last go.

    • BalancedObservation says:

      The first step towards improvement is to recognise that the school education system as a whole – despite the huge infusion of extra funding – continues to experience lower outcomes. That’s something both major political parties need to recognise. It’s going to be hard for them to do because they are both part of the problem.
      .
      And considering the huge increase in resources and the persistently poor performance, the problem it is unlikely to be due to a single or just a few causes. It’s likely to be the way the whole system is managed. It’s likely to be systemic.
      .
      But that’s certainly not to say it can’t be fixed. There are some outstanding areas of excellence in education in the public and private sectors. The whole system should be given the chance to learn from and benefit from them.
      .
      As a principle any future reviews should not be too influenced by those who have been associated with failures in the existing system. Arguably they’ll tend to recommend solutions which are likely to be pretty close to more of the same – which usually predominantly means more resources with some minor changes at the edges.
      .
      And while I’ve been pretty unimpressed with my indirect encounters with some education unions I’ve been just as unimpressed with public education management. The latter may be worse.
      .
      So I wouldn’t be wasting valuable political energy and goodwill in trying to “smash” unions. I’d argue a better system, with better teachers and better managers is likely to give us better unions. Unlike the UK in Margaret Thatcher’s time overall we don’t have a serious problem with unions like the UK had.
      .
      The notion to “smash” unions as a key way to improve education, to me, is analogous to the argument from the left which seems to be to secure more money for education by smashing the private education system. Maybe they’re emotionally satisfying for the competing sides but neither would be a very effective way to achieve a better overall education system.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Simon Kennedy is certainly right that a revolution in education is needed. A bigger revolution than he envisages.
    .
    You don’t need to be an expert in education to know that when you continue to pour billions and billions more dollars into education over a decade and standards actually fall there’s something fundamentally wrong and it’s unlikely to be simply one or two things wrong. It’s likely to be something systemic.
    .
    When you conduct an enquiry ( the Gonski report) and pour more and more dollars into education and get similar results, as standards continue to fall, you should know there’s something wrong with the system and your review of it.
    .
    When you conduct another review (Gonski 2) and pour more dollars into the system and yet again get similar results as standards continue to fall you should know there’s something wrong with the system and your two reviews of it.
    .
    But I don’t think the penny has dropped for Labor or the Coalition yet. The Gonski reports were heralded as watershed moments in education by both Labor and Coalition governments. They are both responsible for them.
    .
    The results following the Gonski reports shouldn’t be all that surprising considering a significant number of those who conducted them had presided over the failed system that led to the reviews they were part of.
    .
    And any changes were pretty modest apart from mainly assuming more money would fix things. Which has clearly been proven to be a totally false assumption when more money has actually had the opposite effect.
    .
    And although the reports seemed to sprinkle fairy dust all over a huge number of issues their main thrust was predominantly limited to funding models which they clearly failed to get right even though there was arguably some very modest improvement over the old funding models with an attempt to focus more on need. But they didn’t do that very well.
    .
    It’s a pretty depressing record in an area so important to Australia. It’s especially important for our productivity as Simon Kennedy says. Our productivity has also, perhaps not surprisingly, been as disappointing as education.
    .
    Productivity will further be put at risk not so much in the longer term from an aging population, as Simon Kennedy says, but from running out of valuable stuff to dig up, especially when we’re planning on locking a lot of that valuable stuff up. (Continuing high immigration levels will reduce the demographic risk to productivity).

  • BalancedObservation says:

    The first step towards improvement is to recognise that the school education system as a whole – despite the huge infusion of extra funding – continues to experience lower outcomes. That’s something both major political parties need to recognise. It’s going to be hard for them to do because they are both part of the problem.
    .
    And considering the huge increase in resources and the persistently poor performance, the problem it is unlikely to be due to a single or just a few causes. It’s likely to be the way the whole system is managed. It’s likely to be systemic.
    .
    But that’s certainly not to say it can’t be fixed. There are some outstanding areas of excellence in education in the public and private sectors. The whole system should be given the chance to learn from and benefit from them.
    .
    As a principle any future reviews should not be too influenced by those who have been associated with failures in the existing system. Arguably they’ll tend to recommend
    solutions which are likely to be pretty close to more of the same – which usually predominantly means more resources with some minor changes at the edges.
    .
    And while I’ve been pretty unimpressed with my indirect encounters with some education unions I’ve been just as unimpressed with public education management. The latter may be worse.
    .
    So I wouldn’t be wasting valuable political energy and goodwill in trying to “smash” unions. I’d argue a better system, with better teachers and better managers is likely to give us better unions.
    .
    The notion to “smash” unions as a key way to improve education, to me, is analogous to the argument from the left which seems to be to secure more money for education by smashing the private education system. Maybe they’re emotionally satisfying for the competing sides but neither would be a very effective way to achieve a better overall education system.

  • gardner.peter.d says:

    This prescription is absolutely right. te key thing about Australia’s health system is that the flow of the available funding is directly decided by the choices made by individual patients. Exactly the same proinciple should be applied to eductaion. Cultural Marxism cannot be defetaed in any otgher way. you see the sema thing in that monument to postWW2 Marxism in the UK’s NHS and educational establishment. Customers – patiants and pafents respectively – have no choice of provider and no control over wher the fuibnding goes. In UK parent are even prohibited from seeing teaching materials on Woke ideologies!
    These Woke Marxist ideologues are fighting a war against the entirety of Western civilisation. No measure against them is too bold.

    • gardner.peter.d says:

      Oops! I’ll translate.
      This prescription is absolutely right. The key thing about Australia’s health system is that the flow of the available funding is directly decided by the choices made by individual patients. Exactly the same principle should be applied to education. Cultural Marxism cannot be defeated in any other way. You see the same thing in that monument to post WW2 Marxism that is the UK’s Nationl Heath Service and in the UK’s educational establishment. Customers – patients and parents respectively – have no choice of provider and no control over where the funding goes. In UK parents are even prohibited from seeing teaching materials on Woke ideologies!
      These Woke Marxist ideologues are fighting a war against the entirety of Western civilisation. No measure against them can be too bold.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Actually a much more thoroughgoing revolution is needed, namely the complete abolition of state-controlled education. Vouchers would be good but are not the best answer. Only a fool or an eternal optimist would put his/her child’s education in the hands of a state-controlled bureaucracy. Private enterprise may be messy but it is remarkably effective at getting results. A socialist school system will produce little socialists. We do not want little socialists. We want self-supporting, enterprising, independent-minded people with the courage to take their destiny in their own hands. We need a system which makes parents – not state-appointed ‘experts’ – responsible for the education of their children. That means fully private education fully answerable to the parents who pay the fees.

  • john mac says:

    Maybe the elephant in the room, but is 80/20 % the ratio of women to men in k-12? The teachers union and feminist movement are like a snake- you don’t know where the neck ends and the tail begins. “Empowerment ” of girls and feminisation of boys is paramount.

    • lbloveday says:

      A close friend with 45 years teaching in State Primary Schools, almost exclusively years 5-7 (SA) said “I could not recommend teaching to any young man; no-one should have to put up with what I did”.
      What he put up included not being allowed to apply for a promotional position because it was restricted to female applicants, justified as necessary to rectify a predominance of men in promotion positions. Bugger his family!
      And guess whose class troublesome boys were sent when the female teachers despaired- to the 6’4″ man’s of course.

      • john mac says:

        I deliver to schools all over Adelaide , primary and secondary , and pretty much the only males I see are the maintenance/groundsmen guys . The admin and teaching cohort almost exclusively female . What a hostile staff room it must be for the few men in the teaching ranks , biting one’s tongue daily , for fear of offending the usual bullies waiting to pounce on anything said or implied .

    • Tom Parker says:

      A very valid point. Something like 90% of teachers are female. Such an overwhelming proportion means in effect that 100% of teachers might as well be female so far as creating the ethos or ‘ culture ‘ of the educational environment goes. So a perfect opportunity for women to show what they can do, and so they have. Australia’s international ranking in education has gone down significantly. There’s no chance that female teachers will accept any responsibility for this. The knee-jerk accusation that criticism is motivated by misogyny will see to that.

      However I don’t consider it too extravagant to think that if 90% of teachers were male, a whole heap of ideological rubbish would never have saturated the system and so the present state of education would be very different.

      As for ‘ smashing the unions ‘ that’s a particular type of conservative’s dream, not mine.

    • Tom Parker says:

      A necessary clarification that only occurred to me after I had posted my comment. My reference to ‘ smashing the unions ‘ referred to matter in the main article, not to anything you said or implied in your comments.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Any review of the education system needs to be wide-ranging and should view the private and public sectors as one whole education system and should look for ways where each sector can benefit from the other.
    .
    Let’s be clear the public sector gets virtually all its funding from the government and the private sector gets a substantial proportion of its funding. They both arguably should be expected to contribute to the education sector as a whole. This happens now on an ad hoc and casual basis but it should become an entrenched and compulsory part of our total educational system.
    .
    There’s a lot to be said for the voucher system which should certainly be tried here. It has a lot to offer on equity, efficiency flexibility, and diversity grounds. If used wisely it could reduce costs. It also represents a far superior way to address need than any Gonski formula. It’s nothing new, it’s been operating in the US since the 1990s. But will take time and extensive political debate to introduce. It should be tried on a part basis first. So should other reforms.
    .
    But before vouchers, one of the very simple reforms which will lead to better run schools and greater freedom of choice is to abolish restrictive educational boundaries which force parents who have to use the public system to send their children to particular state schools regardless of how poorly those schools are being run.
    .
    It weakens the ability of parents as consumers to vote with their feet when a school is being run poorly. It guarantees incompetently run schools a market. It takes away a good way to expose poorly run schools so they can be improved.
    .
    But there is a rather hidden inequitable aspect associated with boundary restrictions too. I’m sure you’ve heard of people moving to a particular area because they can then access a very good public school there. And that usually means buying a very expensive house. It amounts to an access fee of possibly over a million dollars to access the best run public schools which are supposed to provide free education.
    .
    In an earlier post I referred to the fact that with all its problems the public system can be fixed because there are outstanding examples of excellence in education in the public and private sectors. One way to use that is to set up Centres of Excellence in particular areas of study which combine the best of what each sector has to offer.
    .
    Public and private pupils could attend such centres on a part time basis and so could teachers to learn from highly skilled and successful teachers in particular subject areas, or in dealing with particular problems like behavioural problems.
    .
    Teacher education should be improved to place greater emphasis on teaching techniques and there should be far more on the job training as well as tertiary education. You need both. One does not substitute for the other. They complement each other.
    .
    Better run schools with better run state administrations will attract a higher proportion of quality applicants to the teaching profession. Currently some of the lowest entry scores at universities are for teaching degrees. That’s an important signal. We aren’t getting the best we could be getting into the profession. And it’s not just pay. Better administrations, streamlining education bureaucracies, better supported teachers and better teacher training will attract high quality applicants; and all these factors will also lead to better teaching outcomes.
    .
    All government funded private schools should be required to provide an education to a number of students from public schools who can’t afford the fees and would like to attend private schools. Private schools should be paid the full cost these students would cost the government if they were in public schools.
    .
    Education funding should at least partly go directly to the students’ families in the form of vouchers which could be used at government or private schools. It could be adjusted to reflect needs and would be a far better vehicle for that than Gonski formulas.
    .
    It would not be a net cost to the system. It could in fact save money by making it possible for more families at the margin who wanted to, to send their children to private schools. Every child who goes to a private school costs the state about 50% less in costs.
    .
    These are simply some ideas but I must stress what is needed is a wide ranging review of the whole system run mainly by people who have not been directly associated with the current poor performance of the system. Ideally such a review should have a politically bipartisan approach. The serious need for reform will need to be recognized first by our major parties.
    .
    We should certainly not start wars with unions. They are not the enemy. They want better outcomes too even though they may disagree with approaches. It would be a waste of political capital and valuable time to “smash” them and start a war with them. They should be co-opted to help where that is possible.
    .
    Similarly we should not be concentrating on sacking ” incompetent” teachers. We should be helping to improve those we have. We already have a dire shortage of teachers. As with unions, teachers should be, wherever possible, brought on side to help with reforms. They are certain to agree to at least some of the reforms. As a profession teachers also want better outcomes. Waging war on unions and teachers might be emotionally satisfying for some but it will be destructive and hinder genuine reform.
    .
    But on the other hand I wouldn’t be averse to sacking a top education bureaucrat on up to around $600,000 per annum who can be proven not to have achieved results.
    .
    And it’s possible to get reforms through without “smashing” unions. We really only know how badly our schools are performing because Julia Gillard as federal Education Minister – with a lot of help from others including her predecessors – was able to get the NAPLAN system introduced.
    .
    The unions vigorously opposed it, and still do, but Julia Gillard still managed to get it implemented without smashing them. Probably because she was very forceful, competent and determined and probably because she didn’t try to smash unions.

  • cel47143 says:

    To bring in a couple of points that relate to other current items of interest.
    The Voice – in 2019 (the last year I can find figures for) the Government was kicking in an average of $35,000 per student at Wilcannia Central School where enrollment is predominately aboriginal. The Aboriginal Education Consultative Committee, whose membership is definied by ancestoral links, is the sole body providing community input into the school, so they already have a voice in the education of their children.
    Childcare -First I will declare that I reared my family in the pre-childcare era. Is there any research on matching the proliferation of taxpayer subsidised childcare, so mothers can allegedly contribute to the GDP by going back to work, and the decline in Australian education standards?

    • BalancedObservation says:

      cel47143
      .
      That’s and a very powerful point you make on the question of childcare. We’re paying an enormous amount on it which is likely to actually reduce educational outcomes – by reducing the care children receive from their own mothers. It’s also likely to have other undesirable social effects on children on top of the educational impacts.
      .
      It’s understandable from a welfare point of view that some mothers might desperately need childcare help but that’s not the main aim of the costly program because it also goes to also families earning over $500,000.
      .
      A key reason given for the subsidy is that it encourages workforce participation. Members of families earning that sort of money do not need to be subsided to want to enter the workforce.
      .
      The subsidy will rise by just under 20% under Labor for the four years from 2023-2024 to a massive $55.3 billion. Much of which would be better spent elsewhere without the arguably undersirsble impacts overly subsidized childcare has.
      .
      And it’s not just Labor. As I recall the Turnbull Coalition Government significantly increased childcare costs too.

  • Brian Boru says:

    After reading this article I consulted Professor Google to find out more about the voucher system.
    .
    I found that it has been used in Holland since about 1917 and that their results are good. They get quite high educational rankings. It was apparently originally introduced to avoid conflict on schooling between Catholics and Protestants.

  • Solo says:

    Full disclosure, I was a secondary school teacher for several years until I came to my senses. I also taught in fairly low socioeconomic state schools.

    The root of the problem is the breakup of the nuclear family. This is something that governments will have a hard time fixing. Before unions, before class sizes, before money in the organisation, there is the boy or girl who comes to school from home – unaware of all the adult things and politics that are circulating around them as they enter the school gate.

    Now that child’s home, we like to think, has a mum and a dad, two cars in the garage, and is a safe place broadly. In my experience, some students do not have parents that care, have not been fed and have slept rough due to family dysfunction at home. The ‘difficult’ students are typically hungry, tired, have underlying learning disorders and are surrounded by outstandingly poor role models at home and cannot understand value in education and cannot see a better way, or a link between ‘rich kids’ and themselves.

    In my second year of teaching, as per unspoken expectations in the profession, I was given a ‘write off’ Year 9 maths class full of children with behaviour problems. They are put together like this so that they simply destroy their own chances at learning and their absence might shield others from their disruption. I had a teacher’s aide who was helpful in supervising, and around 20 kids. Again, these kids were the ‘likely to end up in prison or pregnant before Year 10’. Over time, we eventually sorted a few things out in relation to mathematics, but the main concern was the fact almost all of those children hadn’t had breakfast and had no lunch packed for the day. Some had not slept at their own house the night before. After discovering this, I would purchase fruit from Woolies and bring it in and the kids would devour it. I had to diffuse a punch up over the last banana at one point. After being fed, those kids did better overall. There were less behaviour issues, kids began to get a bit more polite (we had a low bar to start with) and some sort of teaching managed to get completed. Some were thrilled to get D+ or C- instead of E’s.

    If my pay was tied to the performance of my horrible Year 9 maths class, I also would need to fight someone for a banana.

    If we are to revolutionise anything, let us encourage the reinvigoration the family. A much more challenging endeavour. And no, my child is not going to go to a State school (both us parents are ex-state school teachers!)

    • Brian Boru says:

      You and cel47143 above have kicked a goal with your comments on family.
      .
      When my children were at school and I had to fill in a form asking for the mother’s occupation, I always wrote “nation builder”. We made the sacrifice of no dual income but I am sure the result was worth it.
      .
      What a disgrace that we now have a country where young people with children can’t afford to buy a home without both working. As Solo and cel47143 reveal, we are beset by educational and social problems as a result.

    • guilfoyle says:

      My mother was a teacher in the Education Department and this was exactly her experience. She too, brought breakfast for the children in her class. However, I recall when she, shall we say, ‘backed off’ her commitment to education through the public system- an event that was preceded by her observation that the ‘Marxists had overtaken the Education Department. ‘
      I was very careful never to let my child anywhere near a state school. It is not just the indoctrination by the teachers resulting in ideologically divisive ideas implanted in their heads. It is further cultural erosion – negation of our fundamental cultural values accompanied by a complete absence of teaching of virtue- resulting in an undermining of our cultural foundations and the parents’ attempts to form their children into responsible and caring adults. These corrosive manipulations are, of course, smuggled in under the guise of ‘caring’. As a consequence, our children are sexualised at an age at which they are unequipped emotionally and instilled with a toxic combination of narcissistic self-reference, together with permanent panic (they are capable of saving the world by their actions and everything they do is elevated to ‘genius’ and yet, they know they are mere humans and incapable of changing the climate, and they also know they are not ‘genius’).
      The model is based on untruths, disguised as kindness and caring. Moreover, the lack of parenting is striking in the public system – as is the power of parents to bully the teachers and the lack of support for the teachers through hierarchy by those who are concerned, not with the wholesome development of children but with ‘covering their arses’. Hence, the teacher who disciplines a troublesome pupil and who is attacked for this by the parents (the source of the problem), is not supported in the school hierarchy or the Education Department system. Why would they bother taking the time to do an unpleasant thing such as disciplining when they can fake caring and send the child to the school ‘psychologist’ and in the process earn no wrath from the horrible parents?
      This leads to the other problem in the state system- the child in that system is surrounded by their peer group, and anyone who has children in their teens knows the power of the peer group. Thus it is down to sheer luck as to the child’s friends within the school. Many parents attempt some control over this by sending their children to private schools- while this is no guarantee, at least the schools provide discipline and a moral framework that, hopefully, serves the child later in life.
      The Marxists of the Education Department have made sure that they have completely relativised morality so that it is meaningless, an exercise that has negated any framework attempted by the parents.
      My take on the public education system is, simply – keep away- either private school or home school.
      It’s a bit like the ABC – taken over by vain progressives- not worth changing , just leave.

  • Patricia Wiltshire says:

    My primary school education in Brisbane, Q’ld provided a grounding in The 4R’s, as well as a love of literature, poetry, music and the arts. Family circumstances at the time resulted in my not going to the Secondary School of my choice and being sent instead to Stott’s Business College to study Shorthand, Typing, Business English and Book-keeping. I completed the year’s course with a Certificate of 100 wpm in Shorthand witth 100% accuracy of trancription and, as the student with the best results, I was offered ‘an apprenticeship’ as a Shorthand and Typing teacher. This eventually led to a position as a commercial teacher at a Catholic School – on the condition that my students passed their external exams at the end of the year! The Principal – a Nun – told me she chose me because I had doubts about my suitability. She believed that signified my lack of self-interest and my desire to do the best for my students, when comparing me with another candidate with more ‘pride’ and belief in herself! Out of a class of 40 students, all passed and ten received High Distinctions. So began a successsful teaching career which ended as a teacher of Information Technology from Years 7 to 12. I give credit to my Primary School education for providing me with the tools that led to a varied and interesting working life, as well as to a life rich with different interests and experiences nurtured through a love of the best literature, poetry and the Arts – including Charles Dickens’s ‘Noble Art of Shorthand’.

  • whitelaughter says:

    As we know this won’t happen, the solution is home schooling. As more and more parents pull their children from the system, the borg collective will panic, as they lose the ability to brainwash those children: then and only then, they’ll try to improve teaching.
    As for vouchers – it’s the taxpayers money! Simply make school fees count as tax credits, and you’ll pull countless families out of the tax system, saving us all money, and simplify moving your child to a private school.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    A lot of my background knowledge in education, especially in the primary and secondary areas, I get from my dear wife who spent a lifetime in the profession and was a highly dedicated and successful teacher ( like those posting here and the ones referred to positively here in posts).
    .
    She taught at all levels and in nearly all systems – from public, to Catholic to elite non Catholic private and in mainstream education to special education – from primary to university. She’s seen it all. Fortunately there are still a lot dedicated like her in the system. So it’s good to remember that. There’s the basis there for a real improvement overall.
    .
    She developed a reading system for primary students, all in her own time at night for no pay while working in the public system. She implemented it successfully in her own public school. After that she gave it to the department which distributed it and sold it to schools. It was a remarkably successful system.
    .
    I still remember the head of public education in the area waxing eloquently about it and taking credit for in the media. No mention of my wife who developed it all in her own time and was paid nothing for it. I’m sure that rings a bell for many here. I could tell you much worse stories about highly incompetent very senior level people like that. Stories you’d be shocked about. They make experiences with unions seem mild in comparison.
    .
    I’ve also had a lifetime interest in public policy from my uni days and over twenty years in top management positions including three years as a senior executive at a tertiary institution where we managed to reduce administration costs as a share of the budget by a third – in an institution which already had comparatively low admin costs compared with others in the country.
    .
    There’s so much scope to streamline public education bureaucracies. In fact all public bureaucracies. And when you do they don’t only cost less they’re much more effective. And far better to teach in.
    .
    However … what I see on the horizon is more of the same : that is a tendency to spend more and more money for poorer results. You wouldn’t need to be an incredibly well informed prophet to predict that either.
    .
    The latest report on tertiary education for example is sure to drag standards down further and add significantly to costs.
    .
    There’s very little political will or the political competence to improve things on either side of politics.

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