Monday, May 22, 2006

Government defiant on new curriculum

Gee...! Is this blog a museum?

Ming

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By Justine Ferrari
May 22, 2006


THE West Australian Government has refused to delay the introduction of its controversial Year 12 curriculum, accusing federal Education Minister Julie Bishop of an attempted takeover of the state education system.
Ms Bishop has written to her state counterpart, Ljiljanna Ravlich, suggesting she delay the introduction of 17 new study courses and suspend the new English course, which is being taught for the first time this year.

Ms Bishop, who is the member for the Perth seat of Curtin, warned the state it risked billions of dollars in federal funding for schools if it did not comply with her request.

But the state Government stood firm yesterday, with Ms Ravlich describing Ms Bishop's actions as a blatant attempt to take over the state's education system.

"Neither Ms Bishop nor the commonwealth employs one teacher or runs one school, and that is how it will remain. I will not allow our schools to be run by remote control from Canberra," she said.

Ms Ravlich said any cuts in federal funding would have a severe effect on the state's schools, forcing larger class sizes, fewer subject choices and the trebling of private school fees, with many low-fee-charging schools forced to close.

Ms Bishop said the level of concern expressed to her about the introduction of so-called outcomes-based education in her home state was "unprecedented" and it was her role as federal Education Minister to show leadership in such a case.

The current schools funding agreement, which allocates about $3.2billion to Western Australia, ends in 2008, and negotiations are due to start next year for the next four years of funding.

Ms Bishop said Western Australia's federal funding would be reviewed if the state failed to heed her warning.

"Depending on what happens with the continuing implementation, I will most certainly raise it at the negotiations for the next quadrennium of funding," she said yesterday.

"I expect the taxpayers expect me to raise it, given the level of concern I've had raised. I want to ensure that WA schools have access to well-constructed and educational standards. That's not happening."

The move comes only weeks after the release of a government report supporting a national Year 12 curriculum and the introduction of an Australian Certificate of Education to replace the existing state qualifications.

It follows a series of reports about Western Australia's new courses, including the postponement of the economics course because it was not ready and an English exam that asked students to compare film posters, contained no mention of books, and allowed students to answer in dot points and diagrams.

In a letter to Ms Ravlich, Ms Bishop says it is apparent there are "significant problems" and "a high level of anxiety" about the preparedness of the state's new courses of study for Years 11 and 12.

"I am concerned that teachers are being asked to write and design curriculum rather than just deliver it in the classroom, and that as a result they are suffering from the stress associated with the lack of support, resources and time to enable them to deliver the quality education students are entitled to receive," Ms Bishop says in the letter.

As a first step towards a national curriculum, Ms Bishop commissioned a study comparing the curriculum across the states in English, Australian history, maths, physics and chemistry.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Muhammad cartoons 'legal' in Victoria

Muhammad cartoons 'legal' in Victoria

February 7, 2006 - 2:31PM

The controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which have caused outrage around the Islamic world are unlikely to be found offensive under Victoria's anti-vilification laws.

The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act deals with behaviour that incites hatred, serious contempt, revulsion and severe ridicule of others because of their race and religion.

But Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria (EOC) chief executive officer, Dr Helen Szoke, said today there was a difference between causing offence and vilification.

"The behaviour has to be much more serious than causing offence, affronting someone's sense of decency or hurting their feelings in order for it to be considered vilifying," Dr Szoke said.

"Incitement is more than just merely holding a view or expressing an opinion; it is the encouragement or promotion of hatred towards others.

"The law is not designed to restrict freedom of speech, genuine debate or discussion, but to stamp out the most serious forms of racial and religious vilification."

Dr Szoke said a cartoon would need to be extremely serious in order to meet the benchmark for vilifying behaviour.

"In general, racially stereotyping comments, blasphemy, off-hand remarks or racist or religious jokes, while offensive to some people, are unlikely to be considered vilifying."

The cartoons were originally published in a Danish newspaper and have since been republished in newspapers and on websites around the world - including Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper, which published one of the 12 cartoons.

- AAP

Saturday, February 04, 2006

When it's teacher who must do better

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Hello... Community of Practice... is anybody there still alive and kicking?
I have been doing my courier job for half a year now and I don't think I will pay my teacher rego fee this year... I can re-register if needed in future anyway.

Ming

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When it's teacher who must do better


By Adele Horin
February 4, 2006


IF YOU want to know who the bad teachers are in a school, ask the students. They are good judges. So when the year 5 students in an OC - opportunity class for the gifted and talented - complained about their teacher, detailing scenes of unusual classroom chaos, parents took notice. They contacted the school. At first their voices fell on deaf ears. So some parents protested with their feet; several students were taken out of the prized OC places they had won through competitive examination and went back to their local primary school.

"There was no control in the classroom and no evidence of any work being done," a parent told me. Another said: "She was floundering, out of her depth." Parents felt sympathy for the teacher, who had one year's teaching experience and was trying. But the inadequacies could not be ignored.

The parents got lucky. They were middle-class and assertive, and angry at the broken promise of special "opportunity" for their children. As well, they had the option of putting the children back into local schools. The threat of mass defections with attendant bad publicity could have undermined the reputation of the OC program. Their concerns were heeded. It took only until mid-second term for the teacher to be shifted to a non-teaching job out of the school. It was done mainly for "health reasons", much easier grounds for removal than incompetence.

Most children in regular schools are not so lucky. It is notoriously difficult to remove poor-performing teachers. "Teachers have to have two heads to be kicked out," a former Department of Education bureaucrat told me.

Principals have no real incentives to weed out the time-servers and non-performers. They have no motivation to rock the boat. There is no pressure of competition in the public sector; most parents are trapped, feeling they must wear the dud teacher. There is no performance-based remuneration for principals or teachers, so nothing is lost or gained by confronting the non-performers. And there is no stomach to fight the NSW Teachers Federation. Industrial relations concerns rather than professional ethics have dominated thinking about bad teachers.

Teachers' rights need to be protected from malicious students and interfering parents with absurd expectations. Not every teacher is a Mr Chips; mediocrities abound in any profession and are not the issue here. Terrible teachers are easy enough to identify. Just ask the children. But in any dispute over teacher competence, the customer - the student - is rarely right. The balance of rights and responsibilities is out of kilter.

With another school year under way, parents can only cross their fingers that the good teacher falls their way. It is no secret what constitutes a good teacher. When Tony Vinson conducted his inquiry into public education in NSW, he found students identified the qualities easily - expertise in the subject, ability to control the classroom without shouting, dedication, and being approachable and fair.

Most students can survive a year, or a subject, taught by an incompetent teacher. But sometimes the consequences are more serious. It can colour a year or shape a life. In the junior years, it can determine whether a child learns to read, and by the end of high school, a bad teacher can ruin a child's chance of getting into a desired university course.

The OC students, for example, suffered further instability, after their teacher's removal, under two casual placements before a permanent teacher started at the beginning of term four. She had only a few weeks to turn things around before the children sat the in-school and, in March, the external exams for entry to selective high schools. Compared with previous years when virtually all the OC students made it to the local selective high schools, few of the crop for this year did so. And while there may be several explanations, including the possibility that the group overall was not so bright, and the instability was not the factor, parents have been left thinking the system let them down.

Wonderful teachers change lives, are remembered forever, though rarely thanked. But in today's workforce, teachers occupy an unusual place. They have virtual life tenure, yet are protected from the scrutiny most other professionals undergo. No one can follow them into the classroom, except the children, whose views are often discounted. Teachers spend years marking and assessing children's work, yet get no systematic feedback from the children on their own strengths and weaknesses.

If there is a beacon of hope it lies with the new NSW Institute of Teachers, an independent statutory body, which has put in place a mechanism for accrediting and licensing teachers, and even for differentiating between the competent, the accomplished, and the leaders.

For the first time this year, teachers with about one year's experience will have to be accredited in order to continue to teach after meeting stipulated standards, providing evidence of classroom work, and assessment by the principal or a senior teacher. It will make it easier for principals to be freer in their comments, and ensure poor teachers are not accredited.

With a high proportion of teachers due to retire over the next seven years, it was considered a waste of resources to try to cover the old hands. It is a start. But what a pity students will have no input into the teacher evaluations when they are the real experts.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Report backs literacy basics

Hi all,

This is Ming again, the humble courier.

Do you think "back to basics" is the "new learning"? Anyone knows how is the "new learning" at RMIT DipEd course doing now?

Regards,

Ming

================

Report backs literacy basics
Samantha Maiden
December 08, 2005

AUSTRALIA's literacy war will be reignited today with the release of a damning report into teaching methods that supports a push for back-to-basics learning.

The report will demand the reintroduction of phonics, which relies on knowledge of the alphabet and decoding words by breaking them into syllables and sounds - such as CAT: C-A-T - as the centrepiece of teaching literacy. It will also recommend a radical shake-up of teacher training in the nation's universities and national literacy tests for under-8s.

But the simple remedy of urging parents to read aloud to their children will also be encouraged as one of the most effective ways to help children learn.

The report, Teaching Reading, will warn that the whole-language approach - where a child is encouraged to rely on memory and visual cues to decipher words - has failed struggling students.

The battle over phonics versus the whole-language approach was kickstarted last year when a prominent group of Australian researchers, psychologists, linguists and educators wrote an open letter to the Education Minister warning that current teaching methods were based on trendy reading programs that had no scientific backing.

The group condemned the whole-language philosophy used in many schools, which "requires only exposure to a rich language environment without any specific teaching of the alphabetic system and letter-sound relationships".

Now, the report - prepared by a panel of parents, teachers and academics led by Ken Rowe - has backed their push to embrace phonics as the key to reading.

The inquiry calls for schools to embrace "systematic direct phonics instruction so children master the essential alphabetic code-breaking skills required for foundational reading proficiency".

Australian Council for Educational Research chief exeutive Geoff Masters said yesterday it was clear a systematic approach was needed.

"I think there's a very significant research base now in this area," Professor Masters said.

"There have been many studies that have identified effective teaching practices in relation to teaching literacy and part of that is teaching reading in a systematic way. That's not a one-size-fits-all solution.

"There needs to be professional judgment made by teachers. The research says phonics is particularly important for some students who are struggling to learn to read."

The Australian revealed last month the report would also demand that every child be tested for basic skills when they start school and twice a year for the first three years.

Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has already pre-empted the findings to back the national testing plan. He is expected to shortly announce further reforms to shake up teacher training, accreditation and introduce mandatory tests to ensure graduates do not struggle with basic spelling and grammar.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Deadly lessons await young who stray

November 18, 2005


The planned execution of Nguyen Tuong Van is an awful warning for errant youth, writes Dhurva Davis.


WHEN Nguyen Tuong Van is hanged on December 2 in Singapore, as is the present schedule, his mother will not be the only one crying. She has already shed plenty of tears, as have the parents of the Bali nine as they wait to learn the fate of their children.

But other parents, no matter what their view of the death penalty, the guilt or innocence of these young adults or the crime of heroin smuggling, will pray their own kids don't fall into the widening gap between society's delusions and its realities.

It is part of growing up for adolescents to exert their independence by testing boundaries and taking risks, often to impress their equally immature peers. But they need to be aware of the very large pendulum swinging in our society.

On the one extreme is a mind-set of endless opportunity and easy money. Having things is more important than earning things. An army of credit providers have been knocking on young adults' doors long before the first pay hits their bank account.

But the pendulum swings wildly for those whose age means they are now adults. Society's credit for young adults arrogant or naive enough to break the rules is quickly cut. Fear and mistrust feeds a growing chorus calling for them to be locked up and the key thrown away, or worse.

Countering the glamour of risk taking is a challenge for all parents. Imagine the horror of sitting in a court in Denpasar, Indonesia, to hear it claimed that your son and his good friend took up the offer of an all-expenses paid trip overseas from an acquaintance in a nightclub, no questions asked.

Parents often feel unable to cope with such situations on their own.

The father of 19-year-old Bali nine accused Scott Rush was so overwhelmed with suspicion over his son's planned trip to Bali he allegedly tipped off police after seeking advice from a family friend, who was a barrister.

Short of locking up his son, who had no obvious way of paying for the trip and didn't even have a passport, that father's options were few. Such helplessness is hard to address. And no one has an answer for the predicament Rush's father found himself in.

There are counselling programs that can help parents and their young adult children before things get desperate, or bewildering, as in the case of Nguyen Tuong Van. But the pain - public and private - remains.

Nguyen's mother collapsed with grief while sharing a letter he wrote from prison with the public, in which her son asked God "to watch over you all and love you all".

Nguyen says his motivation to board a plane in Changi with 396 grams of heroin several years ago was to pay off the debts of his twin brother, who owed $25,000 to loan sharks.

Society's credit does not stretch as far as this extraordinarily misguided brotherly love - and certainly not in Singapore where he was apprehended, and is awaiting his fate, even if that fate would be different if he were imprisoned in Australia.

Whatever the truth behind the Bali nine's drug mules' decision to make their fateful trip, or the naivety behind Nguyen's crime, one thing is clear: there are deadly lessons waiting for those yet to cross society's chasm.

(Dhurva Davis is the executive chairwoman of the Australian College of Applied Psychology.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Education ministers clash over curriculum and classics

Education ministers clash over curriculum and classics
By Justin Norrie Education Reporter
September 24, 2005

A fight is brewing between the NSW Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, and her federal counterpart over plans to conduct a national survey of the quality of year 12 assessments.

The federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, yesterday announced the study would compare content, curriculum and standards in English, literature, mathematics, physics and chemistry in all school sectors. Its findings would help explain what Dr Nelson claims is a national drop in education standards, he said.

"It is clear that standards vary from state to state. It is also clear that curriculum has been altered, in some cases to the detriment of content and standards," Dr Nelson said. "Moves away from classical literature to emphasise contemporary texts is causing concern to many parents."

But Ms Tebbutt said the State Government had just completed the biggest reforms to the HSC in four decades. Dr Geoff Masters, from the Australian Council of Educational Research, had assessed the reforms and found they were "in line with international best practice and enjoyed widespread public support", she said. NSW had countries "approaching us to see how we do things".

The study is the latest in a series of Federal Government incursions into schools, which are traditionally overseen run by the states. Dr Nelson has already commissioned the development of an Australian certificate of education, a nationally consistent assessment of student skills and knowledge.

The Opposition's education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said Dr Nelson had failed to consult the states on his initiative.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Scientists oppose outcomes education

Hi Folks,

This is Ming again. Is anybody there still "kicking and alive"?
Just kidding seeing this "busy" "community of practice"...

Ming

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Scientists oppose outcomes education
Paige Taylor
08oct05

A DELEGATION of scientists is making a last-ditch attempt to stop West Australian schools adopting an "airy fairy" education system they claim protects students' self esteem at the expense of competition and the pursuit of excellence.

The Australian Institute of Physics yesterday voiced its opposition to a planned radical overhaul of the curriculum in the state's upper-school classrooms.

The AIP has backed the recently formed education lobby group PLATO - People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes - in its claims that the new system will stifle students' competitive urges by rewarding them for achieving at any level.

Institute state chairman Igor Bray will be among a three-person delegation of physicists from Curtin, Murdoch and the University of Western Australia to meet state Curriculum Council representatives on Thursday.

Professor Bray said they would discuss teachers' concerns that "outcomes-based education" would let down poor students by giving them a false sense of their own competence.

Under OBE, no student can fail and every student achieves at one of eight "levels". Only students who achieve at levels six to eight are considered to be in the running for university.

"The Curriculum Council does not see competition among students as an important factor but we do - we see it as vital," Professor Bray said.

Outcomes-based education will strip the hard sciences of their exclusivity from next year, placing teenagers destined for work as laboratory assistants and tradesmen in physics classrooms alongside future doctors and scientists.

Theoretically, a student could pass Year 12 physics after achieving simple "outcomes", such as demonstrating the knowledge that energy can be transferred, that it appears in different forms and that it interacts with matter to produce different effects.

A student who did not understand physics formula could also pass or "achieve".


© The Australian

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Education ministers clash over curriculum and classics

By Justin Norrie Education Reporter
September 24, 2005

A fight is brewing between the NSW Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, and her federal counterpart over plans to conduct a national survey of the quality of year 12 assessments.

The federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, yesterday announced the study would compare content, curriculum and standards in English, literature, mathematics, physics and chemistry in all school sectors. Its findings would help explain what Dr Nelson claims is a national drop in education standards, he said.

"It is clear that standards vary from state to state. It is also clear that curriculum has been altered, in some cases to the detriment of content and standards," Dr Nelson said. "Moves away from classical literature to emphasise contemporary texts is causing concern to many parents."

But Ms Tebbutt said the State Government had just completed the biggest reforms to the HSC in four decades. Dr Geoff Masters, from the Australian Council of Educational Research, had assessed the reforms and found they were "in line with international best practice and enjoyed widespread public support", she said. NSW had countries "approaching us to see how we do things".

The study is the latest in a series of Federal Government incursions into schools, which are traditionally overseen run by the states. Dr Nelson has already commissioned the development of an Australian certificate of education, a nationally consistent assessment of student skills and knowledge.

The Opposition's education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said Dr Nelson had failed to consult the states on his initiative.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

VCE English 'dumbed down'

**************************

Hi Folks,

My "New Learning" as a courier has started for over a month. At least for 3 years I am not going to apply for a teaching job.

I cover so many suburbs every day doing pickups and deliveries...

Wishing you all the best!


Ming

**********************

VCE English 'dumbed down'

By Shane Green
Education Editor

September 10, 2005

STUDENTS would have to read only one book in year 12 English under contentious proposals that have been branded a dumbing down of the VCE compulsory subject.

Under the system — dubbed by one critic as "English Lite" and deplored by the State Opposition — students would have to study only two texts instead of three in year 11, and two instead of four in year 12. One of the texts could be a film.

The final VCE English exam would also change, with students having to answer only one question on a text instead of two.

Replacing the texts would be a new area of study called "creating and presenting", where students have to produce work for an adult audience, and may read texts for their research. In year 12, they would choose from such themes as "sustainable futures", and "citizenship and globalisation".

There would be a shift away from written responses in work assessed during the year, with at least one oral assessment task. There would be a greater emphasis on new technology.

The controversial changes are proposed in a draft paper published by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. If approved, the changes will be part of VCE English in 2007.

VCAA acting chief executive John Firth said the proposals were an attempt to "rebalance" VCE English.

"We certainly haven't taken the texts out of the VCE, and it's still a compulsory part of this proposal as well," he said. "There's been a demand for quite some time that we need to find ways of developing students' capacity to communicate and write, especially in a range of different contexts for a range of different purposes."

Mr Firth said that to bring something into VCE English, "you've got to create a bit of space. You just can't keep adding and adding."

He said students who wanted to specialise in literature could still take literature as a subject, which counts as their compulsory English.

The proposals have already created heated debate.

Tony Thompson, an English teacher at Princes Hill Secondary College, described the proposed changes as "English Lite".

"It's a dumbing down, there's no question," Mr Thompson said. He said that in NSW, even students taking English as a second language had to read three texts.

Opposition education spokesman Victor Perton said education standards were falling "rapidly" in Victoria.

"We are going to be the dumb white trash of Asia if we don't get our act into gear," he said.

Mr Perton said the expectations on spelling and grammar in Victorian schools was less than other countries demanded of their students learning English as a second language.

"There is a growing fear among parents and employers that kids leaving school with their VCE are not guaranteed to be able to read, and certainly can't write, can't spell and don't have grammar," he said.

Mr Firth said the early response from teachers had been positive. "We certainly don't see it at all as English Lite," he said.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW

In year 12 English, students must study four texts. One can be a film. The 2005 approved list includes novels, such as The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Plague, plays such as Hamlet, films such as Breaker Morant, and collections of poems and short stories. End-of-year exam has two questions on the texts, and a third question that asks students to analyse an unseen persuasive text.

WHAT'S PROPOSED

Year 12 students to read only two texts from the approved list, and one can be a film. Greater use of technology. End-of-year exam to have one question on a text, and a question on an unseen persuasive text. A new question would be under the "Creating and presenting" area of study. Students would choose from four themes: "Sustainable futures"; "Citizenship and globalisation"; "Personal achievement and community endeavours"; and "Individual freedom and social responsibility". Students would be required to write for an adult audience.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Bracks fails his own literacy and numeracy test

Bracks fails his own literacy and numeracy test

September 1, 2005

A fifth of Victorian children leave school functionally illiterate, writes Victor Perton.

VICTORIA starts at the back of the grid in the race to increase the skills of our workforce. The Victorian workforce of tomorrow will have the poorest literacy skills on mainland Australia.

The 2004 report of the OECD Program for International Student Assessment showed that Victorian students have lower rates of literacy, numeracy and scientific literacy than their Queensland, Australian Capital Territory, NSW, South Australian and West Australian counterparts.

Just 11 per cent of Victorian students were performing at the highest rates of reading literacy proficiency, compared with 22 per cent of students in the ACT and 20 per cent in Western Australia.

The Premier's vague Third Wave call to Australia to "increase the proportion of students achieving benchmark levels for year 3, 5 and 7 levels of reading, numeracy and writing" is an admirable aim, but those living in glass houses should not throw stones.

Steve Bracks must first address the fact that 20 per cent of our children leave school functionally illiterate, in many cases with a VCE or VCAL certificate, before he puts his two cents worth into what the rest of the country should be doing to improve education.

The OECD study is just one of several over the past two years that have pointed to poor average literacy among Victorian students.

Bracks must take responsibility for this appalling report card and focus his attention on improving literacy and numeracy rates in Victoria, instead of producing fluffy rhetoric. If he doesn't fix the problems in his own backyard, the progression of the Victorian workforce will be bleak.

The "Setting the Pace" report on Victorian youth participation in learning and work, prepared for the Dusseldorp Skills Forum in association with the Education Foundation and the Business Council of Australia, predicted future problems for Victoria.

It said: "Literacy and numeracy is a central foundation on which successful learning and long-term economic participation is built but Victorian students at age 15 perform less well in achievement tests in mathematics, science and reading relative to students in comparable states."

The Bracks Government's own data, released in June, showed that in 25 Victorian secondary schools more than 10 per cent of former students were unemployed six months after they had completed their VCE or VCAL certificates.

These are schools that have poor standards in literacy and numeracy at year 10 level, yet most students are promoted to years 11 and 12 despite not being able to read the prescribed texts.

The Victorian budget acknowledges that one in five year 10 students have literacy levels that do not equip them to study at senior secondary school level. It is unfair that many of these students are being encouraged to go on to complete year 12 only to end up without a university or TAFE place and no job due to low performance in their VCE and no adequate employment skills, such as reading and writing.

Despite these disturbing findings, Steve Bracks, Education Minister Lynne Kosky and Education Services Minister Jacinta Allan have their heads in the sand and continue to claim that it is all good news in relation to literacy and numeracy levels.

The Victorian Government's literacy programs are remedial rather than proactive. According to the Auditor-General, programs such as Reading Recovery and Restart have failed to make any impact despite more than $600 million being spent. The Bracks Government must stop throwing good money after bad and come up with some real solutions to our literacy and numeracy woes.

For a start, we can set higher standards for teacher training and supervision. While we shouldn't blame teachers for a problem that starts before school, there is little doubt that we have to demand higher standards from teacher training institutions. We can do that by setting entrance exams as several other countries do.

Automatic progression to the next year level is the norm today despite one in five children being ill-equipped to read the appropriate year level text. This is not good enough and will result in an unskilled workforce. We have to restore consequences for failure. Students with poor results need to be offered after-hours school classes to bring them back up to the benchmark.

The Government should also look to support non-government organisations, such as OzChild, the Smith Family and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, which operate excellent early reading programs targeting semi-illiterate mothers for support and training.

Steve Bracks has no credibility on increasing literacy and numeracy benchmarks. He must fix the problems in his own backyard before he tells the rest of the country what it should do.

Victor Perton is shadow education minister.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Oppressed Minorities? Dominant Cultures?

"They are not being taught to be critical, they are being taught the theory of critical literacy and its varying agendas."


'Mumbo jumbo' teaching to end
Luke Slattery
04aug05

QUEENSLAND'S new Education Minister Rod Welford yesterday vowed to clean up his state's controversial English syllabus and to remove post-modernist "mumbo jumbo" from the classroom.

Mr Welford yesterday expressed shock at examples of students' work, shown to him by The Australian, which showed the influence of the so-called "critical literacy" taught in state schools.

In one example, a child received top marks for a feminist critique of the early 19th century German fairy tale Rapunzel.

"Even the title Rapunzel is not left without the gender assumption. For example, the story title Rapunzel is in fact the name of a vegetable, therefore reinforcing the gender roles of women as a vegetable, can be linked with cooking chores deemed to be a woman's profession," the student wrote.

Rapunzel is a type of green vegetable, also known as corn salad.

Mr Welford said while there was nothing wrong with senior students analysing the agendas behind a writer's work, the syllabus should not "give undue emphasis to marginal theories" that were better taught at university.

"It's really not a very constructive pathway for English learning at school," he said. "Nothing will leave this department that I don't understand."

In another example, one Queensland student, applying critical literacy to two books dealing with racial themes, wrote: "The two ideologies, as well as their relative representation (sic) are given foundation by the discourses within each text, the racist attitude being challenged and the ideology of racial equality being supported to establish it as the position the reader is invited to identify with." In a statewide exam a Year 12 student issued a cry of protest against a syllabus that stresses the importance of "metalanguage" and the "constructedness" of texts.

"The English curriculum could do with a few more facts and a little less literary analytical postmodern wanking," the student wrote. "Please disregard this if you think the syllabus is of any value to anyone."

Mr Welford also expressed concern over a letter to The Australian this week in response to a series on the English curriculum, which revealed that students in Queensland teacher training courses are encouraged to teach critical literacy to students as young as six.

Critical literacy, which is heavily influenced by postmodern theorists that rose to prominence in the 1980s, has influenced the English curriculum in all states and territories but particularly those of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Opponents of critical literacy argue that it takes away the enjoyment of reading, squeezes classic works off the syllabus and politicises the classroom.

Head of English at a Queensland provincial school, Marion Illich, last night welcomed the Minister's decision to redraft the syllabus in plain English and diminish the impact of post-modern theories and academic jargon.

"Students' capacity for critical thought is suffering as are their literary skills," she told The Australian.

"They are not being taught to be critical, they are being taught the theory of critical literacy and its varying agendas." Ms Illich added that while education gurus may be attempting to indoctrinate their charges, "most kids are just too smart for that".

privacy terms © The Australian

Multiple Intelligences? Bloom's Taxonomy?

Theory of teaching faces test of reality
Luke Slattery
18aug05

TEACHER training is to undergo a radical shake-up to bring the theory of teaching into line with the reality of the classroom, the head of a new national teaching body said yesterday.

Fran Hinton, chief executive of the new National Institute for Quality Teaching and School Leadership, revealed that a system of national teacher accreditation affecting the content of teaching courses was under development.

Education faculties would have to adapt their courses to the new national standards, she said.

"By establishing a set of criteria of what we expect in terms of standards we require, we will have an impact on the courses," Ms Hinton said.

The move signals an overhaul of the teaching profession, which critics, including federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson, say has been too quick to seize on the latest teaching fads and which is overly reliant on academic jargon.

The institute was established last year with $10 million in federal government funding. But as a measure of its new role in re-shaping the teaching profession, its funding rose to $30 million this year. After developing a set of agreed standards for teacher excellence, the institute will assess each university education faculty against those standards and make public the results.

The information will be published on the institute's website to help students choose the most effective teacher training courses. Education faculties that fail to meet the standards may see declining enrolments.

Claiming that teacher training courses suffered from a "disconnect" between the theory and practice of teaching, Ms Hinton stressed the need for more research into the efficacy of teaching theories before they were included in the curricula.

She signalled a "more clinical approach" to teaching and teacher education as part of a push to enhance the professionalism of teachers.

"We in the profession regret the fact that there hasn't been the level of research that we would have hoped into the effectiveness of particular models of the teaching of children," Ms Hinton told The Australian.

privacy terms © The Australian

"New Learning" -- "mollycoddles" students and "crippling ideology"

Get with it, older teachers told
Paige Taylor
25aug05

WEST Australian Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich has warned older teachers resisting a radical overhaul of the state curriculum to accept change and get on with the job.

Ms Ravlich, a former social studies teacher, is facing strident criticism from some teachers of the "outcomes-based education" model that does not rank students or fail them.

"We have an ageing demographic in the education system and some people are more resistant to change than others," she told The Australian. "It's not chalk and talk any more, and good teachers will want to make their classes really interesting."

Ms Ravlich believes the majority of teachers support the new curriculum and said her department was addressing legitimate concerns about student assessment, teacher workload and implementation. But the curriculum, which assesses students against levels of achievement rather than awarding them grades, came under further attack yesterday after Ms Ravlich admitted removing the senior bureaucrat who oversaw its design.

Former state Curriculum Council chief executive Norma Jeffery has maintained her pay and conditions after being moved to the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Her acting replacement, Greg Robson, has been chosen to sell the changes to parents and teachers after chairing a taskforce that recommended changes to the proposed curriculum.

Mr Robson acknowledged some older teachers were against the changes, and said good communication was essential to win over the doubters.

"There is a whole generation of teachers doing terrific work in high schools, some of them for over 30 years now, and many of them have adapted to the implementation of lots of new initiatives and changes," he said.

"But there is always a core of people who find it a challenge."

Mr Robson conceded the curriculum had been perceived by some as "airy fairy" and not tough enough. But he insisted it was demanding of students and gave them "clear and explicit" directions about what they were required to learn.

Some teachers have claimed the principle of outcomes-based education - that any student can achieve in any subject at their own level - makes assessment complex and open to varying interpretations about what is an acceptable level of achievement.

Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has urged a rethink of the plan, claiming the new system "mollycoddles" students and was the product of "crippling ideology".

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Nelson on front foot in literacy row

Nelson on front foot in literacy row
Paige Taylor
24aug05

FEDERAL Education Minister Brendan Nelson has escalated a battle over teaching methods bypraising a "back-to-basics" reading program in a Perth primary school as the model for others to follow.

The phonics program taught at Deanmore Primary School employs a method of teaching reading that has not been dominant in schools since the 1980s.

Dr Nelson said the reading project, run with the University of Western Australia and with heavy involvement from parents, was an excellent model "for the way reading should be taught".

"It's an exemplary model which I think should be looked at by schools across the country." But Dr Gallop said the state's schools already led the nation in numeracy and literacy.

He accused Dr Nelson - who recently criticised the state's outcomes-based education curriculum for its "crippling ideology" - of playing politics.

"The truth of the matter is Brendan Nelson does not run any schools and he's in the business of trying to position himself vis-a-vis the right wing of the Liberal Party," Dr Gallop said.

"But you know that's not what we want out of our federal Minister of Education."

The Australian was barred from reporting on Dr Nelson's classroom visit when a local Education Department bureaucrat claimed correct approvals had not been granted.

Dr Nelson clashed with the Gallop Government last week over its outcomes-based education curriculum, claiming it "mollycoddled" students by giving parents jargonistic assessments with phrases such as "almost achieving".

Outcomes-based education, used in the state's schools from kindergarten to Year 10 since 1998, is underscored by the principle that all students can achieve at their own level in any subject.

Dr Nelson has urged the Gallop Government to reconsider, and at least delay plans to roll out outcomes-based education into Years 11 and 12, starting next year.

His criticism drew fire from former state Opposition leader and now Liberal backbencher Colin Barnett, who accused Dr Nelson of being "extraordinarily destructive" in his attitude to the state's schools.

State Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich also weighed in yesterday, saying phonics was still one of the teaching methods used in state schools, where the focus remained on three Rs.

"I am confident in terms of our literacy and numeracy performance," she said.

"And Western Australian parents can have confidence in our literacy and numeracy and in the teaching of phonics in Western Australian schools."