The UK Labour Party wants to abolish private schools – could we do that in Australia?



Britain’s Eton College charges charges annual fees of more than £40,000.
from shutterstock.com

Paul Kidson, University of Wollongong

The UK’s Labour Party recently voted in a policy to effectively abolish private schools and integrate them into the state system.

This is a courageous move designed to redress social inequity – many of those working in the top levels of the UK government were educated in private schools. Two of Britain’s three most recent prime ministers went to the prestigious Eton College, which charges annual fees of more than £40,000.

The UK opposition party’s plan will likely warm the hearts of similarly minded Australians. Many of the same arguments about educational inequality have been floated in Australia. Many individuals and organisations have also, for years, been calling for the government to stop funding non-government schools.




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But implementing a policy in Australia like that proposed in the UK would prove very difficult. For one thing, it’s a matter of numbers. Only 5% of the United Kingdom’s students go to a private school. The challenges are magnified in Australia where nearly 15% of students are enrolled in independent schools and nearly 20% in Catholic parish schools.

But beyond that, Australia’s complex set of school governance structures would make such a move very unlikely to succeed.

Eight education systems

Under UK Labour’s proposal, if it took office, private schools would lose their charitable status and any other public subsidies or tax breaks. Their endowments, investments and properties would be “redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions”.

For Australia to do the same, at the outset, it would be a constitutional issue. The Australian Constitution empowers states and territories to provide school education, thus creating eight different education systems. For Australia to abolish private schools like that proposed in the UK, a choice from three possible processes would need to occur to get around this issue.

First, Australia could change the Constitution. Second, all states and territories could voluntarily cede their powers for schooling back to the Commonwealth. Or third, each state and territory government could agree to enact the policy in its own jurisdiction.

Only eight of the proposed 44 changes to the Australian Constitution have been agreed to since Federation. And given the political territorialism that exists between states and territories, it is hard to imagine any of these solutions being implemented.

Assuming one of the above could be enacted, taking over existing non-government schools would be further complicated by the diverse nature of school governance structures.

Australia’s different school governance structures would make it almost impossible to cede all private education to the Commonwealth.
from shutterstock.com

In addition to being registered with their relevant state or territory government authority, more than 1,000 non-government primary and secondary schools are registered with the Australian Not-for-profit Charities Commission.

This means there are no “owners” who financially gain from operating the school. Financial surpluses are not distributed to shareholders but must be reinvested in the school.

For a government to take over a not-for-profit charity in such a way would cause extreme anxiety to the thousands of community organisations which also exist under this legal structure.




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Another group of non-government schools are governed by church authorities. A school such as William Clarke College in Sydney’s north-west, for instance, is governed by an ordinance of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney whose own authority is derived from state legislation. A smaller number of schools, such as Newington College in NSW or the eight Queensland Grammar Schools, are governed directly through acts of parliament.

To absorb these schools into one government system would require a change to a range of legislation covering charitable and religious organisations. Given various state and territory governments can’t even agree on the age students should start school, achieving consistency in the legislative realm seems remote.

We should keep working to reduce inequality

Advocates of private schooling in the UK have hit back at Labour’s proposal, indicating lengthy, and costly, legal challenges. These could range from parents’ rights to make choices for their childrens’ development (enshrined in Article 18 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) through to property and charitable trust laws.

Resistance to the proposed policy change from the UK Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (that describes itself as an association of heads of “some of the world’s leading independent schools”) is already fierce and suggests the same would likely be the case in Australia.

One consequence of inaction is growing inequity. Successful education systems prioritise equity and quality. Analysis of social disadvantage by the OECD found more than 52% of Australian disadvantaged students are enrolled in disadvantaged schools. This is compared to the OECD average of 48% and 45% in the UK (world leaders are Nordic countries at an average of 43%).

Australian analysis also highlights a growing concentration of advantaged students are already in educationally advantaged schools.

Creating a socially and politically just education system is a worthy objective. But it’s not just a public-private issue.

Segmented schooling also exists in some Australian government schooling jurisdictions. For example, NSW has a highly stratified government education system which includes single-sex schools and various selective schools (academic, performing arts, sports and technology schools).

This creates enrolment interest from families living outside local communities, exacerbating infrastructure pressures in government schools. And some of NSW’s selective schools have concentrations of students who are far wealthier than in some private schools.




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The debate over what our society wants from schooling is about equitable opportunities for everyone. The policy outlined by the UK’s Labour Party raises fundamental questions about the role and process of education in society. There seems value to ask the same for Australia.The Conversation

Paul Kidson, Lecturer in Educational Leadership, University of Wollongong

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Freedom of speech: a history from the forbidden fruit to Facebook



Humans have always sought knowledge, all the way back to Eve.
Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Matthew Sharpe, Deakin University

This essay is part of a series of articles on the future of education.


Free speech is in the news. Not least because several leading universities have adopted a “model code” to protect it on campus. And then there’s the Israel Folau saga, and debate over whether his Instagram post was free speech, or just hate speech.

If the Bible is to be believed, humans have sought knowledge since Eve. They have been disagreeing since Cain and Abel. From long before kings, people have been subject to rulers with a vested interest in controlling what was said and done.

Humans have always had a need to ask big questions and their freedom to ask them has often pushed against orthodoxies. Big questions make many people uneasy. Socrates, killed by the Athenians for corrupting the youth in 399 BCE, is only the most iconic example of what can happen when politics and piety combine against intellectuals who ask too many questions.

Or questions of the wrong kind.

In all this, there’s an implicit idea we understand the basic meaning of “free speech”, and we are all entitled to it. But what does it really mean, and how entitled are we?

Where does it come from?

The Ancient Greek Cynics – who valued a simple life, close to nature – valorised “parrhesia” or frank speech as an ethical, not a legal thing. Ancient polytheism (the belief in many gods) made the idea of religious intolerance unheard of, outside of condemning the odd philosopher.

But it was only in the 17th and 18th centuries that arguments for religious tolerance and the freedoms of conscience and speech took the forms we now take for granted.




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Protestantism, which began in Europe in the early 16th century, challenged the authority of the Catholic Church and its priests to interpret the Bible. Protestants appealed to individuals’ consciences and championed the translation of the Holy Book into the languages of ordinary people.

Protestant thinker John Locke argued, in 1689, that no person can compel another’s God-given conscience. Therefore, all attempts to do this should be forbidden.

At the same time, philosophers began to challenge the limits of human knowledge concerning God, immortality and the mysteries of faith.

People who claim the right to persecute others believe they know the truth. But the continuing disagreements between different religious sects speaks against the idea God has delivered his truth uniquely and unambiguously to any one group.

We are condemned by the limits of our knowledge to learn to tolerate our differences. But not at any cost.

We are condemned by the limits of our knowledge to learn to tolerate our differences.
from shutterstock.com

Defending freedom of conscience and speech is not an unlimited prospect. None of the great 18th century advocates of free speech, such as Voltaire, accepted libel, slander, defamation, incitements to violence, treason or collusion with foreign powers, as anything other than crimes.

It was not intolerant to censor groups who expressed a wish to overthrow the constitution. Or those who would harm members of a population who committed no offences. It was not intolerant to sanction individuals who incite violence against members of other religious or racial groups, solely on grounds of their group identities.




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At stake in these limits of free speech is what 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill called the “harm principle”. According to this idea, supposedly free speech that causes or incites harm to others is not truly “free” at all.

Such speech attacks the preconditions of civil debate, which requires a minimum of respect and safety for one’s opponents.

Mill also held that a good society should allow a diversity of views to be presented without fear or favour. A group in which unquestioned orthodoxy prevails may miss evidence, reason badly, and be unduly influenced by political pressures (making sure the “right” view is maintained).

A society should be able to check different views against each other, refute and rectify errors, and ideally achieve a more comprehensive and truer set of beliefs.

Freedom of debate

Critics of Mill’s diversity ideal have said it mistakes society for a university seminar room. They contend politicians and academics have a more qualified sense of the value of seeking knowledge than impartial inquirers.

This criticism points to the special place of universities when it comes to concerns surrounding freedom of speech, past and present.




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When the great medieval universities were founded, they were established as autonomous corporations, as against private businesses or arms of public government.

If free inquiry to cultivate educated citizens was to flourish, the thought was, it must be insulated from the pressures of economic and political life. If an intellectual is a paid spokesman of a company or government, they will have strong incentives to suppress inconvenient truths, present only parts of the evidence, and to attack opponents, not their arguments, so as to lead critics from the trail.

A large part of the medieval syllabus, especially in the Arts faculties, consisted of teaching students how to question and debate competing opinions. The medieval summas reflect this culture: a form of text where propositions were raised, counter-propositions considered and rebutted, and comprehensive syntheses sought.

Students were taught to debate by putting forward an argument and addressing counter-arguments.
Jonathan Sharp/Unsplash

This is not to deny some counter-positions were beyond the pale. It served a person well to entertain them only as “the devil’s advocate”.

And at different times, certain propositions were condemned. For instance, the so called “Condemnations” of 1210-1277 at the medieval University of Paris, constrained a set of teachings considered heretical. These included teachings of Aristotle such as that human acts are not ruled by the providence of God and that there was never a first human.

At other times, books considered immoral by the Roman Catholic Church were burnt or put on the Index of prohibited works. And those that published such works, such as the 12th Century philosopher and poet Peter Abelard, were imprisoned.

Such practices would survive well into the 18th century in Catholic France, when encyclopedist Denis Diderot suffered a similar fate.

Early modern forms of scientific inquiry challenged the medieval paradigm. It was felt to rely too much on an established canon of authorities and so neglect peoples’ own experiences and capacities to reason on what these experiences revealed about the world.




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Philosopher Francis Bacon, sometimes known as the father of empiricism, argued we cannot rely on the books of professors. New ways of asking questions and testing provisionally held hypotheses about the world should become decisive.

Since nature is so vast, and humans so limited, we would also need to inquire as part of a shared scientific culture, rather than placing our faith in individual geniuses.

Each inquirer would have to submit her results and conclusions to the scrutiny and testing of their peers. Such dialogue alone could make sure anyone’s ideas were not the fancies of an isolated dreamer.

Without this form of freedom of inquiry, with active fostering of dissenting voices, there could be no sciences.

Where are we now?

People from different political camps agonise about the fate of free speech. Those on the right point to humanities departments, arguing an artificial, unrepresentative conformism presides there. Those on the left have long pointed to economics and business departments, levelling similar accusations.

All the while, all departments are subject to the changing fate of universities that have lost a good deal of their post-medieval independence from political and economic forces.

So, the situation is not as simple as the controversies make it.

On one hand, charges of ideological closure need to be balanced against the way a certain (already discovered) truth exerts what philosopher and political analyst Hannah Arendt termed a coercive value.

No one is intellectually “free”, in any real sense, to claim the earth is flat. Blind denial of overwhelming evidence, however inconvenient, is not an exercise of liberty.




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No, you’re not entitled to your opinion


On the other hand, in more behavioural disciplines like politics, there is no one truth. When learning about social structures, to not consider conservatives as well as progressives is to foreclose students’ freedom of inquiry.

To teach a single economic perspective as unquestionably “scientific”, without considering its philosophical assumptions and historical failings, is likewise to do free inquiry (and our students) a disservice.

The question of how we should teach openly anti-liberal, anti-democratic thinkers is more complex. But surely to do so without explaining to students the implications of these thinkers’ ideas, and how they have been used by malign historical forces, is once more to sell intellectual freedom (and our democracy) short.

The final curve ball in free speech debates today comes from social media. Single remarks made anywhere in the world can now be ripped from their context, “go viral”, and cost someone their livelihood.

Freedom of speech, to be meaningful, depends on the ability of people of differing opinions to state their opinions (so long as their opinions are not criminal and don’t incite hatred or violence) without fear that, by doing so, they will be jeopardising their own and loved ones’ well-being.

When such conditions apply, as the Colonel used to say on Hogan’s Heroes, “we have ways of making you talk”. And also ways of keeping people silent.The Conversation

Matthew Sharpe, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How has education policy changed under the Coalition government?



File 20190408 2912 10gjzew.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Coalition made some major promises in the 2016 election. Has it delivered?
from shutterstock.com

Glenn C. Savage, University of Western Australia; Susan Irvine, Queensland University of Technology, and Tim Pitman, Curtin University

This article is part of a series examining the Coalition government’s record on key issues while in power and what Labor is promising if it wins the 2019 federal election.


School’s policy and funding

Glenn C. Savage, Senior Lecturer in Education Policy and Sociology of Education, University of Western Australia

The Coalition’s approach to schooling policy since the 2016 election has primarily focused on its Quality Schools agenda. This centres on increased funding (A$307.7 billion in total school recurrent funding from 2018 to 2029). It also attempts to steer national reform in areas such as teaching, curriculum, assessment and the use of evidence.

The Coalition wants to steer reform in teaching, curriculum, assessment and the use of evidence.
from shutterstock.com

The government’s policies are strongly informed by the 2018 Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (aka Gonski 2.0) which examined how record levels of federal funding could be better tied to evidence-based practices.

The review’s recommendations are central to the National School Reform Agreement. This ties federal funding from 2019-2023 to a number of new national reform initiatives, which include:

  • changes to the Australian Curriculum through the development of “learning progressions”. These describe the common development pathway along which students typically progress in their learning, regardless of age or year level
  • developing an online assessment tool to help teachers monitor student progress
  • reforms to improve the consistency and sharing of data
  • a review of senior secondary pathways to work, further education and training
  • establishing a national evidence institute to undertake research on “what works” to improve schooling outcomes
  • developing a national strategy to support teacher workforce planning.

While the Coalition sees the agreement as heralding a positive new reform era, deals done with states to get it over the line are far from ideal, especially in the fraught area of school funding.

The agreement ensures that by 2023, private schools will receive 100% of the recommended amount under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) funding model, whereas most government schools will be stuck at 95%.

The states share a great deal of the blame. But it’s not a good look for a federal government promoting a commitment to needs-based funding.

What about Labor?

A Labor government would change some elements of the national reform conversation. But the extent to which it would radically shift the current trajectory is debatable.

Labor has promised further school funding increases and flagged other reforms such as universal access to early childhood education for three and four year olds, tougher requirements for entry into teaching degrees, and the creation of a National Principals’ Academy to provide leadership training.

But Labor also shares a great deal in common with the Coalition.

Both preference a strong federal role in schooling. Both support (at least in theory) the principles of the SRS, and there is significant alignment between parties when it comes to reforms in the National School Reform Agreement.

Labor has also been promoting the idea of a national evidence institute for some time and many reforms in the school reform agreement build directly on those established by Labor as part of its “education revolution” agenda from 2007-2013.

While the parties will draw dividing lines to make a choice between them look stark, they have more in common than they would like to admit.




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Higher education

Tim Pitman, Senior Research Fellow, Curtin University

Since the last federal election, the Coalition has been mostly dealing with the fallout from their ambitious policy agenda conceived under Tony Abbott, as laid out in the 2014 Higher Education Reform Bill. The chief aims of this policy were to:

  • cut higher education funding by 20%
  • increase subsidies to private providers
  • deregulate tuition fees.
The Coalition started their new government with no clear pathway to enact their vision for higher education.
from shutterstock.com

The reforms were voted down by the Senate in late 2014 and again in early 2015.
This meant the government had no clear pathway to enact their vision for higher education and fewer options for reducing higher education expenditure. One way to do the latter would be to increase the maximum student fee payable.

Another option would be to freeze increases to the amount the Commonwealth subsidised the universities to teach students, so in future years it would spend less, in real terms, on higher education. The government took this option in 2017, saving an estimated A$2.2 billion. Research funding also took a hit.

The government further announced it would introduce performance-based higher education funding, though it is still not clear how, exactly, performance will be defined.

Labor says if it is elected, it will end the freeze on increases to the Commonwealth student subsidies. Labor will also conduct an inquiry into post-secondary education, with one aim being to repriotise the importance of vocational education, so it sits alongside, not beneath, higher education.

Labor heads are also promising a A$300 million University Future Fund to fast-track funding for high priority research and teaching projects.

For both the Coalition and Labor, regional Australia is shaping up as a key battleground and this is already being reflected in higher education policy. In February 2018, the Coalition announced it was funding 22 regional study hubs across regional Australia to provide

study spaces, video conferencing, computing facilities and internet access, as well as academic support for students studying via distance at partner universities.

In November 2018, it followed with a further A$135 million in additional support for regional universities affected by their freeze on funding.

In response, Labor has upped the ante on the regional hubs, saying it will not only maintain support for the study hubs but will fund mentoring and pathways programs in the communities that have the hubs. It will also commit an additional A$174 million for equity and pathways funding to support students from areas with low graduation rates, many of which are in regional Australia.




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Early childhood

Susan Irvine, Associate Professor, School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology

There are some recurring and predictable storylines in early childhood education election policies in Australia. At the last election, the Coalition’s main storyline was affordability.

Its central platform was the Jobs for Families Package – a controversial bill that promised a simplified and more generous fee subsidy to help parents cover the rising cost of education and care.

The Coalition introduced a subsidy for early childhood education, but the means test has some vulnerable children missing out.
from shutterstock.com

It was controversial because it tied children’s access to early education with their parents’ participation in the paid workforce. To get the subsidy, families had to meet a new work activity test. Children whose families did not meet this test had their hours of early education cut in half.

A drawn-out battle in the Senate saw the bill eventually pass with some hard-fought amendments to support more equitable access for children and families experiencing disadvantage.

On the whole, the childcare subsidy has been a positive change for most Australian families. However, there is evidence that the continuing focus on parent work participation means some of our children in low-income families – who research shows will benefit the most from access to high quality early education – are missing out.

The Coalition’s other 2016 election commitment was funding for universal preschool education, focusing on four year olds in the year prior to school. However, this has been doled out on an annual basis. The result being no security for children, families and service providers.

In the 2019 budget, the government committed funding for universal preschool for all Australian children only until the end of 2020.




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This is one of two key differences between the Coalition and Labor’s early childhood policies. Labor has committed to secure and sustainable funding for universal preschool. It has also committed to expanding access to three year olds, providing two years of early education prior to school entry.

The other key difference relates to broader investment in the early years workforce. The single most important factor influencing quality and children’s outcomes are the teachers and educators working with children. Australia urgently needs a new Early Years Workforce Strategy. The Coalition allowed the previous strategy to lapse and has remained silent on matters relating to pay and conditions.

Labor has announced a commitment to investment in the workforce, including funding to train more educators and teachers, and, has previously pledged support for professional wages for professional work.The Conversation

Glenn C. Savage, Senior Lecturer in Education Policy and Sociology of Education, University of Western Australia; Susan Irvine, Associate Professor, School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology, and Tim Pitman, Senior Research Fellow, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What the next government needs to do to tackle unfairness in school funding


Peter Goss, Grattan Institute

School funding debates in Australia are complex and messy. Stakeholders routinely complain about being hard done by. But the real unfairness is that state schools get less government funding than governments themselves say the schools need, and will continue to do so.




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Meanwhile, many private schools are already funded at 100% of their target level, and the rest are on the way.

This fails the playground test: the lament of a five-year-old when an adult says one thing and does another. Australian school funding is unfair because it doesn’t live up to its own rules and standards.

School resources

Needs-based funding has broad public and political support. David Gonski’s 2011 report stated differences in educational outcomes should not be the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions. It’s written in legislation, which defines each school’s target level of government funding, or Schooling Resource Standard.

Under the SRS, every student receives a base amount of funding. When parents choose a non-government school, base funding is reduced according to their capacity to contribute. Students with higher needs attract more funding, regardless of their parents’ capacity to contribute.

No model is perfect, but the structure of the SRS is sound. Schools get more money if their students need it.

Parents can (generally) afford to exercise their right to choose, because non-government schools that serve disadvantaged communities are nearly fully funded by government. Meanwhile, taxpayers save money – at least in theory – when parents opt out of the state school system.




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Of course the formula could be improved. The SRS is long overdue for a refresh.

A proposed new model for calculating parent’s capacity to contribute, based on their family income, still needs to be finalised and legislated. But it’s clearly fairer than the previous model based on where families lived.

Looking beyond the formula, the federal Coalition’s A$1.2 billion Choice and Affordability Fund should go. It subsidises low-fee private schools even when parents can afford to pay their way. And education systems (such as Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican, plus state education departments) need to better account for how they distribute the funding they receive as a lump sum.

Theory doesn’t necessarily translate to practice

But these issues pale in comparison with the gap between funding theory and funding practice.

Very few schools actually get their target level of government funding. Most schools get less, some much less. A few schools get more. And a handful of high-fee private schools – the schools least in need of extra cash – get nearly three times what the formula says they need.

The discrepancies are not random. Government schools educate the bulk of disadvantaged students, but in 2017 were funded at 90% of SRS on average. The non-government school average was about 95%.

Recent analysis by the ABC shows the funding gap grew over the past decade. Because parents pay fees, non-government schools should never get more public dollars per student than comparable government schools. A decade ago, one in 20 private schools did. By 2016, it was more than one in three.

What about the coming decade?

Under the Coalition’s 2017 legislation, federal funding will transition to 80% of SRS for private schools and 20% for government schools. It will be consistent across states – a big improvement. And overfunded schools finally lose funding, something Labor never managed to achieve.

The 2017 legislation also requires minimum contributions from state governments. But based on the recently signed National School Reform Agreement, it looks like most government schools will be stuck at 95% of their target level (20% federal funding, 75% state), while private schools will hit 100% (80% federal, 20% state).

And there’s one last sting in the tail. The National School Reform Agreement allows state governments – for the first time – to claim depreciation, transport and part of their expenditure on regulatory authorities as up to 4% of their contribution to school funding. But only for government schools. This reduces effective funding for government schools by about A$2 billion per year by 2027.




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Explainer: how does funding work in the Catholic school system?


Under Coalition policy, the effective funding for each state school will plateau at 91% of SRS, while non-government schools get full whack. Private schools serving disadvantaged students will continue to get more taxpayer dollars than similar government schools. As a five-year-old might say, it’s not fair.

Labor is on course to deliver fairer funding, having committed to building on the 2017 legislation. Labor should lock in the new model for calculating parents’ capacity to contribute, instigate a broader review of the SRS formula and abolish the Choice and Affordability Fund.

Labor has also promised A$14 billion extra for government schools over a decade. This would lift the federal contribution to 22.2% of SRS by 2022. Yet government schools would still be underfunded relative to SRS, especially if states could continue to count depreciation, transport and regulatory expenditures as if they represented real money for schools.

If Labor wins the 2019 federal election, it should leverage its budget war chest to renegotiate the national agreements so states can no longer claim depreciation, transport and regulatory expenditures as part of their schools funding. That would put government schools on track to reach 97.2% of SRS. Not quite full funding, but within touching distance.




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For an average government school, the difference between 91% and 100% of SRS is about A$1,500 per student per year. With just half of that money, a typical state primary school could employ two dedicated instructional leaders to improve teaching practice and pay for relief time for other teachers to work with them. Fair funding just might transform the education of the children at that school and the thousands of schools like it.The Conversation

Peter Goss, School Education Program Director, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

All publicly funded research could soon be free for you, the taxpayer, to read



File 20190218 56220 w5tr7m.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The new ‘Plan S’ initiative focuses on making all publicly funded research immediately fully and freely available by open access publication.
from www.shutterstock.com

Ritesh Chugh, CQUniversity Australia and Kenneth Howah, CQUniversity Australia

What happens to research that is funded by taxpayers? A lot ends up in subscription-only journals, protected from the eyes of most by a paywall.

But a new initiative known as Plan S could change that. Plan S focuses on making all publicly funded research immediately fully and freely available by open access publication.

It sounds like a good idea – but there are possible downsides. This model could potentially undermine peer review, the process vital for ensuring the rigour and quality of published research. It could also increase costs of publication for researchers and funding bodies. So let’s do Plan S right.




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Strong backing in Europe

Plan S is an initiative of an international consortium of research funders known as cOAlition S. This includes European national funders UK Research and Innovation, the Science Foundation of Ireland, and others. Charitable foundations such as Wellcome and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also signed up.

Chinese and Indian officials have expressed their support for this open access publishing movement.

Plan S aims to make scientific publications resulting from publicly funded research by national and European research councils and funding bodies directly available in open access journals or platforms after 1 January 2020.

Plan S stipulates that all articles should be published in open access mode only, with no paywalls (including in hybrid journals, where some content is open access and some paid) with the following conditions:

  • unrestricted usage and free distribution
  • authors retain copyright
  • funders or universities pay the open access publication fees.

Flaws in the current publication system

The ethical base for Plan S is sound and would undoubtedly make sense to most Australians – that is, publications that have been funded by taxpayer dollars should be readily accessible to the public immediately.

Currently, members of the public and many parts of the research community do not have easy access to research outputs for comment and scrutiny.

Research is hidden behind paywalls in subscription-only journals. Research institutions spend billions of dollars globally on subscriptions.

Hiding valuable research results – particularly those that were taxpayer-funded – behind paywalls is a drawback of the existing scholarly publication model.




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When to trust (and not to trust) peer reviewed science


The model has built its reputation on a rigorous peer review process and a strong track record. Unfortunately, although it does highlight the need for high quality open access journals, Plans S lacks adequate detail on this.

This may lead to a proliferation of journals that comply with Plan S but may not have a good history and an efficient review process, thus compromising the publishing of credible results.

Implications for taxpayer-funded research

The cOAlition S claims that:

Publication paywalls are withholding a substantial amount of research results from a large fraction of the scientific community and from society as a whole.

The basic philosophy is that, in principle, “no science should be locked behind paywalls!”. The coalition website defines “science” broadly, to include the humanities.

Hence, taxpayers can expect to see research articles resulting from public money freely available online.

If adopted, researchers will need access to more funding, particularly as open access publishing costs can be as high as US$5,000 per paper.

The implementation of Plan S could also encourage publishers to increase their publishing prices, as they mitigate potential revenue losses in the transition from a subscription-based model.




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Some researchers have labelled Plan S a serious violation of academic freedom, as it restricts their choice of suitable high-quality publication platforms.

If Australia does not adopt Plan S, it could potentially restrict collaboration, publishing, and funding opportunities with research bodies who subscribe to this ambitious movement.

Are Australians ready?

The basic notion of open access has won wide acceptance. But it’s also attracted strong criticism, with some claiming deleterious effects on young researchers of dividing the world into “Plan S” and “non-Plan S” publications.

Open access is already a policy of the Australian Research Council (ARC), which requires that:

Any Research Outputs arising from an ARC supported research Project must be made openly accessible within a twelve (12) month period from the date of publication.

However, the same policy stipulates that “contractual obligations” is an acceptable reason for non-compliance within a 12-month period. In effect, this still allows publication contracts to effectively keep research permanently behind paywalls.




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Not just available, but also useful: we must keep pushing to improve open access to research


A Plan S implementation would disallow this. It would require that authors retain full copyright even after publication, and open access would be required immediately with no 12-month delay.

In this way, Plan S could be seen as merely extending existing Australian funding policy principles.

Rethink how we do things

Despite the potential for downsides, we argue universities and research organisations in Australia should consider aligning their policies with Plan S and promote the advantages of open access to the research community.

Research funders can consider making mandatory open access a condition of grant funding.

Plan S will enable the public to freely access publications, enabling them to come to their own conclusions rather than having intermediaries interpret.

Plan S appears to be a wave that is heading this way so Australians, researchers and research organisations in particular, should start thinking and talking about how it might affect things here.

After all, if this level of open access becomes the norm in Europe, China and India – which combined account for more than one-third of global output of scientific papers – the resulting critical mass would probably force a progressive action of some kind here.The Conversation

Ritesh Chugh, Senior Lecturer/Discipline Lead – Information Systems and Analysis, CQUniversity Australia and Kenneth Howah, Lecturer, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The royal commission should result not only in new regulation, but new education


Dirk Baur, University of Western Australia; Elizabeth Ooi, University of Western Australia, and Paul Gerrans, University of Western Australia

The Financial Services Royal Commission has not only shown that banks and their representatives have behaved appallingly, but that we need better-educated consumers.

It is naive not to expect new schemes will pop up to replace the now (or soon to be) banned practices. There is a clear pattern of repeating unconscionable behaviour in the financial services industry.

Consumers need to be trained to ask the right questions. “How much do I have to pay each week over the life of the loan including (hidden) fees?”, “How much do I have to pay in fees each year?”, and “Why is this right for me rather than right for the bank?”

Being able to answer such questions can help reduce the invariably expensive and imperfect regulation that generally follows inquiries such as the royal commission.




Read more:
Royal commission scandals are the result of poor financial regulation, not literacy


A 20-year-old, let’s call him Mark, just started his first job paying A$45,000 a year. Confidently, he walks into a bank branch, applies and is approved for a A$30,000 car loan within 20 minutes. He wants a new car and isn’t too concerned about the 12.5% annual interest.

Mark states afterwards he didn’t know he could hardly afford the loan. It cost more than A$40,000 over five years. And with other commitments he was in over his head, leaving no room for changes in work, illness, etc.

Should Mark be expected to know? Was he taught any of this? Could he know if he had made some effort, or should the bank have informed him better and been more explicit?

And where does the responsibility sit?

We assumed in the story (loosely related to one heard by the royal commission) that the bank had informed Mark about rates and fees, but had not effectively communicated what this meant in terms of weekly payments or total cost.

For the moment, let’s put aside the primary role of the banks and their representatives – it is their practices on the line and we are not blaming or judging the victims. Neither do we know the client’s individual circumstances.

But, caveats established, how much information must be presented and what can be reasonably expected in terms of the financial literacy level of customers? If the response from the royal commission is increased disclosure, these are the relevant questions.

But this still leaves whether we can be confident that education is being provided so customers can make informed decisions.




Read more:
There are serious problems with the concept of ‘financial literacy’


Financial literacy is in the National Curriculum and being taught to primary and secondary students. But, given Mark’s age, there is no guarantee he would have received financial literacy education at school.

For the future Marks, financial literacy is now embedded, but coverage remains uneven as what is taught varies by state and school level.

Elsewhere policy is continuing the trend of transferring financial responsibilities from government to individuals, which requires greater financial literacy. For example, the NDIS aims to build a new disability marketplace, requiring important financial decisions from individuals or their representatives.

But the royal commission has clearly shown people suffered by following bad advice or by not questioning numbers sufficiently.

How were 24% p.a. car loans supported by banks and accepted by customers? Were the numbers too abstract and customers didn’t know what 24% a year meant in dollar terms?

Not just new regulation but new education

Better-educated people are better equipped to ask the right questions and make more informed decisions.

We can’t just rely on regulated disclosure – we need to continue to ensure the “simple” questions about the total costs over the life of the loan and whether it’s right for the customer, rather than just the bank, are taught. Teaching consumers to ask these questions, to question the information provided, is important and can enhance the regulation.

Who should provide this education? Not those with a conflict of interest such as financial institutions. If the royal commission tells us one thing it is that incentives matter.

If you are incentivised, or part of an incentivised brand, it may be better you don’t have a role in education. The Dollarmites scandal may not be the biggest scandal this year but it’s emblematic and part of a problem.

Schools, VET and universities can do better and more.

A new round of regulation will create new incentives to avoid it. Regulation tries to catch up and focuses on institutions – here the banks. But new financial technologies mean financial providers don’t look like they used to – for example, new app-based peer-to-peer lenders at your favourite store.

We can’t rely on education alone but we also can’t rely on regulation alone.

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The Conversation

Let’s recognise the limitations of regulation as we try to improve outcomes and consider whether some of the money spent on designing and enforcing new regulations may be better spent further educating our future customers.

Dirk Baur, Professor of Finance, University of Western Australia; Elizabeth Ooi, Lecturer, Finance, University of Western Australia, and Paul Gerrans, Professor of Finance, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Six things Labor’s review of tertiary education should consider


Geoff Sharrock, University of Melbourne

In March, Shadow Minister for Education and Training Tanya Plibersek outlined Labor’s plan to review the architecture of the post-school education sector if elected next year. She said they would look at whether current qualification structures, the mix of institutions, and financing models are still fit for purpose.

The Mitchell Institute has highlighted incoherent policy across the higher education and VET sectors – a legacy of short-term fixes and poor state/federal co-ordination. The latest fix is last year’s freeze on teaching grants in the higher education sector. Meanwhile, the VET sector has seen falling TAFE enrolments and VET FEE-HELP loan rorts.




Read more:
Vocational education and training sector is still missing out on government funding: report


A Labor review would seek to “put TAFE and unis on an equal footing” while restoring demand-driven funding. What should it consider?

1. Look beyond a 2020 vision

Any “2020” vision shaped by near-term budget or electoral considerations risks (at best) partial policy fixes. Earlier reform attempts have mixed subsidy cuts, fee hikes and Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) changes, many of them rejected as unfair.

A 2030+ vision is needed to reset post-secondary education as a platform for knowledge-era nation-building. In this future, most Australians will need to up-skill and re-skill across their working lives. And as now, the sector will serve many related aims: as a booster of innovation, an export industry and a channel for global engagement.

2. Work back from the future of work

Recent reports conclude that Australians aren’t facing an “end of work” future where robots take our jobs. Instead, we are seeing old job destruction, new job creation and (mostly) the transformation of existing jobs to focus more on non-routine tasks, both manual and cognitive.


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Meanwhile, post-school credentials, especially bachelor degrees, are becoming mainstream pathways into the Australian workforce. The authors of this recent future of work report conclude that:

Education and skills remain essential, as partial insurance against technological unemployment, as a basis for innovation and competition, as a contributor to individual resilience and adaptability to change, and as a bulwark against further deepening of inequalities in opportunity.

3. Learn from other systems

But what kind of education and skills is less clear. In international comparisons, Australia looks strong in bachelor degrees. But some systems, such as Canada with its large community college sector, are stronger at the sub-bachelor level. A review should test whether we have the right mix for our future labour market, which types of qualifications should be demand-led and how these are to be financed.


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Some systems focus more on upper secondary vocational credentials. Offering these on a demand-led basis implies a different profile of post-compulsory provision, perhaps with a more diverse mix of institutions.


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Some systems have strong industry and government support for a broader vocational sector with clearer pathways into work. In Australia, post-school pathways should be clearer into initial credentials and jobs, and into flexible “lifelong” learning for mid-career up-skilling.


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4. Consider new types of credentials

Since 2012, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms have promised mass scale yet personalised degree level learning, at very low cost. At the same time we’ve seen wide experimentation with new types of micro-credentials. These represent the accomplishment of short study, training or project assignments, often focused on enterprise skills. Small and stackable units of learning may count for credit towards a degree. Or supplement one by certifying wider sets of capabilities valued by employers.

As portfolio careers become mainstream, a subset of the emerging streams of micro-credentials that specify what learners know and can do in more detail will gain wider acceptance.



The Conversation, based on The Future of University Credentials by Sean Gallagher, 2016, CC BY-ND

A formalised system could offer more portable credit across education sectors and providers, and wider recognition across employers and industries. This may be a better fit for the idea proposed by the Mitchell Institute in 2015 for the government to provide younger cohorts of students a standard entitlement for upper vocational as well as degree level programs.

Or the idea proposed by the Business Council of Australia last year to provide every Australian a capped Lifelong Skills Account that could be used to pay for courses at approved providers across the tertiary spectrum over the person’s lifetime.

In each case a key aim is to ensure that young people in particular choose post-secondary courses and skillsets with clear aims in mind, without being diverted or disadvantaged by funding anomalies.

5. Learn from mistakes

Along with lessons from VET FEE-HELP, Australia may learn from the UK experience with big funding cuts combined with big fee hikes in 2012. This lifted university revenue per student but also landed many graduates in major debt for decades. This has raised serious questions about value for money at English universities.

In 2014, plans to deregulate uni fees in Australia assumed competition would limit price hikes while HELP loans kept study costs fair. This “market” solution failed to see how open-ended loan entitlements in Australia can lead to major debts where much of the cost is eventually met by taxpayers.

6. Settle structure, then governance and who funds what

RMIT’s Gavin Moodie has argued a joint review by state and national governments is needed to integrate VET and higher education policy. Industry engagement is needed also, to help define future needs and support more work-integrated learning.

A Labor review should rethink the future structure of post-secondary education then reconsider who finances what level of qualification.

The ConversationFinally, we’ll need an independent body to oversee tertiary education, and plan for the long term.

Geoff Sharrock, Honorary Senior Fellow, Centre for Vocational and Educational Policy, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Budget 2018: what’s in store for education



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Mai Lam/The Conversation NY-BD-CC, CC BY-SA

Andrew Norton, Grattan Institute and Glenn C. Savage, University of Western Australia

It wasn’t a big budget for education this year, with schools funding already set in the last Budget, and the funding freeze for universities announced in the Federal Government’s mid-year budget update in December.

But the National Schools Chaplaincy program will become permanent, with A$247 million set aside over four years from 2018-19.

And there is some good news for students in regional, rural and remote areas, with:

  • A$96.1 million over four years for young people in regional, rural and remote communities to transition to further education, training and employment

  • A$14 million over four years for 185 Commonwealth Supported Places annually for students commencing a bachelor degree at university through a Regional Study Hub

  • A$53.9 million over four years to improve regional students’ access to youth allowance, and

  • A$123.6 million over five years to regional universities for additional Commonwealth Supported Places from 2017-18.


Mai Lam/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Schools and early education funding

Glenn Savage, Senior Lecturer in Education Policy and Sociology of Education at University of Western Australia

Despite ongoing political debates about school funding, most of the big news happened in last year’s budget, when the federal government formalised details associated with its Quality Schools reform package.

The package centres on a commitment to align school funding with the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) recommended in the 2011 Gonski report into school funding.

To achieve this, the government plans to progressively raise funding levels for government schools from 17% to 20% of the SRS and for private schools from 76.8% to 80% of the SRS by 2027.

The government argues that this delivers an additional $24.5 billion for Australian schools over the decade, and says it will be up to states as to whether they wish to fund the remaining amounts so that all schools reach the full SRS.

The government also claims its reform package provides more consistent needs-based funding when compared to the so-called “special deals” established under the Labor Gillard government.

Labor doesn’t agree, suggesting the Coalition is shortchanging the nation to the tune of A$17 billion (the initial claim was $22 billion) when compared to promises made by the former Gillard Labor government.

Labor has promised, if re-elected, to return to the Gillard model.

This ensures funding will be a defining issue at the next federal election, especially given last week’s Gonski 2.0 report has made a suite of recommendations that the federal government supports and could very well require an additional injection of federal funds to implement.

But any potential changes hinge on whether the Coalition is actually in power when next year’s budget is delivered. And, if so, whether it has any luck pursuing the new Gonski agenda with states and territories.

Aside from these ongoing Gonski wars, this year’s budget contains a few additional highlights.

Most controversial is A$247 million over four years to extend the National School Chaplaincy Program, which will have a new anti-bullying focus. The program was first introduced under the former Howard Coalition, but was subsequently dumped by Labor. It’s strongly supported by conservative backbenchers.

Other notables in this year’s budget include:

• A$440 million to extend the National Partnership Agreement on universal access to early childhood education for a further year.

• A$154 million to promote active and healthy living. This includes A$83 million to improve existing community sport facilities and expand the Sporting Schools and Local Sporting Champions programs.

• A$11.8 million over three years to expand the Early Learning Languages Australia program to more preschools and trial the program in 2019 and 2020 from the first year of school through to year two in primary schools.

• A$6 million over two years (from 2017-18) to continue and update the communications campaign to increase public awareness of changes to the Quality Schools package (aka public relations to sell the government’s reform package).

• A$1.3 million per year until 2020-21 to continued funding the MoneySmart Teaching program, designed to improve financial literacy education in schools.

• A$134.3 million over four years to the Northern Territory as part of the children and schooling component of the National Partnership Agreement on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment.

Finally, the government has signalled its intention to continue exploring ways to deliver new and diverse pathways into the teaching profession, with the view to increasing the supply of quality teachers. This measure builds on previous work associated with the Teach for Australia program.

To pursue this aim, the government has suggested it will invite proposals in 2018 from providers to deliver alternative pathways into teaching.

Higher education and VET funding

Andrew Norton, Program Director of Higher Education at Grattan Institute


Mai Lam/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

VET

The long aftermath of the VET FEE-HELP loan fiasco is still being felt in the 2018-19 Budget. The government is planning to spend A$36.2M over fours years for a new IT system to ensure compliance in the replacement VET Student Loans program.

The VET Student Loans Ombudsman, given the task of receiving student complaints about vocational education lending, is to receive another A$1 million to help deal with the large numbers of people making complaints.


Mai Lam/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Higher education

Higher education’s big Budget news came early, in the December 2017 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). It announced a two-year pause in tuition subsidy growth, and a range of reforms to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP). There is no major change to these decisions in the 2018-19 Budget.

The pause in tuition subsidy growth has been implemented. It was done without going back to parliament using university funding agreements. For domestic bachelor degree places, universities will receive the same total amount that they received for 2017 for each of 2018 and 2019. Previously, there were “demand driven”, meaning that the Government would fund every student the universities enrolled.

This funding freeze means that universities won’t receive the value of inflation indexation to per student Commonwealth contributions, or Commonwealth contributions for any additional students they enrol above 2017 levels. But they will still receive indexed student contributions for all students they enrol.

The government has also used the funding agreements to reduce the number of Commonwealth-funded diploma, associate degree, and postgraduate coursework places. About 4,000 allocated places were abolished, but some of these weren’t being used anyway, so the practical effect may be limited.

Soon after these policies were announced, partial exceptions began with the University of Tasmania, the University of the Sunshine Coast and Southern Cross University all receiving additional places. These are confirmed in the Budget at a cost of A$124 million over five years.

In addition, the Budget has a new announcement of A$96 million over four years for nearly 700 extra student places for young people from regional areas. This is in response to the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education.

Including the new places, funding on Commonwealth contributions through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme will be just over A$7 billion for 2018-2019.

From 2020, the government says it will resume funding increases based on population growth for universities that meet yet-to-be determined performance criteria. The Budget paper shows predicted spending of A$7.3 billion in 2020-21.

But numbers this far out are moot. With an election due in the next 12 months, and Labor indicating it will go back to demand driven funding, the funding freeze could be over by then. If the Coalition survives in office, it may also make substantial changes.

The other major MYEFO announcement was to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loan scheme. Unlike changes to total tuition subsidy payments, these need legislating and the relevant bill is still before the Senate.

The most important proposed changes to HELP are the income thresholds determining whether, or how much, a HELP debtor needs to repay each year. If it passes, the bill would lower the initial repayment threshold from A$52,000 a year to A$45,000 a year. HELP debtors earning between A$45,000 and A$52,000 would repay 1% of their income. But some other thresholds are more generous than now, and many HELP debtors would end up paying less per year than they do now.

The government also originally proposed a A$100,000 lifetime cap on borrowing under HELP for all courses except medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, rather than just the full-fee student FEE-HELP scheme. The Budget confirms that the cap would be A$100,000 of HELP debt at any one time, allowing people who have paid off some debt to borrow again.

Whether HELP reforms eventually pass the Senate remains to be seen. In either case, it is fortunate for the higher education sector that they were not rejected prior to the May 2018 Budget. The freezing of the demand driven system showed the government was not bluffing when it said it needed to reduce higher education spending. Like the demand driven system, equity programs and some research programs are vulnerable to cuts the parliament cannot easily stop.

As it turns out, these programs survive in the Budget.

Research funding will receive a modest boost, with nearly A$400 million extra over five years for research infrastructure.

Although the higher education sector gets off lightly in the Budget compared to MYEFO, higher education providers will be hit with extra charges. The Government plans to charge them more for the services of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.

The ConversationThe government also plans to charge higher education providers A$10 million a year to recover costs associated with HELP. We can only hope some of this is used to improve on the current very unsatisfactory public reporting of HELP’s finances.

Andrew Norton, Program Director, Higher Education, Grattan Institute and Glenn C. Savage, Senior Lecturer in Education Policy and Sociology of Education, and ARC DECRA Fellow (2016-19), University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Gonski 2.0: there is evidence inclusive schooling will help those left behind



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The benefits of mixed-ability classes are shared by all.
Shutterstock

Linda J. Graham, Queensland University of Technology; Ilektra Spandagou, University of Sydney, and Kate de Bruin, Monash University

The recently released Gonski 2.0 Review aimed to examine how school funding should be used to improve school performance and student outcomes. A particular area of focus was to improve outcomes across all student cohorts including disadvantaged and vulnerable students, and academically advanced (“gifted”) students.

The report sets out a radically different vision of Australian school education but does not fully explain how this vision can be achieved.




Read more:
Gonski review reveals another grand plan to overhaul education: but do we really need it?


This omission has been rightly criticised. But there has been little acknowledgement of the positives in the report or the problems it seeks to address. These problems are real and are important to confront as they affect us all and will increase in the future.

By far the biggest problem is more than one quarter of Australian school students are “missing out” from their school education. This affects their ability to participate in an increasingly high skills economy, setting them up for a lifetime of precarious work or welfare dependency.

The presumption has always been that these students just aren’t “smart enough” to “keep up” and seldom is the need to do so questioned. Gonski 2.0 changes that by recognising and challenging deep fault lines in our education system that have extremely negative equity effects.

What’s the problem?

The report notes our current age/grade system leaves too many students behind. It acknowledges the huge range in the learning readiness of students the same age, stating the:

most advanced students in a year group can be five to six years ahead of the least advanced.

The presence of this gap does not mean students at the lower end are destined to remain there. These students can and do succeed, but it takes the right supports from expert teachers and the time to provide them.

Yet, our system is currently structured in such a way that those who fall behind get left behind. This is because the Australian curriculum is content heavy and the pressure to cover this content over the course of a year leaves teachers with little time to provide the individualised support needed by almost one in five Australian students.

“Summative assessment”, or benchmarking, is used as a blunt tool to determine what students have or have not learned. They are then graded A-E against the achievement standards. In some schools they’re also ranked against their peers.

By the end of their schooling, some 26% have still not achieved a Year 12 Certificate or its equivalent.


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What is Gonski’s solution?

The report proposes a “radical” new approach based on:

  • all students being educated in mixed-ability classrooms

  • greater use of formative assessment to determine where students are in their learning

  • differentiated teaching to meet students at their respective point of need

  • a redirection in focus from comparative achievement against an age/grade standard to individual growth in achievement against a defined learning progression.



The Conversation/Federal government, CC BY-ND

Some commentators have criticised the lack of supporting evidence and it’s true the report relies heavily on a select range of sources and does not make the grade in terms of academic rigour. This does not mean the ideas proposed or practices described are fanciful or have no evidence to support them.

Take, for example, the concept of teaching students in mixed-ability classrooms, the use of formative assessment, and differentiated teaching. While these might sound radical when combined into a new vision for school education, each has evidence to support them. They’re all elements of inclusive practice.

The evidence for inclusive education

The benefits of mixed-ability classes are shared by all. There are a range of important academic and social benefits for students with disabilities (including improved memory and stronger language and literacy and mathematics skills), as well as students without disability (such as social and emotional development).

Ability “streaming”, which involves assigning students of the same grade into ranked classes based on prior achievement or perceived ability levels, has a neglible effect on achievement and profoundly negative consequences for lower ranked students. Despite strong evidence against streaming, many schools still stream classes by ability and some education systems stream entire schools.




Read more:
The way schools cope with learning difficulties is doing more harm than good


Formative assessment is feedback given to students during the course of their learning, and can help students understand what progress they have made and what the next steps are. It has been highlighted as one of the most effective practices a school can adopt to individualise learning for all students with long-standing and consistent evidence to support its use. Teachers can also use the information to differentiate their teaching to ensure that they are truly teaching each student based on their needs.

Teachers differentiate when they provide appropriately challenging work for all students, using a variety of means to help them engage with the content and demonstrate their learning. There is evidence whole-school models of differentiation can improve academic outcomes and close achievement gaps including in high stakes tests. Teachers who have the opportunity to practice differentiated instruction and receive ongoing professional development develop competency and stronger belief in their own capability.

Inclusion is better for everyone

In offering a bold vision for the future, the Gonski 2.0 report has encouraged Australia to help more of our young people successfully navigate a precarious future.

The ConversationMore flesh is needed to make this vision a reality but the individual components that make up the vision are not radical and, if done well, can enhance students’ learning experiences and outcomes. And that is better for everyone.

Linda J. Graham, Professor in the School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology; Ilektra Spandagou, Senior lecturer, University of Sydney, and Kate de Bruin, Researcher in Inclusive Education, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Gonski 2.0: teaching creativity and critical thinking through the curriculum is already happening


Bill Louden, University of Western Australia

David Gonski’s report on Australia’s schooling system identifies three key weaknesses and proposes a set of pathways towards improvement.

These weaknesses include decline in student achievement over time, age-based rather than developmental approaches to differentiation in learning goals, and failure to prepare students for a complex and rapidly changing world.

On the third of these issues, the report argues more attention to general capabilities such as problem-solving, social skills and critical thinking is essential in preparing students for an uncertain future.

A zero-sum game?

Early critiques of the report have asserted critical thinking has taken over from knowledge in the latest Gonski review. And also that an increased focus on general capabilities means a decreased focus on knowledge and skills in school subjects such as history and science.

This approach treats the school curriculum as a zero-sum game. More of one thing must mean less of another. What the report actually recommends is a positive-sum. A more structured approach to general capabilities within the established learning areas would better prepare students to succeed in a changing world:

Recommendation 7

Strengthen the development of the general capabilities, and raise their status within curriculum delivery, by using learning progressions to support clear and structured approaches to their teaching, assessment, reporting and integration with learning areas.

The detail of the report argues general capabilities “cannot be taught in isolation”. It argues there should be a structured and consistent approach to teaching, assessing and reporting on the general capabilities. Without this, teachers cannot be expected to integrate them into subject-based learning.

Gonski 2.0 argues the development of general capabilities should underpin subject-based learning.
shutterstock.com



Read more:
Teaching how to think is just as important as teaching anything else


The curriculum wars

The role of general capabilities in a subject-based curriculum has been a recurring theme in Australian curriculum history.

The 1990 Finn Report identified six key areas of competence essential for all young people in preparation for employment:

  • language and communication

  • maths

  • scientific and technological understanding

  • cultural understanding

  • problem solving

  • personal and interpersonal characteristics.

The 1992 Mayer Report identified seven similar key competencies and proposed a set of nationally consistent principles for assessing and reporting on them.

This theme was taken up in the 1999 Adelaide Declaration of National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century, which identified eight general competencies in addition to the knowledge and skills in key learning areas such as literacy and numeracy.

It was reiterated in the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. It characterised successful learners as creative users of technology, logical thinkers, creative and resourceful problem-solvers, and able to collaborate, work in teams and communicate ideas.

The 2010 Australian Curriculum organised the school curriculum across three related dimensions:

  1. learning areas

  2. cross-curriculum priorities

  3. general capabilities.

The general capabilities were expected to be addressed through the learning areas. The detailed syllabus materials identify opportunities for each of the general capabilities in context. For example, in year eight curriculum content descriptions, critical and creative thinking are a part of the requirements for Historical Knowledge and Understanding:

Renaissance Italy (c.1400 – c.1600)

The way of life in Renaissance Italy (social, cultural, economic and political features) and the roles and relationships of different groups in society

Critical and Creative Thinking

  • Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
  • Organise and process information
  • Identify and clarify information and ideas

The Review of the Australian Curriculum in 2014 acknowledged widespread support for the inclusion of general capabilities, but took issue with their ability to be developed outside the context of specific subject areas. The review recommended literacy, numeracy and ICT competencies be maintained in the curriculum. The other four general capabilities were to be taught only where they are relevant in academic subjects.

The Australian government’s response to the review did not take up this recommendation. The general capabilities remain within the revised Australian curriculum.

Preparing students for a complex and rapidly changing world is an important feature of the Gonski 2.0 report.
shutterstock.com



Read more:
Gonski review reveals another grand plan to overhaul education: but do we really need it?


What’s different about the Gonski 2.0 proposal?

The place of general capabilities in the school curriculum is one of the never-ending stories of Australian education. The old curriculum warriors such as Kevin Donnelly continue to protest that capabilities are subject specific, not general, but there is widespread agreement about their importance.

What’s different about the Gonski 2.0 proposal is the recommendation that fine-grained learning progressions be developed for the general capabilities. Students will now be expected to demonstrate progress from year to year.




Read more:
Data collected about student behaviour doesn’t help improve teaching or learning


It proposes, to begin with, two general capabilities – critical and creative thinking, and personal and social capability. In each case, progressions are expected to underpin subject-based teaching and learning and provide for feedback, measurement and reporting.

The ConversationDeveloping the new progressions is not without risk. Existing progressions in literacy and numeracy build on a century of research on reading and mathematics learning. The new progressions in creativity and social skills will need to be underpinned by new scientific work. Without that detailed work, we can expect another 30 years of reviews and critiques on the role of general capabilities in schooling.

Bill Louden, Emeritus professor, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.