Wednesday, March 16, 2016

OECD education chief Andreas Schleicher blasts Australia's education system

We see the fallout from the failure to tackle the indiscipline problem in government schools.  Experienced older teachers have been gradually getting out and are being replaced by poorly qualified new graduates.  Smarter graduates have lots of options and trying to teach unruly students is just not attractive to them.  You mostly have to be pretty desperate to take up teaching in a government school.  Brighter graduates with a vocation for teaching rapidly end up teaching in Australia's many private schools, which are much more orderly. A return of corporal punishment is needed to restore order in government schools.  In some such schools teachers spend most of their time getting the students to shut up and sit down -- during which they learn nothing

One of the world's most influential education experts, Andreas Schleicher, has criticised the Australian education system for falling behind global standards.

Mr Schleicher, the education director of the Organisation for Economic Development, said that Australia had a very significant drop in the results of students at the top of the PISA testing rankings in the past year.

"Australia has lost a lot of students with very good results, it's very significant this round and I think that's something to really think about," he said.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international survey held every three years that pits the world's education systems against each other by testing the performance of 15-year-old students.

Australia's results have steadily declined over the past decade. Last year, Australia ranked 14th behind Poland, Germany and Vietnam, with up to 20 per cent of students unable to demonstrate basic skills.

Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, Mr Schleicher said Australia's emphasis on having teachers in front of a class over their own professional development was an area that needed addressing.

"[Australia] more or less defines teachers by the number of hours that [they] teach in front of students," he said. "That is part of the problem."  "We treat teachers as interchangeable widgets on the frontline - they are just there to implement prefabricated knowledge."

He said many countries were struggling to keep the best teachers in the profession because of curriculums that restrict creativity.  "There really is a complete lack of intellectual attractiveness to the teaching profession once you have that very industrial work organisation behind you," he said.

The past decade of Mr Schleicher's data-driven research, which has been harnessed by the education secretaries of both the US and Britain, found that several changes have allowed the world's most successful school systems to prosper.

According to Mr Schleicher, high-achieving education systems such as Finland have implemented selective teacher training with high academic standards, prioritised the development of teachers and principals as goals above reducing class sizes and allowed teachers to be creative in their implementation of the curriculum.

These systems also directed more resources to schools that have high numbers of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli frequently cites Finland, where teachers are required to have a master's degree, as an ideal model for NSW.  In September, Mr Piccoli announced new entry standards for teachers, with higher minimum marks now required to enrol for an undergraduate teaching degree.

Mr Schleicher added that Australia's needs-based Gonski reforms, with increased investment in teacher training, were a positive step but that more commitment was needed.  "That is one of challenges in Australia - to make sure the funding continues to be channelled to schools with more needs," he said.

The federal government has not committed to the final two years of Gonski funding. According to school funding expert Jim McMorrow, NSW schools would be $1.27 billion worse off without the needs-based funding injection.


Victorian Premier says authorities will 'smash' violent black  gang

A Leftist politician grows a pair

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has vowed that authorities will 'smash' violent youth gangs after hundreds of Apex members clashed on the streets of Melbourne over the weekend.

Two teenagers with links to the Sudanese-based gang that rioted on Saturday night were arrested over a series of carjackings on Monday when police swooped on them outside a McDonald's.

Armed with knives and guns, more than 100 Apex members were heard chanting 'f*** the police' before launching into a mass brawl that turned Federation Square into a riot zone during the Moomba Festival.

Mr Andrews vowed to crack down on that brand of 'thuggery' and said sob stories about hard upbringings would not be accepted as an excuse for lawlessness.

'I am not interested in poor me stories,' he said, according to the Herald Sun.  'Nobody had to behave the way they did on Saturday night. They chose to.'  'It was an evil choice and one which those involved will deeply regret.

'We will smash these gangs because we will make sure Victoria Police has everything they need to make sure that those who were so violent and lawless on Saturday evening are appropriately punished.'

He said the priority would be equipping police with resources and flagged potential new legislation to ward off gangs.

Special Operations police arrested two Apex gang members outside a fast food restaurant in Dandenong less than 48 hours after the brawl.  The two 18-year-old men, one from Dandenong and the other from Noble Park, were taken into custody just after 2pm on Heatherton Road in Dandenong.

One of the men was struck by a police car during the arrest and has been taken to hospital with minor injuries. The other man is assisting police with their enquiries. 

Scores of people were seen rushing down the streets of Melbourne, with some running over parked vehicles

A Victoria Police spokesman said: 'It is believed the men are affiliated with the Apex gang, alleged to be involved in a recent spate of serious offences including aggravated burglary, car jackings and armed robberies.'

'Today’s arrests are part of the ongoing commitment toward dealing with this violent gang-related offending seen across our suburbs in recent months.'

It was previously reported that a tip off about the vicious gang brawl on Saturday was dismissed as 's**t' by senior officers only hours before up to 100 gang members brutally attacked each other.

A concerned member of the public called Triple Zero on Saturday at around 6pm warning of an imminent riot, the Age reported.

Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp admitted police had received a tip off before the event but said intelligence did not suggest the level of violence seen. He confirmed that some of the gang members punched innocent people in the face before stealing their phones.

Police are investigating if there was also an attempted ‘gun grab’ by one of the youths.

The primarily Sudanese-based Apex gang were filmed causing chaos on Saturday night as more than 100 members clashed in front of families attending a Moomba community event.

The Apex gang had threatened on social media to return and run amok again on Sunday night but police managed to disperse the group.

Earlier reports indicated that two rival gangs were involved in the widespread altercation, however police have now suggested that the incident involved only one group.

The gang is predominantly comprised of members from Sudan but is also made up of people from the Pacific Islands and other nations in West Africa.

Four people were arrested over the incident on Saturday, which forced the closure of Swanston Street and brought trams to a standstill.

Police have arrested 33 members of the Apex gang in the past four months for burglary, assault and car theft before the violent brawl took place on Saturday night in Melbourne's Federation Square, the ABC reported.  

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graeme Ashton condemned the Apex gang's actions and said a special taskforce had been set up in November to monitor the group. 

'The levels of violence exhibited by this group was an increase and escalation on violence... that concerns us greatly and we condemn it,' Chief Commissioner Ashton said.  'The sort of behaviour (on Saturday night) will not be tolerated and we'll be cracking down hard on this particular group we believe was responsible.'

Commissioner Ashton said police believed members of the Apex gang were behind a spate of robberies and car thefts in Melbourne's south where the group hails from.

He said the group had also come into the city for White Night and New Year's Eve celebrations 'looking to cause trouble'.

Hundreds of people flocked to the Moomba festival for a night of festivities when the scuffle erupted

The Apex gang had reportedly organised the punch-up via video messaging app Snapchat.

Dramatic scenes show the melee of youths throwing punches at each other, with police officers out in force to disperse the gang with capsicum spray.

Chairs were hurled as weapons when the gangs stormed the Brunetti's cafe in City Square before bringing trams and traffic to a standstill along Swanston Street.

Police were reportedly aware of the gangs' plans to meet in the city after a photo of weapons, including baseball bats, knuckle dusters and machetes was sent via the social media app.

Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said police would make sure there were no further incidents. 'My clear message to those who are in any way thinking of engaging in stupid and violent behaviour is - stay away from the city,' he said.

But Mr Crisp also said reports that two separate street gangs were involved in Saturday's events were wrong.  Rather, it was just one large group involved in the violence, and the deputy commissioner pulled no punches when describing the chaos seen on Saturday.

'I'll even call it a riot - from my perspective it was riotous behaviour by this particular group,' he said.

A man armed with a Taser was involved in Saturday night's riot which centred on Federation Square and surrounding areas.

Two young men were arrested for being drunk, another was arrested for assaulting an officer, and a fourth was arrested after allegedly being found with the Taser.

An innocent bystander - a young man - was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.


NSW government's crackdown on Coal Seam Gas opponents brings out protesters

NSW imports most of its domestic gas for heating and cooking because mining opponents obstruct it from mining its own gas

More than 60 per cent of NSW voters oppose the Baird government's plans to crack down on anti-mining protests, according to an exclusive state-wide poll.

The news comes as about 1000 environmentalists, unions, civil libertarians and the Reverend Fred Nile shut down traffic on Macquarie Street as parliament prepared to vote on the controversial bill on Tuesday.

A NSW government source said it was possible the bill would be passed into law by the state's upper house on Tuesday night. Its passage appears guaranteed with the support of the Shooters and Fishers Party.

But a new poll shows less than 20 per cent of all voters support the measures, while 60 per cent are opposed.

In a troubling sign for the coalition government, more than half of those who declared support for its parties also said they opposed the measures.

"These measures may pass but they will have no social licence," said Greens MLC David Shoebridge. "We will break these laws on the street".

Two lanes and later all traffic on Macquarie Street near the NSW parliament was shut down by the protests despite heavy rain.

Bogaine Spearim, a Gamilaraay man and activist, said: "This proposal is going to deny [our] people access to our sacred land.  "[But] we can't think about the risk of getting arrested. We have to think about the risk of a generation that doesn't have access."

Both the NSW Bar Association and the Law Society have also issued statements condemning the plans to increase ten-fold some fines levied upon anti-mining protesters.

Police would also be given greater powers to search protesters without a warrant and to "move them on".

The law society said the changes did not "appear to be either necessary or proportionate" as police in NSW already had extensive powers to search and detain people.

The bill would also broaden the scope of existing anti-mining-protest laws to expose a wave of coal seam gas protesters  - such as those who chain themselves to machinery - to up to seven years' jail.

"We can't afford a $5000 fine on our pensions," said Anne Thompson, a farmer from Eltham in northern NSW and one of the founders of the Knitting Nannas anti-mining movement. "We're already making jailbird outfits".

The Nannas have been cited by green groups as examples of the kinds of non-violent protesters who may fall foul of the legislation.

But the NSW government argues the laws will simply update existing laws, which have already criminalised the offence of hindering activity on mining, to cover coal-seam gas mining.

The government notes that protests have led to more than 800 interruptions for the operations of one miner, Santos, on its Narrabri site since 2013.

The telephone poll of about 1200 NSW voters was conducted by Reachtel on March 14. The poll was commissioned by the NSW Conservation Council.

A concomitant plan by the state government to reduce drastically fines levied upon mining companies, in some instances from a maximum of $1 million to $5000, is even more unpopular. 80 per cent of voters oppose the move including those who identify as supporters of the coalition parties.

"Mr Baird's decision to push these laws through parliament without community consultation reinforces the perception that he is doing the bidding of coal and gas companies," said the CEO of the conservation council, Kate Smolski. "We would have lost many our most cherished natural areas to mining and logging if Mr Baird's anti-protest laws were in place during key environmental battles in NSW's history".

The NSW Unions movement, which is considering a High Court challenge to the laws also joined the protest.  NSW Labor frontbencher Adam Searle declared the laws "unnecessary".


Opposition in NSW to ethanol mandate legislation

The legislation is just Greenie nonsense

Liberal MLC Peter Phelps "went berserk" during a partyroom meeting and vowed to not support legislation to force small petrol retailers to sell an ethanol blend.  Opponents of the legislation say it will drive up petrol prices by as much as 8¢ a litre.

Mr Phelps - a self-styled libertarian - upbraided the minister with carriage of the legislation, Victor Dominello, during the meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Phelps told the minister it was "illiberal" to force companies to sell a product that "people don't want", according to the source.

He detailed Mr Dominello's publicly available diary summaries, which show he has met with ethanol producer Manildra five times as Minister for Better Regulation.

The NSW Greens have previously pointed out that Australia's largest ethanol producer, Manildra, has donated $4.3 million to the Liberals, Nationals and Labor since 1998.

Mr Phelps then told the partyroom he would not be supporting the legislation when it came into the upper house. He has been approached for comment.

In NSW, the law says major retailers must try to ensure ethanol accounts for 6 per cent of all petrol sold, via the E10 blend. Retailers with fewer than 20 sites are exempt.

But ethanol accounts for only about 2.7 per cent of all petrol sold in NSW.

The government's legislation is expected to force smaller retailers which sell three or more types of automotive fuel to sell E10 for the first time to reach the 6 per cent mandate, with some exemptions.

Small retailers warn they will be forced to increase the price over three years to recoup the cost of upgrades if their current exemption from having to sell ethanol-blended fuel is scrapped without compensation of up to $326 million.

They say this could drive up the price of petrol by as much as 8¢ a litre.

But Mr Dominello has said the changes are aimed at "creating a competitive biofuels industry in which E10 is a cheap and attractive option for motorists, while maintaining choice among other regular and premium unleaded fuels".


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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