Saturday, September 12, 2009

OECD study puts Australian education policy in perspective

By Jennifer Buckingham

This week, the OECD released its annual Education At A Glance report which provides country comparisons of spending, participation, completion, performance and various other aspects of education. At 475 pages, it contains much useful information, but for those who can’t bring themselves to read the whole report, here are some highlights.

As usual, Australia is ranked fairly close to the OECD average in terms of overall spending on education with the exception of pre-primary education, where we are right at the bottom.

The federal government has chosen to blow steam about this figure out of the thousands of possible figures, but this report suffers from the same flaw as all other OECD publications on early childhood education and care. The expenditure figure is misleading because it only includes direct spending on pre-school education and government programs and administration. It does not include the enormous household subsidies for child care in this country, which form a large part of the early childhood education sector.

There are some interesting figures relating to school education. Although public spending on school education is below OECD average, private investment in school education in Australia as a percentage of GDP is exceeded by only two other countries – Korea and Chile. [i.e. LOTS of Australian families send their kids to private schools -- especially for High School]

Australia is among the countries with the highest number of instruction hours, with an average of 962 hours a year for 12 to 14 year olds. This compares with an OECD average of 892 hours per year. The countries that outperform us in the PISA literacy, numeracy and science assessments have much fewer instruction hours per year– Sweden (741), South Korea ( 867) and Finland (777) – but devote proportionally more compulsory instruction time to these core subjects. Australia only devotes 13% of compulsory instruction time to reading, writing and literature, which is the lowest in the OECD.

New analyses of the 2006 PISA results show that socioeconomic disadvantage has a relatively low impact on performance in Australia compared with most other OECD countries. In the science component of PISA 2006, 39.4% of ‘strong’ performers (with scores in the top two performance bands) were students with a socioeconomic status index below the national average.

Figures provided in OECD publications are often accepted as Gospel, but they should always be viewed with caution and considered in light of each country’s policy context. The above figures, while interesting and informative, are no exception.

The above is part of a press release dated Sept. 11 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

A school run by castrati

But they have not been physically unmanned. They have been castrated by Left-inspired anti-discipline laws. Once upon a time a 10 year old waving a small stick would have GOT the stick and that would have been the end of it. Now they have to call police

ANOTHER Ipswich school has been placed into lockdown, after a 10-year-old boy carrying a stick threatened the safety of staff and students. Police were called to Churchill State School yesterday morning after a young student began abusing classmates and teachers before picking up a stick and threatening to attack staff. The boy's parents picked him up before police arrived and no one was hurt during the incident.

The parents of a student at the school said their child also saw the boy hitting classroom windows with his scooter. “My kids said he was rolling along on his scooter and then using it to try and break windows,” a parent said.

The Ipswich Child Protection Investigation Unit said the child lashed out because he did not like being told what to do. Police later spoke to the boy and warned him about his aggressive behaviour.

The lockdown, which lasted for 10 minutes, was the third time an Ipswich school had been closed due to the threat of violence in the past 12 days. Ipswich State High School was in lockdown for an hour late last month after a gang of females invaded the site, threatening students and staff. Brassall State School was placed in lockdown the next day when an Ipswich State High student was chased from that site into the primary school across the road. The fleeing teenage student had to hide in Brassall State School's administration office while police were called.

Education Queensland (EQ) said the incident at Churchill State School was handled swiftly. “The acting principal acted calmly and professionally. The lockdown was put in place as a precautionary measure and it proceeded smoothly and without incident,” an EQ spokesman said. “A student became aggressive towards staff and students on the school oval. The student picked up a small stick and made general threats.”

When a school is in lockdown, students must remain on the ground while all classroom doors are locked and a bell is sounded. After the incident, Churchill State School teachers handed students a letter to pass to their parents explaining what had happened.

A parent who spoke to The Queensland Times said the lockdown was excessive. “I think it was over the top,” the parent said. “You would imagine a 10-year-old kid with a stick could be handled by teachers.”

Education Queensland said lockdowns were necessary for a wide range of incidents. “Lockdowns can be used in any situation that may threaten the safety of staff and students. This can include gas leaks near the school, external police operations or on-site altercations,” an EQ spokesman said.

Most parents The Queensland Times spoke to said the school looked after their children well and the site had not been on lockdown before. “It's a good school, my kids don't cop much stick from other students,” a parent said.


The brainless Qld. Ambulance bureaucracy does it again

Paramedics get TVs, not life-saving equipment. The entire management should be fired

QUEENSLAND Ambulance Service has splashed out on big-screen TVs, sound systems and expensive lounges while paramedics go without critical equipment. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the entertainment systems for ambulance stations at the end of last financial year despite a desperate need for GPS devices, training defibrillators and replacement uniforms. The splurge has infuriated paramedics forced to cope with broken or dodgy equipment.

In at least three cases exposed by The Courier-Mail, people have died after paramedics lost their way in ambulances lacking GPS or missing a defibrillator which had been removed for training.

The QAS has refused to reveal how much it has spent on TVs, Blu-ray disc players and sound systems over the past two years, but staff estimate it could top $1 million. The QAS strongly defended its spending, claiming the items were for "training". "Education and training is essential to the development of paramedics and QAS employees and the purchase of equipment for training and development such as televisions, DVDs, and lounges in rest areas does not impact on the provision of other essential equipment," it said in a statement. {Really??}

But Brisbane student paramedic Zac Damelian, who had to buy his own GPS for work, said the $12,000 he estimated was spent on his station was over the top. "It's just ridiculous what they spend money on," Mr Damelian said. "Televisions aren't going to bring back the poor old lady (cardiac) arresting down the road." He said the entertainment systems at his station were "hardly ever used for training". "It is for recreation between jobs," he said.

Mr Damelian wasn't against paramedics having comforts, but not at the expense of essential equipment. Lifepak 12 defibrillators are "constantly in and out of service", blood glucose readers, batteries and stretchers needed replacement, and paramedics struggled to get replacement uniforms, he said. Paramedics who want to train on Lifepak 12 defibrillators at their stations must remove units from ambulances, a risky decision.

Some stations now have up to three LCD televisions and two DVD players. The Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, which represents hundreds of paramedics and ambulance staff, said it disagreed with the wasting of public money. "In times of financial crisis . . . there are more pressing priorities," vice-president Jock Ruthven said.

QAS documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information showed a Gold Coast child who died after having a seizure was attended to by paramedics who did not have a defibrillator because it had been removed for training. Two Mackay men died of cardiac arrest after waiting more than 40 minutes for lost ambulances which didn't have GPS.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone said money should first be spent making sure there was enough staff and essential equipment, including back-up gear, and uniforms.


Fewer lunches for Sir Lunchalot and a new minister for police

Two very desirable changes in NSW. Though I suppose there's not much hope that the new bosses will be any better than the old. Sir Lunchalot above. Background on him here

Tony Kelly has been dumped as the NSW Police Minister after criticism that he mishandled a police pay dispute and was devoting more time to campaigning for a leadership challenge. Ian Macdonald [Sir Lunchalot] loses his energy portfolio, but remains Minister for Primary Industries.

Premier Nathan Rees announced a cabinet reshuffle this afternoon after John Della Bosca quit the cabinet over an affair. Mr Rees said the reshuffle was about loyalty and discipline, indicating that he had punished Mr Kelly and Mr Macdonald for working behind the scenes against him.

The NSW Deputy Premier, Carmel Tebbutt, has taken over as the state's new Health Minister. Ms Tebbutt, from the Labor Left, has been the environment minister for the past year. Michael Daley will become the new Minister for Police....

Mr Della Bosca quit the ministry last week after admitting to the affair with 26-year-old Kate Neill.....

Three recent former health ministers have become political casualties, with two quitting Parliament and one now relegated to the back bench. Former premier Morris Iemma was health minister in 2005, followed by Attorney-General John Hatzistergos in 2006/07, Reba Meagher in 2007/08 and Mr Della Bosca took on the job a year ago. Mr Hatzistergos took over the portfolio for about a week after Mr Della Bosca resigned.


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