Monday, February 20, 2012

Report on Australian education

A rather silly report that sets out impossible ideals. One might have hoped for something more realistic but what we got was an ivory tower fantasy.

It ignores a couple of elephants in the room: The fact that the large black population pulls down standards in the USA and UK and that China will always be ahead of Australia because of their higher average IQs -- particularly when it comes to mathematical ability

No wonder even an ALP government is kicking it into the long grass. Below is the klutz behind the report

A DETAILED report today will condemn education funding as illogical and inconsistent but the Government will only offer lots of consultation in its immediate response.

The report by David Gonski will sound the alarm on Australian school performances and urge that education become more competitive internationally.

"Australian schools need to lift the performance of students at all levels of achievement, particularly the lower performers," the report, started 18 months ago, will say.

"Australia must also improve its international standing by arresting the decline that has been witnessed over the past decade."

Mr Gonski is expected to condemn the current funding system by pointing to an absence of a "logical, consistent and publicly transparent approach to funding schools".

"Every child should have access to the best possible education, regardless of where they live, the income of their family or the school they attend," the report will say.

The Gonski review comes with a forecast that jobs for skilled workers will grow at 2.5 times the demand for unskilled labour, underlining the need for students to complete a high level of schooling if they want to be employed.

Official figures will show that while we are ahead of standards in Britain and the United States, our international rating in key education areas has been dropping when compared to our closer neighbours, particularly China.

Over the decade Australia has gone from equal 2nd to equal 7th in reading; the average 15-year-old Australian maths student is two years behind his Shanghai counterpart.

Four of the finest top school systems in the world are nearby – in Hong Kong, Korea, Shanghai and Singapore. The report will say we have to match them.

Meanwhile, there are inequalities within the Australian education system, with the literacy gap between disadvantaged pupils and those from higher income homes growing to the equivalent of three years of schooling.

Some 89 per cent of Year 3 students from disadvantaged backgrounds are below average in reading, compared to 13 per cent of advantaged pupils.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Schools Minister Peter Garrett have vowed there will be no hit-list of wealthy private schools, a policy which helped destroy Mark Latham's attempt to win government for Labor in 2004.

The Government also has pledged no school will lose a dollar in funding per student and that indexation will be included in any new funding scheme.

The Prime Minister and Mr Garrett plan a wide ranging national consultation on the report's findings, a move which could push out any new funding commitments past the May Budget.

The Government will be limited in the fresh funding round, to start next year, by its determination to get a Budget surplus in 2012-13.

Ms Gillard and her minister will "kick start a a grass roots, nation-wide discussion" with visits to schools and discussions with teachers and parents.

"We will discuss the proposals outlined in the report with the community and talk about what we think our education system needs to drive better and better outcomes for every child in every school," said Ms Gillard in a statement.

Mr Garrett said the inquiry, the first into the fundamentals of the education system for 40 years, was vital because "our future prospects as a country literally depend on having a highly-skilled, well-educated workforce".


Catholic schools fear heavy hit from funding review

That's a lot of voters to alienate

CATHOLIC schools face fee increases of up to 131 per cent, forcing a potential exodus from primary and secondary facilities and campus closures, according to confidential modelling ahead of the Gonski review.

The church is preparing for the Gillard government to radically overhaul funding, amid concerns of a collapse in real-terms of payments to the sector.

The Australian has obtained a confidential briefing note, which contains three modelling scenarios, all of which point to big fee increases in Catholic primary and secondary fees by 2016 and a potential flight of pupils to the government sector.

The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria modelling warns that primary school fees could rise between 92 per cent and 131 per cent by 2016, inevitably forcing out lower socio-economic status students from the system.

The modelling was conducted before School Education Minister Peter Garrett attempted to assuage fears at the weekend of a backlash against the private sector under the Gonski review. His comments yesterday have failed to convince the Catholic sector.

The CECV investigated funding scenarios on the assumption of substantial reform flowing from the Gonski review, with specific analysis of funding maintenance provisions and the removal of any indexation mechanism that went beyond inflation.

The CECV working party reported on February 9, questioning the Gillard government's assertion that no school would lose a dollar. "This assurance does not indicate whether an indexation mechanism will be applied under the new funding model," the CECV says.

The commission, which oversees one of the nation's biggest school systems, warns that any downgrading of funding would have a big impact on fees.

The commission's Gonski working party warns that by 2016 primary school fees could rise by an average of $1197 per student or 92 per cent on the estimated fee for 2013. Secondary school fees could rise by an average of $1903 or 39 per cent.

The dynamic would worsen if the government were to tie funding indexation merely to inflation and remove other provisions.

If this were to occur, funding would effectively stagnate from next year until 2018, with the federal cash injection diving by $828 million.

By 2016, primary school fees would rise an average of $1706 per student or 131 per cent on the estimated 2013 fee, while secondary fees would rise by $2019 a student or 42 per cent based on the 2013 numbers.

"If any of these three scenarios were adopted there will be significant and widespread consequences for Catholic education in Victoria," the commission's Gonski working party warns. "The magnitude of these fee increases would be very likely to lead to an exodus from Catholic schools to the government sector," the working party said.


More lies about the Brisbane flood

Bureaucrats try to cover themselves over the mess that they created

MINISTERS were misled about the risk of a dam failure at Wivenhoe during last year's floods, documents show.

A briefing note, drawn up for Water Minister Stephen Robertson by Water Grid chief Barry Dennien for an emergency Cabinet meeting on January 17, warned that floods like the one being experienced could "overflow the dam's storage compartment", with catastrophic results.

"Should this occur, the dam would fail and the resulting damage and loss of life would be at least 100 to 1000 times greater than that currently being experienced," Mr Dennien wrote.

But this was at odds with the facts known at the time and with published information about the structure of the dam.

Dam levels had already peaked on January 11 at a level almost 1m lower than the point at which safety features designed to prevent a dam collapse begin to come into play.

The first of these are "fuse plugs", safety valves built in to an earth embankment that erode to release water when the dam reaches a certain height.

These were added in 2005 as part of a $70 million upgrade of the dam, intended to make it withstand the biggest imaginable flood, thought likely to occur only once every 100,000 years.

The first fuse plug is designed to be needed only in an "extreme" 1-in-6000-year flood.

By contrast, the official Seqwater report into the floods describes a "large to rare" event, with a 100 to 2,000 year recurrence.

Mr Robertson told the flood inquiry this month that no decisions had been made on the basis of the briefing note at the Cabinet meeting.

But Ms Bligh made a series of public statements during and after the flooding in Brisbane and Ipswich in which she highlighted the dangers of the fuse plugs being triggered.

The briefing note, approved by John Bradley, then director-general of the Department of Environment and Resource Management and now Ms Bligh's top adviser, was requested by Mr Robertson and drafted over the weekend of January 15 and 16.


Australians to be healed from 'Islamophobia' by head of global Islamic organisation -- at the invitation of Foreign Minister Rudd

This week Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has invited Professor Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to discuss “Transition and Change: The OIC and the Islamic World”

Events take place on February 15th and 16th at the National Press Club of Australia and at Griffith University, Brisbane. Following similar events in Europe and Washington, Mr Rudd’s visitor is here to educate and help us overcome “Islamophobia” in Australia.

The OIC, which represents 56 Islamic states, makes up the largest voting bloc of the UN.

United in their effort to limit critical discussion of the Islamic religion and sharia law, these countries refuse to sign the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. OIC members construed the ‘Cairo Declaration’, in which human rights are subject to interpretation by Islamic clergy and sharia law. The OIC is headquartered in Saudi Arabia, a feudal monarchy renown for violation of basic human rights under strict sharia law.

The feigned concern of the OIC with discrimination against Islam and more notably views not supportive of Islam is in contrast to the violent intolerance experienced by non-Muslim minorities in many Islamic countries. Indigenous religious minorities, which are not afforded the same respect, recognition or equality demanded by the OIC for Muslim immigrants in the West.

Author and human rights activist Ayan Hirsi Ali ‘s recent article 'The Global War on Christ-ians in the Muslim World' highlights “... an unrecognised battle costing thousands of lives.” With these facts in mind, there are serious questions democratic governments should be asking the OIC, before taking advice from Professor Ihsanoglu.

Q Society appeals to Mr Rudd to show courage and openly address this discrepancy and the discrimination against non-Muslims, evident in almost every OIC country.

Vilifying critics of Islam and sharia practices as 'islamophobic' is in fact aiding and abetting those who seek to silence the debate about the rise of Islamic sharia, both in the West and in the once secular countries of the OIC.


Disgraceful secrecy about a rogue doctor

Some puffed-up judge evidently had more concern for the welfare of a crook than for the welfare of his victims

Yet more evidence that "regulators" are no protection

A ROGUE surgeon performed unnecessary, unauthorised - and in some cases botched surgery - on 152 WA women in a suspected money-making scheme.

In 141 cases, he risked serious complications, including making the women infertile.

In several other cases, the now-banned medico was responsible for horrific blunders.

His reckless actions carried on unchecked in Perth hospitals for more than four years before he was stopped and banned. Until today, the scandal has been cloaked in secrecy because of a court order obtained by the wealthy surgeon's lawyers.

After a marathon and expensive legal fight, The Sunday Times can finally tell the WA public what happened. But it still cannot name the surgeon.

His patients have told of major surgical errors such as attaching the uterus to the bowel, slicing arteries, performing vaginal "resizings" when they were not needed and incorrectly performed internal procedures.

In 2009, the surgeon, who has since fled the country, pleaded guilty to misconduct and gross carelessness before the State Administrative Tribunal.

One charge related to him performing unnecessary secondary operations without the consent of his patients.

After delivering babies through caesarean sections, he removed benign growths, known as fimbrial cysts, from patients' fallopian tubes. These ranged in size from pinheads to large marbles.

He did not tell his patients or seek their consent for the added procedure which netted him extra money despite the heightened risk of infertility and other serious complications.

A confidential Health Department briefing paper obtained by The Sunday Times shows that between October 2001 and January 2006 the surgeon performed these extra operations on at least 141 patients after he delivered their babies. Eleven gynaecological procedures were also identified.

Authorities first discovered irregularities in September 2005, according to the paper.

It referred to the surgeon's "billing practice" billing hospitals for the original operations and the removal of the cysts, which reaped him an extra $384 to $492 a patient.

The "billing practice" significantly increased during 2004 and 2005.

In May 2006, the Medical Board won an interim order to stop the surgeon performing the second operations. A month later, it applied to indefinitely suspend the surgeon.

A full briefing on the case was provided to then South Metropolitan Area Health Service chief executive Peter Flett, then health director Neale Fong and former health minister Jim McGinty in August 2007. They all agreed that "open disclosure" should occur to all patients who "may" have suffered some harm, according to the briefing.

A month later, authorities began making contact with patients. Twenty-four cases were deemed serious enough to require senior health staff to phone patients and tell them to seek immediate medical attention.

Of those, six were referred to specialists for further checks. Other patients were sent letters informing them they had secondary surgery they did not know about.

Over the same period, several patients filed complaints with the Medical Board over botched gynaecological procedures by the same surgeon.

Thirteen proceedings were launched by the Medical Board against the surgeon, involving nine patients.

The first case, which was filed in November 2005, involved an incorrectly performed hysterectomy that left the woman completely numb in her uterus region. Another case involved repeated botched gynaecological operations on a 16-year-old.

The surgeon left WA in early 2007.

In March 2009, he was permanently stripped of his right to work as a doctor in WA after he was found guilty of "disgraceful or dishonourable" conduct for lying about the complaints against him while trying to get work in South Africa.

Almost all the details of the scandal had been kept secret because a blanket suppression order was granted after the surgeon's lawyers argued he was at risk of self-harm if the case became public.

The Sunday Times won a partial lifting of the order, allowing it to publish today's story. The newspaper spent more than $120,000 in its legal battle. More victims of the surgeon may now surface.

The WA Health Department issued a statement on Friday about the surgeon.

It said: "Dr X was regularly billing for secondary medical procedures while performing obstetric and gynaecological surgery. Independent reviews found that these procedures were not medically indicated.

"WA Health reported Dr X to the WA Medical Board in 2006 following concerns about his practices. Immediate action was taken to stop him from operating in WA and a clinical review was conducted to determine the number of women who may have been affected by the additional secondary procedures. He ceased employment at WA Health in early 2006.

"WA Health identified 141 obstetric and 11 gynaecological patients who may have been affected by the secondary procedures.

WA Health contacted the women, but was unsuccessful in 13 cases despite all efforts. "These women have been offered counselling and referral to a medical specialist if necessary," the report said. "WA Health condemns the actions of this doctor and regrets any harm and distress he has caused patients and their families."

A Medical Board official said: "Ultimately the practitioner was deregistered as a result of the action taken by the board. "Surgical procedures generally involved risk to the patient and it is unacceptable to carry out any surgical procedure unnecessarily.

"It is also unacceptable to carry out a surgical procedure without the patient having given his or her consent."


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