Monday, February 14, 2022

NSW uni bosses order review of perfect ATARs after IB students beat James Ruse

Lenient marking has been widely used as a response to pandemic difficulties and IB markers may have gone a bit too far. But how to mark during extensive classroom absences is not an easy dilemma to solve

Powerful university chiefs have ordered a review of International Baccalaureate results amid concerns that overly generous marking gave private schools an ATAR advantage after more than one in 20 IB students in NSW achieved 99.95 last year.

The surprising results have upset some school principals, parents and many in the broader education sector, who worry that inflated IB results could undermine the fairness of the HSC. Students with top ranks gain access to the most sought-after degrees in the state, such as law and medicine.

The IB is offered in only some NSW private schools and is often part of the school’s marketing. It is not offered in public schools. Former HSC boss Tom Alegounarias said the most disadvantaged students suffered when “financial privilege” played a role in school-leaving credentials.

“There is no clearer ethical responsibility than to treat all students equally, and our universities are failing at it here,” he said.

But a spokeswoman for the IB said the organisation’s priority was to ensure students were not disadvantaged when applying for university during the pandemic.

Last year fewer than 600 NSW students sat the IB diploma, but at least 41 of them achieved the highest possible university entrance rank, compared with just 35 across the whole country the year before. Of 55,000 HSC students eligible for ATARs, only 48 achieved the same 99.95.

Twelve of the IB top achievers were from a single, non-selective girls’ school, and nine were from a non-selective boys’ school. Just five students from the highly selective James Ruse Agricultural High – the state’s top school for the past 26 years – achieved the same rank by doing the HSC.

The NSW Vice Chancellors’ Committee has asked the University Admissions Centre (UAC) – which it owns – to investigate the sharp rise in so-called perfect scores, a number of sources told the Herald on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly. IB students’ ranks will not be affected.

The university chiefs are concerned about so-called grade inflation, which involves awarding higher marks than in the past for the same standard of work.

“As we saw with the HSC, changes were made to IB assessment procedures in consideration of the pandemic and this may have impacted on their scores,” the UAC’s head of marketing and engagement, Kim Paino, said. “But we will continue to monitor IB results to ensure that our conversion remains fair.”

The IB was generous in its marking of Northern Hemisphere exams last May, giving out quadruple the number of top marks as it had on average over the previous four years.

The number of top IB ranks does not affect the number of top ranks given to HSC students, but it does secure them spots in the state’s most sought-after university courses at the expense of lower-ranked HSC students.

The issue of how to equate IB marks with the ATAR has long been a point of friction, partly because of the lack of information given to Australian authorities, and partly because many in the education sector feel it gives some private school students an unfair advantage.

The IB only gives Australian authorities a mark out of 45, and not the students’ raw marks. UAC equates a 45 with an ATAR of 99.95. In contrast, UAC has access to all HSC data and analyses it significantly, adjusting according to subject difficulty before giving students a mark out of 500 and ranking them.

UAC was supposed to get more detailed data from the IB for 2022 university admissions so that it could better differentiate ranks, but the IB decided to delay that until 2023, saying students had already faced too much disruption during the pandemic.

Many of the private principals whose schools do not offer the IB are worried about this year’s results.

“It’s causing consternation,” said one, who did not want to be named. “I think there will be some schools who think, ‘if you can get 12 kids to get 99.95, why would we be doing the HSC?’ I think it’s a real threat to the reputation of the future of the HSC if that’s going to continue.”

Ms Paino said UAC was guided by fairness and accuracy when assessing ATAR equivalents for international qualifications, which include British A-levels and American SATs. “It’s not always easy because of the very fine-grained nature of university selection ranks,” she said.

“We also regularly review our conversions to ensure they are providing a fair comparison with local students.”

The chair of IB Schools Australasia, David Boardman, said the conversion from IB scores to ATAR equivalents was managed by Australian authorities and the association had no input. “The association wishes that all students are treated equitably regardless of whether they study an IB program or an alternative,” he said.

The IB Organisation has been honest about easing students through the pandemic. “The IB has taken the pandemic’s global disruption to education into account when determining grades for this year,” a spokeswoman said. “The IB’s main priority has been to ensure students are not disadvantaged by the pandemic, including their applications to university and higher education.”

How does the International Baccalaureate compare to the HSC?
There has been significant grade inflation in Britain’s A-levels since the pandemic began, with the proportion of students there getting top grades rising by almost 75 per cent. The IB is widely used in Britain, where students with both credentials compete for university entry.

Between 2017 and 2019, between 260 and 275 students achieved top scores of 45 in the May session of the IB. In 2020, that climbed to 341, and in 2021 it soared to 1187. There were fewer candidates in 2021 than in 2020.


Qld.: Palaszczuk Government takes dishonesty to another level

Peter Gleeson

The sophistication attached to the current government’s dishonesty goes way beyond corrupt cops paying politicians bribes to keep criminals in business during the 1970-80s.

This is a government addicted to a culture of looking after mates – particularly union mates – by cleverly hiding evidence, aided and abetted by a flaccid public service and an inability of the Crime and Corruption Commission to pursue crooks.

The Labor Party believes it is immune from corruption, that they are on the side of the angels and bad behaviour is the domain of those nasty National Party scallywags. Former senior Palaszczuk Government staffer David Barbagello even told a parliamentary inquiry that it was the Nats who were corrupt, not Labor.

They believe themselves to be modern-day untouchables, and even Al Capone would blush at their antics.

Compounding the problem is a media unit that, despite warnings from the Fitzgerald Inquiry in 1989, is run as a propaganda machine.

It runs interference and obfuscates, ignoring and disregarding integrity as simply a casualty of their war on truth. Public servants are urged not to commit anything contentious to writing, for fear it will be picked up in an RTI request. Even worse, we have a bureaucracy that is paralysed by fear, knowing that if it allows the truth to emerge it will result in their job. They are either a willing participant as defacto arm of the Labor Party, or are too scared to raise the alarm.

That is, until recently, where we have seen a conga line of senior and former senior bureaucrats question the integrity of this government.

The biggest issue of them all is that we have a statutory body with enormous power – the Crime and Corruption Commission – that relies upon the government for its funding and ongoing tenure, scared to rock the boat and target Cabinet Ministers for fear of retribution.

No doubt Tony Fitzgerald, charged again with an integrity probe to look at the CCC, will fix that anomaly during his investigation. Queensland circa 2022 is no different to Queensland circa 1985. Nowadays, it’s unlawful and power-mad unions calling the shots, with a number of Cabinet Ministers owing their $360,000 a year jobs to the union bovver boys. Plausible deniability is the buzzword in government circles. If you didn’t know it was happening, you can’t be responsible.

It’s why senior aides keep premier Annastacia Palaszczuk out of the loop on so many issues. Despite this, her initial denials last week that there is a problem with integrity in Queensland makes her look weak and vulnerable.

She looked like a haughty school headmistress, lecturing reporters. How many times have you heard her say at press conferences – “I don’t know anything about that. I’ll get back to you.’’ Or “I haven’t read that report, I’m dealing with a pandemic.’’ It’s true.

Senior aides protect their bosses from pesky questions from journalists and that’s what they do with senior cabinet Ministers and the premier.

Until Queenslanders say enough is enough, this government will wear its secrecy and Kremlin-like attitude to dealing with the public as its own badge of honour.

Let’s use Queensland health as just one example. For years, I’ve been writing about how its senior executives bully and harangue and the culture is toxic, despite the hard work and dedication of so many doctors and nurses.

When somebody blows the whistle on such culture issues, like they did at the Sunshine Coast Hospital last year, they are suspended or driven out.

Every government department is overrun with mediocrity, borne out of a desperation of public servants to indeed just be that – servants.

Don’t rock the boat or you will be thrown out and drown. What a terrible way to live your life, beholden to some person further up the food chain who is beholden to another person even higher up the management merry-go-round. And yet we voters put up with this rubbish. We give this government a free pass on its lack of integrity and honesty. Why? Because we probably think all politicians are shysters? Isn’t that just putting the white flag up to poor behaviour? Aren’t we as a state better than that?

They are rotten to the core. And you, dear voters, are the mugs for allowing it to happen. Integrity challenges may well be the “vibe’’, as Deputy premier Steven Miles says, but it’s time for voters to “tell em they’re dreaming’’.


Mob hysteria over the claims of two vocal women

Kevin Donnelly

While both Grace Tame, a victim of sexual abuse, and Brittany Higgins, who was allegedly raped in Parliament House, have every right to argue men are misogynist and their mistreatment of women is motivated by a thirst for power – their appearance at yesterday’s Canberra Press Gallery cannot go unchallenged.

While the woke commentariat attending responded to every criticism and attack with applause and nods of approval, the reality is what occurred represents an appalling lack of journalistic impartiality and objectivity while serving as an example of mindless group think and mob hysteria.

In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, set at the time of the Salem witch hunts but also reflecting the anti-communist inquisition led by Senator Joe McCarthy, mob mentality and unchecked emotion rule the day.

A play where Abigail and her accomplices conjure the devil to accuse the innocent, including John Proctor, and where the court betrays any sense of justice and a commitment to the truth.

A play where Miller reveals a deep-seated, primitive side of human nature and where once the laws are trounced there is nowhere to hide.

While Grace Tame is no Abigail, anyone who saw her performance yesterday witnessed somebody accomplished in working the audience by using every utterance, every pause and inflexion, and every movement to reinforce her message that Scott Morrison and the Liberal government are beyond redemption.

A partisan performance, where an alleged phone call by an anonymous senior bureaucrat is used as evidence to prove the Prime Minister is insensitive and callous and consumed by a thirst for power.

Although Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations have yet to be tested in court, she also swayed the audience to abandon any sense of objectivity. Reminiscent of the Salem witch hunts, an unproven accusation was taken as truth with no attempt to question the events surrounding the alleged crime.

Higgins, working in concert with Tame, also accused the Prime Minister of insincerity and an unwillingness to admit his complicity in what both characterised as a parliamentary atmosphere riven with misogyny and sexual abuse.

As argued by the American feminist Camille Paglia, such is the pervasive influence of the cultural-left’s political correctness and cancel culture. We are living in a time ‘where intolerance masquerades as tolerance and where individual liberty is crushed by the tyranny of the group’.

A time where primitive emotion trumps reason, language is weaponised to enforce mindless group think, and where conservative men – condemned as white, male and stale – are especially targeted and forever guilty.


The great hydrogen controversy

This week has seen an amusing to and fro of ads from the federal government about its commitment to “clean hydrogen” and counter ads from iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest, who has ­become a “green hydrogen” ­evangelist.

The brightly coloured ads, with their cartoon pictures of a truck carrying “hydrogen” (in the case of the government ad), or “green hydrogen” (in the case of those by Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries) have been a welcome addition to newspaper advertising revenue, which is (hopefully) set to benefit even more from the ­approaching federal election.

The government ad declares that “a clean hydrogen industry is part of our plan to reach net zero by 2050”. Scott Morrison sees “clean hydrogen” as being an ­essential part of the nation’s technology-led move to zero carbon by 2050.

But Forrest strongly rejects the idea that the Prime Minister’s version of “clean hydrogen” – which includes hydrogen made from fossil fuels – is clean.

FFI’s counter ad declares: “A green hydrogen industry is our plan to reach net zero by 2030.”

Forrest argues that only green hydrogen is clean hydrogen. All the other types, as he explains in the ad, are made from fossil fuel such as coal or gas and are not clean.

Forrest argues that the greenhouse gas footprint of what he calls “blue hydrogen” – hydrogen made from fossil fuels – can actually be as much as 20 per cent larger than burning natural gas or coal for heat.

The ads confirm two things – that the nuances of climate change and energy policy will be a major issue in the election campaign, and that business will be at the forefront of change.

It was only the last election that Morrison and his team led a scare campaign about Labor’s electric vehicles plans. Last year, he took a big step forward (for his party) by outlining his own policy to facilitate the use of electric cars.

Once seen primarily as being a threat to jobs in the coalmining industry, climate change and green business has become big business, with almost every company having a commitment to become more energy efficient, to shift their own company’s reliance on coal-fired energy to more renewable energy, and making some form of commitment to net zero carbon emissions.

A few years ago, the average Australian knew little about hydrogen energy. Now the debate is not whether hydrogen energy will be part of Australia’s clean energy future, but what sort of hydrogen it will be and how we will get there.

While each major company has been on its own journey through, Forrest has become a poster boy for the big shift.

Having made his billions from exporting iron ore to China, he is now recycling a large chunk into clean energy subsidiary FFI, which was set up in 2020.

Some of Forrest’s followers, and some of his more traditional shareholders, have questioned his motives in his big shift to renewable energy.

Forrest has committed to spending 10 per cent of Fortescue Metals’ profits on FFI projects.

He argues that any projects FFI commits to will be externally funded without having recourse to the Fortescue Metals balance sheet.

Forrest is approaching his new-found fervour for green hydrogen with evangelical zeal, having spent a lot of time in 2020 and 2021 signing up new hydrogen energy deals for FFI.

Not all Fortescue Metals investors like it. Many traditional mining investors don’t, as has been pointed out by articles in this newspaper.

But then again, there is a new range of climate-conscious institutional investors – including pension funds, super funds and other funds – pushing companies to become greener.

Los Angeles-based Capital Group last month announced that it had bought a 5 per cent stake in Fortescue, becoming its third-largest shareholder for a cost of about $3bn.

In comments made in December, Forrest said FFI now had the largest single portfolio of green hydrogen, green ammonia, green iron ore, green iron and other green product developments in the world. He said the number of shareholders in Fortescue Metals had “increased exponentially” since FFI was announced. The total number of shareholders has almost tripled over the past two years – from 60,000 to 170,000.

Fortescue Metals’ share price is affected by the price of iron ore, its biggest single commodity, making it hard to pull apart its ups and downs. Its shares rose from $10.12 in January 2020 to $24.76 in January last year on the back of soaring iron ore prices.

They slumped to just over $14 in October last year on the back of slowing prices and – some critics would argue – concern about how much money was going into the FFI expansion.

Since then, as more details of FFI emerge, its price has recovered to above $21.

Fortescue Metals will release its half-yearly results next Wednesday, and we can expect to hear more about the company’s plans for FFI.

FFI chief executive Julie Shuttleworth, who has gone on a wild global ride into green hydrogen with Forrest, must be considered a serious contender as a replacement for Elizabeth Gaines, who has announced her plans to step down from the role of Fortescue Metals chief executive.

In a report this week, analysts at Goldman Sachs said Australia had the potential to become the world’s biggest exporter of hydrogen, competing with the Middle East, Chile and North America for the title. Another major report released on Thursday by ANZ also talks about Australia’s potential as a global exporter of hydrogen.

The debate over the potential of hydrogen energy, including how clean it is, is only just beginning in Australia. Either way, the debate over the potential of Australia’s hydrogen energy potential is set to heat up, with major implications for corporate Australia and its investors.


How a change to Triple Zero emergency line due to Covid could have KILLED girl, nine, who almost drowned when she knocked herself out and got caught in a spa

What brainless bureaucrat thought of this idea?

A change to Triple Zero almost cost a little girl's life with her terrified parents stuck listening to a 24-second Covid message as their nine-year-old lay 'blue and unconscious'.

The Parents of Perth schoolgirl Mahalia Lade thought they had called the wrong number when an automated Triple Zero message began telling them about Covid information.

The message was introduced on January 14 in response to growing calls about non-urgent Covid-related situations.

Mahalia had tripped and fallen into the family spa when her hair became tangled in the jet trapping her below the water's surface. Mahalia said she tried desperately to fight against the spa until her strength was gone. 'I tried pushing against the wall, the ledge where my hair was stuck and then my heart goes 'I can't resist anymore, I'm sort of done now',' she told 7News.

Her father Pete discovered Mahalia and pulled her from the spa, blue and unconscious, and the girl's mother Vicky ran to call Triple Zero.

'I was just screaming and my other daughter was screaming and I grabbed my phone to dial triple-zero and I was still screaming,' she said.

'It says 'you have dialled triple zero, this is a Covid announcement' and I thought to myself, I've rung the wrong number.'

Vicky said she hung up and redialled the number but was met with the same 24-second long Covid message.

She described the message as 'feeling like hours' when she desperately tried to get help for her dying daughter. 'Everything was in slow motion ... it would have been over minute by the time I go through ... I had rung twice.'

Fortunately Pete knew CPR and began performing the life-saving procedure on the little girl, saving her.

Mahalia said she believes if her dad didn't know CPR she would be 'gone'.

She spent two days in hospital recovering from the near-death experience.

Since the little girl's drowning the Federal Government has decided it will scrap the Covid message on Monday.




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