Thursday, January 19, 2017
We’ve become a nation of uni dropouts
This may be a good thing. It may mean that more students are waking up to the uselessness of their dumbed down and politicized education
MORE Australians are making the wrong decisions about their future when it comes to education.
University student completion data, released by the federal government, has revealed the university dropout rate is worsening with around one in three students failing to complete their studies within six years of enrolment.
The worrying figures have prompted the government to encourage thousands of prospective students to think long and hard about enrolling when they receive their course offers this week, and have also raised the question, who’s to blame?
Putting responsibility on universities, the data has also prompted the government to reveal for the first time the worst offending institutions.
The universities with the worst dropout rates have been exposed, with some well below the already concerning average.
The Northern Territory’s Charles Darwin University boasted the most shameful completion rate with only 41.8 per cent of students who enrolled in 2009 wrapping up their studies by 2014.
The bottom five universities, including Western Australia’s Murdoch University, The University of New England in NSW and two regional universities in Queensland — the University of Southern Queensland and Central Queensland University — all saw less than half of the cohort graduate.
The top performers saw up to 88 per cent of students complete their studies within the measured period, but high completion rates were found to be rare. Only seven out of Australia’s 43 universities boasted completion rates above 75 per cent.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham suggested a lack of transparency from universities was to blame, and said it was time our institutions were straight with prospective students.
“We’ve heard too many stories about students who have changed courses, dropped out because they made the wrong choices about what to study, student who didn’t realise there were other entry path ways or who started a course with next to no idea of what they were signing themselves up for,” he said.
“Students should be looking for feedback on the reputation of the university they want to attend, how well-known they are for particular courses, how satisfied current students are with the resources and teachers on offer and the employment outcomes of graduates from those universities and courses.”
Mr Birmingham said the government was committed to lowering dropout rates, and announced he had asked the Higher Education Standards panel to review attrition and completion rates and “consider what further reforms are required to help improve student success”.
“While there will always be a number of students who don’t complete university for a variety of reasons, our ambition to protect both students and taxpayers from a waste of time and money is to keep this number as low as practical,” he said.
The government is pressuring universities to present information that is easily understood to prospective students to help kids the best choices for them, rather than simply boost enrolment numbers.
Better defined ATAR thresholds and clearer data on student experiences, outcomes and employment prospects are also on the way.
But universities may not be solely to blame.
Commentators regularly cite a culture in high schools and among parents pressuring school leavers into enrolling in university courses, as well as a disconnection between what kids are learning at university and other institutions and the “real world”.
Speaking with news.com.au, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s education and employment director said the key to boosting completion rates was a better informed market, and greater focus on jobs.
“There needs to be more effort by the government to promote that information about where the jobs are likely to be,” she said.
“When people start their university degree they may have an over-inflated expectation that everyone out of university gets a job.”
Employment outcomes for university graduates are falling, and while it’s too early to tell whether that’s a fixed change or if it’s just the labour market adjusting to the numbers of university graduates coming through, Ms Lambert said, it’s something students and prospective students need to be aware of.
“Students should be looking at certain courses, certain universities that might be above and below the average for employment outcomes, and all that data is available through student surveys, it’s just about better informing the market.”
Ms Lambert said it was also important that parents and schools were better informed as well as wannabe university students. She said there was also reasons outside of the institutions’ control that people failed to complete their degrees.
In a previous interview with news.com.au, Universities Australia Deputy Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the biggest factors for students who consider leaving university are often related to issues beyond university.
“Research suggests attrition rates are higher for mature age and part-time students — and if you think about it, they’re the ones who may often be juggling university study with jobs, children and caring for elderly parents,” she said.
“Students battling disadvantage — including those who are first in their family to attend university — area also more likely to have thoughts about leaving.”
The Education Department’s report found students older than 25 were three times more likely to drop out in their first year of study than school-leavers under 19.
Completion rates were also affected by students’ admission scores as well as their locations — if they were from remote locations or low socio-economic areas, and whether they were indigenous.
Increasingly popular online courses were also found to be a contributor to the growing dropout rate with one in five students who studied externally dropping out in their first year, compared to fewer than one in 10 who were based on campus.
Absurd Leftist wailing
Wailing is what they do
Former Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan found the publication of the 2016 OECD Better Life Index late last year to be a great disappointment, saying that it 'shows why we must fight harder to defeat Liberal/One Nation trickle-down agenda' and to focus more on '#inclusivegrowth'. The focus of his ire? Australia placed second -- a rise of two places over last year, but a fall from first in 2013.
I think I might be missing something here. If Australia had rated poorly, or fallen significantly from last year, you may be able to argue that our approach is wrong and fundamental change is needed. However typically when we compare well to other countries it means our policy settings are right!
This is just one example of a troubling trend in politics and public debate -- confirmation bias. All facts are filtered through an ideological lens until they provide evidence for your preferred position, no matter what those facts are.
Australia has plenty of policy problems, but to say the evidence for these problems is our high rating on a quality of living index seems a perverse argument.
I guess this shouldn't surprise. Last year, we were told that the extraordinary growth in Ireland's GDP is an argument against their low corporate tax rate.
The common factor here is that you can't win. Good news is bad news, and bad news is bad news. All evidence, whether good, bad or mediocre is an argument against a disliked policy.
Maybe we would be better off with an index of politicians' consistency, where we pay more attention to coherent and consistent pronouncements. One index where an improvement truly would be an improvement.
Julie Bishop distances Australia from global statement on Israel-Palestine peace
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has distanced the Turnbull government from a communique agreed by ministers and diplomats of 70 nations, including Australia, concerning the pathways to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The concluding statement called on both sides to "take urgent steps in order to reverse the current negative trends on the ground", including acts of violence and the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
The communique specifically welcomed resolution 2334, passed by the UN Security Council last month, which declared the settlements violated international law and called on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activity.
Following the conference, Ms Bishop distanced the Australian government from the contents of the concluding statement, insisting the government did not necessarily agree with everything its diplomats had agreed to in Paris.
"Australia was represented at the conference by diplomatic officials from the Australian embassy in Paris," Ms Bishop told Fairfax Media.
"While the Australian government was represented at the Paris conference this does not mean we agree with every element of the final statement."
Without specifically mentioning the conference's endorsement of resolution 2334, Ms Bishop noted the Coalition did not support "one-sided resolutions targeting Israel".
"The most important priority must be a resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians for a two-state solution as soon as possible," she said.
Australia became one of the few countries other than Israel to condemn the New Zealand-sponsored resolution 2334, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull labelling it "one-sided" and "deeply unsettling".
Crucially, the resolution was allowed to pass because the US - Israel's foremost ally on the security council - did not use its veto power and instead chose to abstain.
Sunday's meeting in Paris did not involve Israel or the Palestinians and was dismissed in advance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "futile" and "rigged".
Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the communique and said the endorsement of resolution 2334 was among a number of "positive elements" in the text, Israeli media reported.
But Britain, attending the conference as an observer, also expressed reservations about the final agreement, arguing it was a time to "encourage conditions for peace" rather than entrench hardened positions.
"We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them," the British Foreign Office said in a statement.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault used the summit to warn Mr Trump against his proposal to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, calling it a provocative and unilateral move.
Ms Bishop would not comment on Mr Trump's pronouncement but reiterated the Australian government had no plans to move its own embassy in Israel, despite the call from former prime minister Tony Abbott.
The hypocrisy goes on: Green party big spenders on air travel
Greens leader Richard Di Natale and the party’s community services spokeswoman Rachel Siewert are among the top 10 spenders on taxpayer-funded flights despite loudly condemning excesses by Coalition and Labor politicians.
Senator Siewert claimed more expenses for domestic flights in the first half of 2016 than her fellow West Australians, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.
Her travel spending was the fifth highest, while Senator Di Natale’s was 10th of the 226 members of both houses of parliament. Senator Siewert claimed $63,934 in travel expenses in six months while Senator Di Natale racked up $56,526.
The Greens leader has sought the moral high ground on expenses claims following the controversy over Health Minister Sussan Ley’s Gold Coast travel claims, and has called for a new national anti-corruption watchdog to identify and punish politicians rorting the system. Ms Ley, who was forced to stand aside from her portfolio on Monday pending an inquiry into her travel claims, could discover her fate as soon as today, with Malcolm Turnbull keen to bring the travel expenses debate to an end.
Senator Di Natale criss-crossed the country in the lead-up to the July 2 election while the long flight across the Nullabor means West Australian politicians generally have higher expense claims. However, Senator Siewert’s claims exceed those of many of her state counterparts, notably Ms Bishop ($51,212), Senator Cormann ($50,683), fellow Green Scott Ludlam ($46,692), and Assistant Health Minister Ken Wyatt ($46,353).
Her spending was only topped by three West Australians — Justice Minister Michael Keenan ($83,808), Social Services Minister Christian Porter ($77,469), Employment Minister Michaelia Cash ($73,550) — and Labor leader Bill Shorten ($71,182).
Senator Di Natale described the government’s commitment on Tuesday to implement long-promised changes to the parliamentary expense system within the next six months as “anaemic”. “What parliamentarians should recognise is that if they’re going to claim a workplace expense, then they should be working. It’s a pretty basic test,” he told the ABC.
Senator Di Natale told The Australian his flights and those of all the Greens were all work expenses. “They reflect the fact that we have some of the hardest-working senators in the whole parliament,” he said.
“We recognise that it is absolutely critical that expenses are only claimed when members of parliament are doing their jobs, which is why we support much stronger reform measures than those put forward by the government this week.”
A spokeswoman for Senator Siewert, who is overseas, said that as a member for Western Australia, she was required to travel on parliamentary business along the most expensive routes in the country.
“Her work as the Greens’ spokesman for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues often requires her to travel to the country’s most remote and isolated communities,” the senator’s spokeswoman said. Senator Siewert is also chairwoman of the community affairs reference committee and a member of other committees that require travel to attend hearings around Australia.
Blue Mountains Anzac Day marches given council lifeline after security costs dispute
Four cancelled Anzac Day marches in NSW's Blue Mountains region may go ahead after the local council said it would help cover the costs of new anti-terrorism requirements.
The RSL sub-branches in Katoomba, Blackheath, Springwood and Glenbrook said on Wednesday they had cancelled their annual marches after being advised they would need to spend thousands of dollars on security protections.
Katoomba RSL director David White said the sub-branches could not afford to pay for the measures, including the installation of barriers to prevent trucks being used in attacks like those in Nice and Berlin last year.
The cancellations led to a stoush between the Blue Mountains City Council and the State Government, each of which said the other should cover the costs.
On Wednesday night, Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said the council would provide funding and offer the use of its trucks as barriers to ensure the marches went ahead.
He said it was unclear how much the council would have to pay, but the Katoomba RSL sub-branch said it had been advised compliance costs could be more than $10,000.
"We're hoping that we don't have to contribute the whole cost and we're hoping that perhaps the provision of our trucks will offset some of that, but this [funding] will come from council services, there's no doubt, and ratepayers can thank the State Government for that," Cr Greenhill said.
Earlier, a spokeswoman for Police Minister Troy Grant said the State Government had offered to halve the costs with the council, but Cr Greenhill said he had not received that offer.
"If we provide financial support and they provide financial support, then all the better," Cr Greenhill said.
The Government had accused the council of trying to dodge its responsibility to cover the costs.
In a letter to the Katoomba RSL sub-branch provided to the ABC, Roads Minister Duncan Gay wrote: "Councils across the state have always been the 'first point of contact' to help assist and fund the NSW Returned & Services League and its sub-branches in hosting Anzac Day marches."
"[The] Blue Mountains City Council constantly cries poor in the lead up to Anzac Day (indeed, I'm not aware of any other council which behaves in such a manner)," Mr Gay wrote.
Cr Greenhill said the Blue Mountains events were subject to stricter requirements than events elsewhere in the state, and it was not clear why.
The North West Metropolitan Region's police commander, Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford, said he was "extremely disappointed" the marches were in jeopardy.
"I understand the concerns about the environment we currently live in, but I would like to assure all the veterans, their relatives and concerned members of the public that we are not aware of any specific threat to Anzac Day marches," he said.
Assistant Commissioner Clifford said he had called for a meeting with all involved parties next week to ensure the situation was resolved.
US volunteer Kari Wesighan and Riaan van der Merwe, a snake handler at the Rhino Orphanage, with the python.
Women save pet dog from four metre python
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