Monday, May 21, 2018

School envy

Because the government schools are so woeful in most instances, parents send 40% of Australian teenagers to private schools.  That is such a big voting bloc that no government would dare doing much about it -- as Mark Latham found out. 

But the Left see an easier target in State selective schools.  There are not many of them but the fact that you have to have a good record of academic achievement to get into them brings their standards up to about equal with private schools. And you don't have to be rich to afford them. They were conceived as schools that would give a private school education to the more able poor.

But the pupils who pass the adnmissions tests tend to be from affluent backgrounds so it is mostly they who get in.  The unmentioned fact in most discussions about this is that IQ and affluence are highly correlated -- so it will always be mostly  rich kids who can profit from a high-standard education.

But the numskulls below want to square the circle.  Because most of those eligible to attend selective schools come from well-off backgrounds they think the system is somehow "unfair".  So they want to let more poor students into selective shools -- which would make them less selective and therefore less able to offer an alternative to private schooling.

But surely, the obvious thing to do is to lift the game of the mainstream state schools, not try to pull down the selective schools.  That might seem blue sky but it is not.  At a small unselective country State school in the '50s I got an education modelled on Eton, including physical punishment for misbehaving.  And I profited greatly from what I learnt then.  I learnt stuff at primary school that these days is taught in High School, if at all.  I was a long way from Berkshire but I got something quite similar to an Eton education

How come?  In those days all politicians wanted "the best" for their schools and Eton was acknowledged as being the best.  I am inclined to think it still is.  So they simply modelled their syllabi on Etons'.  They even copied the Eton "house" system  as far as one could in a State school where all students went home at night.

So the problem is not privileged schools but the crazy ideology and unproved methods that most modern-day education theorists inflict on mainstream schools

Monica Garcia-Pineda remembers feeling as though the partially selective Sydney high school she attended was made up of two completely different places.

“I can’t describe it in any other way,” she says. “It felt like going to two schools. There was always this divide between the selective and community kids, because you weren’t treated like you were in the same school.

“The selective kids were always encouraged to choose more academically challenging subjects so there was very little opportunity for the cohort to kind of be alongside one another in class, which affects how you socialise when you’re not in class.

“We used to sit on different sides of the quad.”

Selective school policies have come under increased scrutiny in recent months as state governments grapple with evidence that the schools are overwhelmingly populated by students from advantaged backgrounds and may be reinforcing existing class differences.

The overwhelming majority of Australia’s selective schools are in New South Wales – 19 fully selective and 29 partially selective. Its education department last year announced a review of competitive entry tests to address concerns that the system was being gamed by wealthy families who could afford tutoring.

Garcia-Pineda was a selective student at Macquarie Fields high school in Sydney’s south-west. She grew up in Wattle Grove, only about 12km away but another world in the socially complex jumble of Sydney’s western suburbs.

“I never used to hang out in the area at all,” she says. “I really didn’t feel like I was part of it.”

Macquarie Fields is demographically typical of western Sydney. Unemployment is higher and wages are lower than the Australian average. Fewer people are university educated and the population is dramatically more multicultural than the rest of the country.

A few years before Garcia-Pineda graduated in 2008, Macquarie Fields made national headlines when teenagers threw stones and molotov cocktails at police officers during riots sparked by the deaths of two local teenagers who were killed during a police car chase.

The statistics are reflected in the makeup of most of the local public schools.

Education data published by the federal government breaks school populations down into four “socio-educational” advantage quartiles. At Ingleburn high school, 2km away from Macquarie Fields, 54% of students come from the bottom quartile while only 3% come from the top.

At another neighbouring school, Sarah Redfern high, the figures are almost identical.

Both neighbouring schools rank below the national average for educational advantage, a yardstick determined using the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, or Icsea, which measures factors such as parents’ occupations, education level and the location of the school.

But at Macquarie Fields only 15% of the students come from the lowest advantage quartile, and 27% are from the top. Its Icsea score of 1,054 is above the national average of 1,000.

It’s a trend which is reproduced over and over across Australia wherever selective schools are found.

Analysis of My School data by Guardian Australia reveals that students at selective schools are strikingly more advantaged than other nearby schools. They are overwhelmingly attended by the most educationally advantaged students and in many cases are dramatically unrepresentative of the suburbs in which they are located.

The divide is more pronounced in fully selective schools than partially selective. In fact, Guardian Australia’s analysis found that in some cases partially selective schools are less advantaged than their neighbours.

But at fully selective schools such as Penrith high school in western Sydney, the Icsea is 1,163, compared with an average score of 976 at the 20 closest schools. Only 1% of the school’s students are from the bottom advantage quartile. At Jamison high school, about 3km away, the figure is 42%.

The trend is even apparent for schools in highly affluent areas of Sydney and Melbourne, though these have the smallest gap between selective and non-selective.

The difference comes in part because selective schools do not have geographic catchment areas like public schools and can therefore be attended by students from anywhere in the state.

Education data suggests some selective schools may be becoming more advantaged over time. In 2013 the average score for students at Macquarie Fields was 1,047, rising to 1,054 in 2017.

But changes to the way the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (Acara) calculates disadvantage means it’s impossible to accurately assess how much the school’s demographics have changed over a longer period.

Christina Ho, an academic from the University of Technology, Sydney, says selective schools are reinforcing class and cultural divisions.

“They’re elitist. And not only are they elitist but they’re becoming more elitist,” Ho says. Any review of selective schools’ admissions would amount to “tinkering around the edges” of a system she says has become “warped”.

“There is obviously an education culture emerging that means these schools have a certain kind of status within the community which is quite different to what it was designed to be,” she says.

“Selective schools were supposed to be public schools that were accessible for gifted kids. The fact that there are almost no disadvantaged kids in these schools tells us they’re no longer accessible and they’re not genuine public schools because they’re not open to anyone except the most advantaged families in NSW.”

Not everyone agrees the system is broken.

Jae Yup Jared Jung, a senior lecturer in the school of education at the University of NSW, says the positive role of gifted education programs such as academically selective schools is backed up by research.

He points to a 2016 US academic paper which reviewed 100 years of research on ability grouping in education.

The study, published in the Review of Educational Research, looked at 172 papers on “ability grouping” published between 1922 and 1994, and concluded that the “preponderance of existing evidence” suggested special grouping for gifted students can “greatly improve K–12 students’ academic achievement”.

He says the process of choosing students for selective schools “isn’t perfect”, but that the system helps gifted students advance faster by coupling them with students of similar ability.

“There are certain selective schools with students from a higher socioeconomic background than other schools, but you could say the same thing about the Catholic and independent sectors,” he says.

“There’s no perfect way of selecting students for selective schools, but I have confidence in the NSW department of education that the current systems are such that someone who doesn’t deserve to be there isn’t being permitted to enter.”

Brendan Ma graduated from James Ruse Agricultural high school in 2015. The school’s Icsea value of 1,236 is one of the highest in Australia, and in 2017 87% of its students came from the top advantage quartile. [And most are Asian]

But Icsea doesn’t consider income, and Ma says it is wrong to assume that most selective students come from advantaged backgrounds.

“I had a lot of friends from my cohort who would have parents working double jobs, coming from an immigrant background where their parents still didn’t have a strong grasp of English,” he says.

For Ma, going to a selective school meant getting access to opportunities he never would have been able to afford otherwise.

“For a lot of people at my school who might have worked really hard or been academically gifted there were a lot of opportunities to advance those gifts,” he says.

“Study tours, musical events, things that cost a lot money. Usually it wouldn’t be something they could go to because their parents couldn’t pay for it, but our school made a really strong effort to make sure they could provide opportunities at low cost or for free.”

Guardian Australia’s analysis also compared the percentage of selective school students from a language background other than English with that of neighbouring schools.

It found that across fully selective schools the average proportion of students from a non-English speaking background in 2017 was 66.5%, compared with 36.2% at nearby non-selective schools.

In some schools the difference was more stark. At James Ruse, 97% of students come from non-English speaking backgrounds, compared with 38.7% at nearby schools.

In February Guardian Australia reported on research showing Indigenous students were disproportionately represented in Australia’s most disadvantaged schools. Christina Ho argues that the concentration of students – mostly from east Asia – in selective schools is another example of “monocultures” forming within the education system.

“Because these schools are now seen as ‘too Asian’ there’s been a real backlash from non-Asian families, so Anglo Australians are now saying ‘those schools are not for us’,” she says.

But Ma, the James Ruse student, says being at a selective school allowed him to explore his identity.

“I think for a lot of students who did come from immigrant backgrounds it did in some way support their development of an identity,” he says.

“My experience coming from a Chinese immigrant background was that as a young person you get conflicting signals about what your identity should be or how you fit into the Australian landscape.

“I found though that I could be more comfortable with my identity at school. All those doubts I had about being proud of my heritage or language I could be open with people who understood.”

In January the NSW education minister, Rob Stokes, said he was concerned selective schools could “create a rigid, separated public education system”, and raised the idea of opening more selective schools to local enrolments.

Laura Perry, an associate professor specialising in education research at Murdoch University, says schools with partially selective academic programs in specific subject areas such as music or sports are preferable to fully selective schools, because they have the dual benefit of keeping high-performing students in the public sector while “promoting socially mixed schools”.

For Garcia-Pineda, despite experiencing a social divide between selective and community students at her school in western Sydney, there were benefits in being exposed to students from different backgrounds.

“I think for a lot of kids who were in the selective part of the school it was a good experience for them because they mostly came from families with money and weren’t always exposed to that,” she says.

“I know for me it was confronting. When I came to high school I didn’t know people who came from single-parent households [or] grew up living in housing commission.

“I think that’s a major benefit of a school with a mixture of backgrounds. You become a different kind of person. It opens your eyes a little bit.”


High-profile business figure Chris Corrigan slams the push to vastly increase the number of women on company boards

And says that the besieged AMP chairwoman never would have got that job if she was a man

High-profile business figure Chris Corrigan has criticised the push to vastly increase the number of women on company boards.  

In slamming the campaigning for more women to be promoted within corporate Australia, Mr Corigran revealed the move was a major consideration when leaving the board of port and logistics group Qube Holdings last year.

He said besieged AMP chairwoman Catherine Brenner never would have got that job if she was a man, believing it was 'demonstrably the case' that she was advanced because of the 'mood of the moment' to pursue gender fairness, The Australian reported. 

'Can you imagine that a man with moderate investment banking experience at a second-rate ­investment bank would have got to be chair of the AMP?' he said.

Sharing that although he isn't opposed to equality, Mr Corrigan said he does mind when the ability to do the job is impacted. 

In July 2015 Mr Corrigan wrote in a letter for the board: 'I am uncomfortable about being bullied to add females to the Qube board irrespective of requirement, suitability and potential contribution but solely on the basis of their sex.'

He outlined new measures which could be taken to ensure a fairer process which included one where shareholders could nominate candidates and they could be voted in at yearly meetings.

'It provides an invitation to the social engineers to put up or shut up and it emphasises the role of shareholders in the choices for which they should take responsibility,' he wrote.

ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson said Mr Corrigan's claims were inaccurate, telling Newscorp that members have the right to oversee improvements in corporate governance.


The University of Queensland has been recognised as the top university in Australia for global research quality in the 2018 CWTS Leiden Ranking

This really means something.  The Leiden ranking is the only purely objective ranking.  UQ was my first university and I did well in publications so I find it easy to believe these findings

UQ ranked number one in Australia and 28th in the world as measured by one of the highly-regarded international ranking’s Impact indicators.

During 2013-2016, using fractional counting UQ contributed 11,793 publications in recognised journals, with 183 in the top one per cent of most frequently cited publications, which places UQ 28th globally, up five places from last year.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the University’s outstanding performance in the Leiden Ranking sent a strong signal to potential partners and collaborators that top-quality, highly cited research was produced across all disciplines at UQ.

“The Leiden Ranking does not rely on data obtained from reputational surveys, or the number of Nobel Prize winners on staff, or information provided by universities themselves. It focuses entirely on scientific impact and collaboration,” Professor Høj said.

“By this measure, no other university in Australia published more top one percent cited research than UQ.

“Of the 938 universities from 55 countries ranked by Leiden, only 27 institutions publish more top one per cent cited research.

“This is a tremendous result and I congratulate our researchers for the quality of their work, and their efforts to translate this work so that it  benefits people everywhere.”

Professor Høj said a number of Australian universities performed strongly in this ranking.

“If business and industry leaders want to partner with universities that can form expert teams from a wide range of disciplines, then Australia is a terrific place to start looking," he said.

UQ was also Australia’s top-ranked university in the research categories of life and earth sciences, and social sciences and humanities as measured by publications in the top one per cent cited globally.

The University’s life and earth science ranking jumped from 18th to 11th globally, with 2453 publications in recognised journals, including 42 in the top one per cent most frequently cited.

UQ’s social sciences and humanities leapt 14 places – from 44 in 2017 to 30 this year – with 1634 publications in recognised journals, including 23 in the top one per cent most frequently cited.

The 2018 CWTS Leiden Ranking measures the impact of research publications and collaborations of universities around the world, and is based on Web of Science indexed publications. This ranking system differs from others in that it separately reports scientific impact and collaboration rather than aggregating many dimensions of university performance into a single rank. The CWTS Leiden Ranking thus provides a more detailed perspective on university research performance.

UQ ranked number one in Australia and 28th globally based on the Impact indicator: P, P(top 1%), PP(top 1%), Ordered by: P(top 1%). Calculated using fractional counting. P(top 1%) = The number of a university’s publications that, compared with other publications in the same field and in the same year, belong to the top 1% most frequently cited.

The ranking offers insights into the scientific performance of 938 universities worldwide. It uses a sophisticated set of bibliometric indicators that provide significant statistics on the scientific collaboration and impact of universities.


Emboldened by passing 1 million jobs mark, Turnbull pushes for business tax cuts

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to launch a fresh lobbying blitz to get the Senate to pass the rest of the company tax cuts after beating a key performance benchmark months ahead of time.

The April employment figures show the Coalition has delivered 1,013,631 extra jobs four months ahead of its fifth anniversary in office, fulfilling a promise made by the former prime minister Tony Abbott to create one million new jobs in five years.

Humbled by exceeding the benchmark, Mr Turnbull acknowledged Australia's historically low-wage growth and that many Australians were still missing out due to underemployment.
"I appreciate not everyone is sharing in the benefits of our stronger economy," he told Fairfax Media. "There is more to be done and we must keep working on getting people into work."

He accused Bill Shorten of being a "job destroyer", warning the opposition leader would “go to war” with businesses by opposing the $35.6 billion remaining of the Coalition's company tax cuts.

Mr Abbott made the pledge in November 2012, almost a year before taking office, committing the next Coalition government to “creating one million new jobs within five years and two million new jobs over the next decade”.

Driving jobs growth would be the axing of the Labor’s “job destroying carbon tax” and scrapping the Gillard government’s mining tax, “restoring Australia’s reputation as a safe place to invest”.

But in Mr Abbott's first year in office from September 2013 employment barely grew, climbing only 75,900 at a time when the working age population grew 287,825; an even worse result than in the final year of the Gillard and Rudd government, as the mining boom was winding down. Only 10,600 of the 75,900 jobs were full-time.

Mr Abbott's fortunes turned around in his second and final year in office when employment surged an exceptional 240,200 at a time when the working age population grew 285,252.

In the Coalition's third year and Mr Turnbull's first, jobs growth eased to 154,800 before surging 380,100 in the forth year. In the year to April employment grew 332,200.

A slim majority of the jobs created in five years of Coalition government have been full-time: 532,216, or 52.5 per cent.
Most, 58.1 per cent, have gone to women. In the past year an extraordinary two thirds of the extra people to take on jobs were women. All but 67,000 of the 332,200 new jobs have been full time.

Labor's employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor said despite the strong employment growth Australians were still being stung by insecure work, record low wages growth, and cost of living pressures.

"Australians are feeling the pinch," he said. "The Coalition focus all their energy on advocating for an $80 billion tax cut to the big end of town."

Mr Turnbull said the jobs boom had delivered the budget a revenue bonus. "It is a million more Australians, that are paying tax," he said. "That's why the government's revenues are stronger."

Mr Abbott himself also took credit for the record rate of jobs creation saying it flowed "from being under new management since 2013 and once more open for business".

The Bureau of Statistics figures show 22,500 jobs have been created each month since Mr Turnbull took over the Liberal leadership. Around 13,200 a month were created under Mr Abbott, 12,500 under Kevin Rudd, 13,600 under Julia Gillard, 16,400 under John Howard, 12,700 under Paul Keating, and 13,000 under Hawke.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the rate could not be taken for granted. "These one million jobs didn’t happen by accident," he told Fairfax Media. "They come from the hard work of Australians and businesses all around the country."

Mr Turnbull will use the figure to press for the Senate to pass the Coalition's company tax cut to 25 per cent for all businesses.

The government has so far been unable to secure the nine out of 10 crossbench votes required to pass the legislation despite renewed interest from the Centre Alliance party, formerly known as the Nick Xenophon Team.

It believes the tax cuts are necessary to meet the second promise Mr Abbott made in 2013: "Two million jobs in manufacturing as well as in agriculture, services, education and a still buoyant resources sector in a decade."

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said the employment surge was due, in large part, to a flurry of hiring in the healthcare and construction sectors. "Together they contributed more than half of last year’s total employment growth."

The ABS figures showed full-time job creation has slowed, from 321,000 between December 2016-17 to 265,300 between April 2017-18.

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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