Sunday, 29 January 2012

Trailing, can do better: report needs answers

Trailing, can do better: report needs answers

'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'  allegedly Benjamin Disraeli

'We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.'
Albert Einstein.

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above


When Julia Gillard was in Sydney this week to announce extra schools funding for students with disabilities, she stressed the need for Australia to win the "education race" against its Asian neighbours.

The call followed the lament by her Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, over disappointing results from last year's national literacy and numeracy tests. There has been no marked improvement, and performance of top students is going backwards.

The brightest and most socio-economically advantaged children are concentrated in independent and public selective schools; the disadvantaged and poorest academic performers are in the public system.

For 10 years under the Howard government, Australia suppressed data comparing the performance of independent and public schools.

Sue Thomson, from the Australian Council for Educational Research, says the latest OECD snapshot revealed, for the first time, no significant differences in test scores from public and private schools after they were adjusted for the socio-economic background of students and their school peers. This confirmed the performance of Australian students is linked to the family background of students and their peers – not the school they attend.

Data from other OECD countries consistently showed public schools performed as well or better than independent schools after socio-economic factors were accounted for. The Australian private schools lobby rejects the research as flawed.

"Any supposed performance advantage from going to a private school is entirely due to the fact they come from advantaged backgrounds and are concentrated together."

But money will not solve all the problems. High-performing countries recruit high-calibre teachers with masters degrees. They do not focus on standardised testing and "teaching to the test", which teachers complain of in Australia.

"What goes on in Chinese classrooms, for example, is a process of teaching kids to think and not a process of just drumming in facts," Sweet said.

Barry McGaw, who heads the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, is concerned schools are not stretching the top students.He believes there has been too much focus on developing basic skills to meet minimum standards.

He found students in south-west Sydney were studying lower levels of mathematics and English than those in northern Sydney, despite being of similar ability, because "south-western Sydney schools weren't offering the higher level courses".

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