Sunday, April 24, 2016

Does Australia have one of the most unequal education systems in the OECD?

The Left-leaning article below answers 'No' to that question but still searches for something to whine about.  They are up against it however -- as they concede that "Australia’s level of equity was not particularly different to that of many other OECD countries. New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Germany". 

What they look at is how big is the achievement gap between well-off and poor kids.  And in the Australian case they admit that the gap is not due to lack of "resources" (mostly meaning money spent per pupil).  So insofar as the gap is largeish in Australia, it is probably due to Australia's huge network of government-subsidized private schools.  40% of Australian teenagers go to private schools.  And there is no doubt that such schools do have some beneficial effect on exam performance and other indications of educational achievement.  Well-off kids get better schooling in Australia

Is that unjust?  Maybe it is but it is not beyond remedy. Australian government schools for many years modelled their curricula and procedures on famous British private schools such as Eton.  I was one product of that system (including compulsory Latin!) and the excellent education I got from it has definitely helped make my life easier and richer.  I shudder at the impoverished and propaganda-laden curricula of today.

With their constant imposition of unproven and unsuccessful educational theories, the Left have destroyed the old system.  But it shows what is possible.  Government schools CAN provide a high quality education.  All you have to do is to go by what works

As the debate around public and private schooling in Australia rages on, writer and social commentator Jane Caro told the Q&A audience that Australia has one of the most unequal education systems in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Is that right? When asked for sources to support her assertion, Caro referred The Conversation to a 2015 report published by the Australian Council of Educational Research.

The report analysed results from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and noted: "the general relationship between the overall level of schools’ educational resources and the resources gap between socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged schools. Where resources are high, the gap tends to be low, and where resources are low, the gap tends to be high"

    The OECD analysis also showed that, contrary to the general pattern, Australia has a high level of resources as well as a high level of inequity in the allocation of those resources. Australia’s overall level of schools’ educational resources is above the OECD average, yet it is ranked fifth among 36 participating countries in resource disparity between advantaged and disadvantaged schools.

Caro also sent The Conversation an article published by the Save Our Schools organisation titled OECD Report Highlights Education Inequity in Australia, and the PISA 2009 results report published by the OECD.

What the data shows is that Australia is not the worst or nearly the worst when it comes to equality and our education system.

However, it is true there is a great deal of evidence that Australia’s education system is very unequal. The level of equity is not getting better and if anything, it is getting worse.

What do we mean by ‘unequal’?  The best tool for understanding how equal or unequal the Australian education system is compared to other OECD education systems is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Equity in PISA refers to how well students do on cognitive tests according to their socioeconomic background (SES).

Socioeconomic background is measured in PISA by taking into account parental occupation and education, access to home educational and cultural resources, family wealth, and books in the home.

According to PISA’s measure, “unequal” means there are large differences in the outcomes of high SES and low SES students. In other words, it’s when kids from wealthy or well-off households consistently get better test results than kids from poorer families.

In the 2000 PISA report, Australia’s performance in PISA reading literacy was indeed referred to as “high quality – low equity”. In other words, Australia’s achievement was higher than the OECD average but in terms of equity, Australia was below the OECD average.

In reading, in particular, Australia continues to fall into the category of high-quality - low or average equity.

In mathematics and science – subjects that less likely to rely on parental involvement and resources than reading literacy – this is not the case.  In these subjects, Australia falls into the high-quality - high-equity quadrant.

‘Among the worst’? While Australia’s performance in PISA reading literacy has been classed as low equity, Australia’s level of equity was not particularly different to that of many other OECD countries. New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Germany (among others) were also classed as low equity when it came to reading literacy.

Saying we are “among the worst” may stretching it a bit – but this is splitting hairs. The data supports the overall point that Caro was making: Australia does have a schooling system that is not equitable.

Based on data from PISA:

    There is a gap of about 2.5 years of schooling in mathematical literacy between students in the highest SES quartile and those in the lowest quartile.

    Low achievement is strongly associated with low SES. In both mathematics and reading literacy, low SES students comprised about 45% of all low performing students while students from the second lowest quartile accounted for a further 29%. Just 10% of students of low performers were from the highest SES quartile.

    Australia shows a high level of variation in reading literacy performance due to SES differences between schools

    A recent re-analysis of the PISA 2012 data found that a socioeconomically disadvantaged student in Australia was six times more likely to be a low performer than an advantaged student. After taking account of several other factors influencing school performance such as gender, immigrant and language background, family structure, urban or rural location, pre-primary education and grade repetition, a socioeconomically disadvantaged student is still five times more likely to be a low performer than an advantaged student.

    While all Australian schools report adequate educational resources, schools with a large proportion of low performing students report much lower levels of these resources than schools with a large proportion of high performing students.

    Between 2000 and 2009, Australian secondary schools became more differentiated in reading achievement. That differentiation became more strongly linked to the average socioeconomic context of the school.

Verdict: Australia doesn’t have one of the most unequal education systems in the OECD.  However, there is good evidence that our schooling system is not equitable.


Teach for (some of) Australia

The credentialism idiocy is keeping able people out of teaching.  Requiring a 4 year teaching degree before you can teach is chrome-plated imbecility. It's not long since a one-year diploma was deemed adequate.  And I successfully taught in Australian High Schools for two years without one second of teacher training. My students got excellent exam results too

Over the past few months, attention has been drawn to low entry standards for teacher education courses in Australian universities. NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has been one of the strongest voices advocating for higher entry standards for teaching degrees. In NSW, new teachers can be registered only if they have achieved results of at least a Band 5 (there are 6 achievement bands) in at least three subjects -- including English -- in the Higher School Certificate, or an equivalent qualification.

Given Minister Piccoli's evident understanding of the importance of encouraging highly capable people to become school teachers, it is curious that some of the brightest and talented new teachers in Australia are not allowed to teach in NSW schools.

The Teach for Australia (TFA) program has been recruiting high achieving people to teach in disadvantaged and hard to staff secondary schools since 2010. The average ATAR of TFA 'associates' is a very high 95. Only 6% of applicants enter the classroom. In contrast to the trend throughout the rest of the teacher education sector, 47% of TFA associates were qualified as science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) teachers.

One of the criticisms of TFA's approach is that TFA associates start teaching before they have completed post-graduate teacher education. Instead, they complete an intensive six-week course and then continue their studies while teaching part-time. Bear in mind that the associates already have at least an undergraduate degree in their subject area (almost half had advanced degrees in 2016) as well as professional work experience.

Unfortunately, like the rest of the teacher education sector, there is little objective data showing the educational impact of TFA associates on student performance. A report from TFA states that 90% said that TFA associates had a greater impact on student achievement than other graduate teachers after two years of classroom teaching. Survey data is not ideal, but there is evidence from TFA's sister programs -- Teach for America and Teach First (UK) -- that teachers recruited and trained by this method are at least as good if not better than traditionally-trained teachers.

TFA associates currently teach in Victoria, the ACT, Northern Territory and Western Australia. It is time for the other states to get on board. They have little to lose and everything to gain.


Australian scientists write open letter demanding action on Great Barrier Reef as 93 per cent of the reef has been affected by coral bleaching due to climate change

But what CAN the government do if it's due to climate change?  They want the government to stop all coal usage but that would do nothing for the reef.  The proportion of CO2 added to the atmosphere by the burning of coal in Australia is minuscule.  The whole thing is just a cynical and dishonest attempt to push their usual barrows by exploiting something that is almost certainly due to the El Nino weather oscillation and not to "climate change"
Dozens of Australian scientists have penned a letter to express major concern for the Great Barrier Reef, which is currently undergoing its worst coral bleaching in history.

The letter signed by 56 scientists urged the government to make phasing out fossil fuels and coal a major priority to save the reef.

'We are now seeing first hand the damage that climate change causes, and we have a duty of care to speak out,' the open letter stated.

'Australia must rapidly phase-out our existing ageing and inefficient coal-fired power stations.

'In addition, there can be no new coal mines. No new coal-fired power stations. The transition to a renewables-led energy system, already underway, must be greatly accelerated.'

The letter, published in The Courier-Mail as an advert, cost the $14,000 to publish and was funded by a the Climate Council successfully raised money from 250 sponsors.

A report by noted the letter was published in the same week it was revealed 93 per cent of the world's largest reef was affected by coral bleaching, the worst case in recorded history.

Organisations are demanding further action from the federal government, with WWF Australia pushing for 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035 and net zero carbon pollution before 2050, according to the report.


End Aboriginal cult of victimhood and focus on what matters

Too many Aboriginal people in this country suffer and languish — not due to a lack of energy, effort or resources, but misplaced priorities.

Take the recent stories generated by the 25th anniversary of the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. We’ve seen stories and heard speeches all centring on the theme of “25 years later, Aboriginal people still die in custody”. The usual suspect, racism, is fingered as the underlying cause of these deaths.

At this point, I want to make a disclosure: I write this piece as someone whose research interests include how best to promote the holistic wellbeing of Aboriginal people. Further, I write as a part-Aboriginal Australian. I do not ­believe that this ancestry makes my opinion more valid than anyone else, but in a world dominated by political correctness, it does provide me with the freedom to discuss matters that many are afraid to discuss for fear of “blaming the victim” or being labelled racist. Ultimately, I believe Aboriginal ­affairs is all our business, and we as a nation must work together.

Drawing attention to an issue like Aboriginal deaths in custody is misplaced, for the simple reason that while Aboriginal people are over-represented in custody, they are not over-represented in deaths in custody. In fact, an Aboriginal person in custody is less likely to die than a non-Aboriginal person in custody.

Stating this another way, there is an over-representation of non-Aboriginal deaths in custody. However, the narrative of elevated black deaths in custody is emotive, and that gets attention.

Consider The health of Australia’s prisoners 2015, a publication by the Australian ­Institute of Health and Welfare. It states: “With just over one-quarter (27 per cent) of pri­soners in custody being indigenous, and 17 per cent of deaths in custody being ­indigenous, indigenous prisoners were under-­represented.”

This is something that activists should never lose sight of. Yet Greens indigenous affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert is quoted on an ABC website as saying: “It has been 25 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and Aboriginal people are still dispro­portionately dying while in incar­ceration.” At least she got the 25 years right.

At the same time as the deaths in custody furore, Melbourne ­Aboriginal actor Uncle Jack Charles was again refused a taxi ride. This was immediately ­ascribed to racism.

It is possible, maybe even likely, that racism was the motivating factor for the ­refusal. However, such racism may not be as common as some people would like to think. I am guessing that each week thousands of Aboriginal people across the country must catch taxis without incident.

As such, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’s response that racist taxi drivers are not welcome in Victoria seems like an over-­reaction, or playing to the gallery. If it is the case, the other premiers and chief ministers should perhaps prepare for a huge ­invasion of racist taxi drivers from Victoria.

No doubt Premier Andrews will be hailed by some as the man who took a courageous stand against racism. But how does this help Aboriginal people?

Certainly addressing racism against Aboriginal people where it exists is worthwhile. But this should not take the place of ­addressing those issues that have the most negative impact on Aboriginal people — like unemployment, poverty, alcohol abuse, child sexual abuse, violence and unsafe living environments.

These problems require government input — but also personal responsibility. But when people are continually told that they are victims of ­racism, personal responsibility is quickly forfeited.

My friend Dave Price, husband of Northern Territory Minister Bess Price, says: “It is enormously difficult to convince your Aboriginal loved ones bent on self-­destruction that they have the power in themselves to take ­responsibility for their lives and solve their own problems when the rest of the world tells them that they are victims with a capital ‘V’. The whole debate needs to change. Let’s start by getting rid of the pernicious victim stereotype and the stultifying viciousness of political correctness gone mad.”

Shouts of racism may help politicians and academics with popularity contests, but they come at a high price for too many Aboriginal people.

I agree with Dave: unless the debate changes, the outcomes will not change. Let’s keep applying the same effort but direct it ­towards addressing the real causes of Aboriginal suffering.


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