The Australia 2020 Summit directly involved 1,000 participants, as well as generating much wider public discussion around the country. Local summits were held held and debates took place at over 500 schools. The discussion stream around national productivity identified a range of themes. They included the need for closer connections between education, business and innovation systems, and the need for infrastructure that integrates services and allows for shared community use. Ideas for enhancing productivity included overcoming the public/private divide in education, for example through needs-based education funding and the encouragement of private investment in education. Other ideas in the productivity enhancement stream included improving maths and science education by connecting scientists with primary school teachers, rewarding excellence in teaching, and attracting high quality applicants to the teaching profession. The Summit called for Australia to ‘release the latent value of our human capital’ by establishing a national curriculum and by connecting business, science and the arts more closely with education. The discussion stream on health called for ‘a health system structured around the person rather than the provider’ and the promotion of healthy food choices including delivery of ‘fast fruit’ to primary schools and banning the marketing of junk food to children. The Summit also called for the strengthening of communities, with measures to build local infrastructure and encourage social connectedness. It also supported the call for an integrated ‘one-stop shop’ for delivery of government and community services, and for broad access to paid parental and carer leave. Another stream considered ways to enhance creativity. Proposals included bringing art into schools with the introduction of a ‘practitioners in residence’ program funded philanthropically, the exploration of arts-related extension programs for pre-service and in-service teachers, and mandating the teaching and reporting of creative, visual and performing arts in the national curriculum. Proposals to improve opportunities for Indigenous Australians included the development of a new education framework and encouraging high-performing graduates to work as teachers alongside Indigenous educators. The Summit urged support for rural communities and concerted efforts to attract and retain people and industries in rural areas. Other discussion streams covered the economy, governance, national security and population, sustainability and climate change. A detailed final report on the Summit will be available next month.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
School and community
Arts in education
Volume 34 Number 3, December 2007; Pages 35–52
Today young people increasingly have to navigate individual pathways through education and employment. They must also create and rely more on their own social networks, as the nuclear family, local community and employment provide less stable structures of support than in the past. Education should help young people to negotiate their identity, supporting their efforts to not only ‘become somebody’ but to ‘become somebody well’. However, the education system does not equip students well enough to deal with these demands. Governments’ policies towards education focus excessively on preparation for the future workforce. Proponents of this economically oriented model of learning do call for the teaching of creativity, to prepare entrepreneurial workers needed for the knowledge economy, but the economic and vocational model of education works against creativity. Instead it aligns with older, industrial era ideas about the relationship of work to schooling. It focuses on the acquisition of standardised skills and competencies, monitored through centralised accountability measures. The problems with this ‘new instrumentalism’ are illustrated, for example, by longitudinal research in Queensland which found that education does not challenge students intellectually, does not connect to their lives and does not value social diversity. Under this neo-liberal framework of ideas, school curricula tend to aggravate inequalities in social class, with the learning usually achieved by disadvantaged students being of less value to the labour market. Education for health and wellbeing is also distorted and hampered by this neo-liberal framework. Students’ health and wellbeing are conceived narrowly in terms of preparation for future participation in the workforce. Responsibility for health and wellbeing is put back on individuals. Programs such as healthy canteen food and sun protection are partly seen as risk management against litigation. Measures to unite health and education, such as the MindMatters mental health program, offer genuine and effective partnerships that spread the burden of social wellbeing beyond schools, but such programs often depend on short term, non-core funding. Health and wellbeing do not receive enough attention in schools, not because of a crowded curriculum but because they are not given enough weight within the currently conceived goals of education.
Damn good statistics
April 2008; Pages 28–29
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is currently conducting a survey of the nation’s students. The resulting database will be available for teachers and students to use in a variety of ways. The questionnaire is similar to the one conducted in 2006, with students completing an online questionnaire about topics relating to their characteristics, habits and pastimes. The questions cover topics ranging from language spoken at home, favourite music and opinions on social and environmental issues, to height, usual amount of sleep, and precise physical characteristics such as length of the right foot. As the data is real and relevant to students, the results of these surveys are an excellent way of engaging with the issues surrounding data collection and analysis. The 2006 data is now available for use, with a random sampler selecting a sample of up to 200 students in the database, with the option of filtering the data by gender, postcode, year level, dominant hand or school size. The data can be downloaded into spreadsheets or data visualisation software and analysed on a number of different levels. Primary students might draw pie charts and frequency tables, while secondary mathematics students can use the data to explore regression and correlation. A common classroom activity is having students conduct a mini-survey of their class on a particular topic and comparing this data to a random sample of students across the nation. Eleven of the questions in the 2008 survey are identical to questions in the
Setting the course
Volume 7 Number 1, April 2008; Pages 6–9
The new Australian Government has initiated moves toward a national curriculum to deal with a number of key issues in school education. A national curriculum will establish comparable standards between Australia’s education systems. National testing has confirmed the existence of inconsistencies in curricula, assessment and reporting between these systems. This inconsistency has caused confusion to employers, universities and students themselves. A study by the ACER published last year examined the content of English, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Australian History. The study found that the curricula in some systems omitted ‘essential topics’ in senior mathematics, and it also identified considerable variations in assessment requirements for maths. For all the subjects examined there were significant differences in ‘the language, methods and standards used in assessment and reporting’. Eliminating these differences within a national curriculum may be challenging. However, there are also significant commonalities between curricula that will ease the creation of a national curriculum. A national curriculum would be of considerable assistance to the 80,000 students who move between States and Territories each year. It would also reduce or eliminate duplication between education systems. The National Curriculum Board will be able to build on the successes of different systems, integrating the highest quality elements of each State and Territory curricula into ‘a single super curriculum’.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Great outdoors: outdoor education goes mainstream
February 2008; Pages 44–47
Outdoor education courses are now accredited for university entrance and are increasing in popularity. Outdoor education is strongly linked to important social issues such as sustainability and environmental change, and courses take an adventure-based approach that complements normal classroom teaching. The principles and strategies behind outdoor education programs correspond with those behind international initiatives such as the UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), as well as Australian national and State initiatives such as
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsEnvironmental Education
Western Australia (WA)
Volume 65 Number 6, March 2008; Pages 32–38
When students seem unwilling or unable to learn it is often because their cognitive structures are underdeveloped. Cognitive structures are the psychological systems through which people gather and process new information. They allow people to link ideas with prior knowledge or experience, find patterns and relationships and notice rules. Cognitive structures can be grouped into three categories. Comparative cognitive structures help people identify how pieces of information are similar or different. This capacity underlies all other types of structures. Symbolic representation structures translate information into culturally determined coding systems, such as language, music or graphics. Logical reasoning structures are used for analysis, developing arguments and evaluating information. Cognitive structures may not be fully developed in children who are passively exposed to mass media compared with those who participate actively in family interactions. It is never too late to develop these structures. They are built through reflective awareness and visualisation as children become conscious of sensory information and begin to mentally represent the information in a meaningful way. Teachers can cultivate recognition skills by asking their students ‘What do you see?’ or ‘What do you notice?’ immediately after presenting new material. Memorisation should not be confused with imitation and is crucial for training students’ memories to create personal meaning. An awareness of conservation of constancy involves understanding how some things change and others stay the same. Tasks such as redrawing a map to a different scale exercise students’ ability to conserve shape and location while changing size. Classification involves applying criteria to group objects. Instead of simply working with pre-defined criteria, students should be encouraged to come up with their own grouping systems through sorting the same group of objects in different ways. Many students are taught pre-defined punctuation rules without developing and understanding their own classification systems. Spatial orientation and temporal orientation help students to represent objects and events in space and time. Spatial orientation is important for planning, organising and impulse control. Metaphorical thinking highlights similarities and de-emphasises differences. Teachers who are trained in cognitive structures are always relieved and energised when their resistant and ‘less capable’ students begin to learn and change.
Subject HeadingsLearning ability
Psychology of learning
Volume 65 Number 6, March 2008; Pages 83–84
For many years educators have debated whether it is better for struggling students to repeat a grade or to move forward with their peers. Retaining too many students may lead to disproportionately high numbers in lower grades. The cost of retaining students is also an issue. It is estimated that in the
Subject HeadingsRetention rates in schools
Digital delights and dilemmas: a digitally enhanced classroom
Volume 19 Number 3, November 2007; Pages 33–41
A case study of a ‘digitally enhanced’ primary school classroom in
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Innovative secondary school ICT case studies
Volume 19 Number 3, November 2007; Pages 42–43
Four brief case studies of successful ICT practice in New Zealand schools are outlined. All four were funded by the NZ Government's Technology Beacon Practice, an initiative of the Growth and Innovation Framework (GIF). The first involved Year 10 students at Katikati College in the Bay of Plenty. Students participating in ICT Programmes for Junior Students designed and produced a label and cover notes for a CD, as well as developing a PowerPoint presentation and using Macromedia Dreamweaver to create a website about the history of the modern computer. The second case study was a Year 11 Hillcrest course in ICT Programming. Students were asked to research and develop a computer program that addressed an important social issue. They learnt about programming principles, interface design, coding animations and developing interactivity. The third case study involved a Year 12 class at Katikati College that asked students to use multimedia CD-ROMs to create solutions to an issue. They used a variety of media, including Word documents, audio, video, PowerPoint and visual diaries. These programs were all designed to encourage students to enjoy ICT and to continue studying these subjects at senior level. The fourth case related to a cluster of ICT staff from both schools who had collaborated for two years on learning and assessment in ICT. The topics they considered mainly concerned ways to balance their teaching and assessment of practice in ICT with teaching and assessment of students’ skills and knowledge. Their discussions addressed how to familiarise students with the philosophy and methodology of technology study and how to introduce more creativity in the ICT classroom. The cluster devised an alternative assessment schedule for schools’ internally assessed work. The case studies are selected from those available on Techlink, the website for educational technology from the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsCase studies
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Closing the digital divide: education telecommunications systems and possibilities in Western Australia
Volume 22 Number 2, December 2007; Pages 32–36
New technological advances are improving telecommunications access for Western Australian schools in the Government, Catholic and Independent sectors. Under the Government’s Networking the Nation initiative, access to email and Internet facilities has greatly improved across the State. In Western Australia the Department of Education and Training (DETWA) is responsible for 250,000 students in over 790 State schools. The Catholic Education Office (CEO) represents students at 158 Catholic schools, while the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia (AISWA) is responsible for 55,000 students at 140 Independent schools throughout the State. All DETWA schools have been connected to the Department’s network through the State Government e2c ‘Education to Community’ project either by landline or by satellite. The ‘100 Schools Project’ is a component of the e2c project. Between 2003 and 2006 it enabled 100 schools to receive benefits, including the funding of additional staff time for an ICT Coordinator to support teachers’ ICT needs, funding for professional learning programs, additional computers, and hardware and security upgrades where necessary. The CEO introduced CathEdNet in 2002 to connect its 158 schools and 8 regional offices. The MyInternet virtual intranet service was used by Catholic schools to create school intranets, provide staff with opportunities for collaboration and facilitate the online publication of resources and student work. The Catholic sector is also trialling multi-party videoconferencing for training and professional development. AISWA introduced the AISWAlearningnet in 2004, allowing students, teachers and parents access to the school’s online learning environment. The network’s members are able to access learning objects developed by The Le@rning Federation (TLF), as well as benefiting from other advantages such as competitive prices on applications and services, information on the latest trends and developments in ICT, and consultancy and assistance with professional development. The major problem faced by the AISWAlearningnet project is the disparity in broadband access for its member schools. Future directions for telecommunications include taking advantage of the state’s extensive Telecentre network, as well as the facilities to be provided by the Government’s initiatives under the Connect Australia project.
Subject HeadingsWestern Australia (WA)
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