Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Homework controversy

Working by yourself is an important part of learning and that is what homework is for

HOMEWORK has no benefit for very young children and only small benefits for those in upper primary, academics say.

Their comments come after France announced last week it was planning to ban homework altogether for children under 11.

Controversy around homework is set to reignite with the launch of a new book today urging reform of homework policies in Australia.

Central Queensland University professor Mike Horsley, co-author of Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies, said research showed students who did the most homework on international exams performed the worst, while those who did the least performed the best.

Fellow author and University of Sydney professor Richard Walker said Australian students needed more challenging homework that gave them some autonomy and control.

"A lot of homework in schools is just drill and practice worksheets that students get to take home and that is really of no benefit to students," he said. 

"There are a whole lot of ways in which the quality of homework can be improved. I think there is a very strong case that (younger) students should be doing other things."

Prof Horsley said they were not calling for a homework ban.

"We argue that far too much homework involves tasks kids can already do and isn't challenging enough," he said.

"Instead, there is scope for less homework that is of a higher quality and more highly structured."

Education Queensland's homework policy states Prep pupils generally aren't assigned any, while Years 1 to 3 students could have up to one hour each week. From Year 4 homework can be set daily, with Year 4 and 5 students set "up to but generally not more than 2-3 hours per week".

"Homework in Year 8 and Year 9 could be up to but generally not more than five hours per week."

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said homework remained "the subject of significant debate" and individual school communities needed to make their own decisions on whether to use it.

"I don't necessarily accept the view 'it is not good to do just drilling', in that practice is an important part of the whole learning process. For some children sight words and doing word lists is an important part of the process of picking that learning up," Mr Bates said.

"To have anybody from outside come in and say this is how homework will be done is totally unacceptable because it has to fit within the school's ethos of learning. It is equally valid for a school to decide to have no homework or to have regular weekly homework."


Qld govt publishes 'waiting, waiting' list

MORE than 230,000 Queenslanders are waiting to see a specialist to determine if they need surgery, new data shows.

The Queensland government says it has released for the first time the true picture of the state's hospital surgery waiting lists by revealing the number of outpatients waiting to see a specialist.

The data published at shows 232,043 people in Queensland are waiting to see a specialist who will decide if they require surgery.

More than 130,000 patients are waiting to be put on the surgery waiting list, about 81,500 for specialist medical care and about 17,000 for other health needs including psychiatry.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg is calling it the "waiting list for the waiting list".

"This isn't the surgery waiting list. It is the wait to get on the surgery waiting list," Mr Springborg said in a statement.


Another "Green" firm folds -- messily

The Federal Court is being asked to decide who owns more than $600,000 worth of solar credits left after a Canberra renewable energy firm went into administration earlier this year.

Enviro Friendly Products owed more than $750,000 when it went into administration in January.

Liquidator Worrells Solvency and Forensic Accountants wants the court to direct how to deal with the solar credits, known as STCs.

Issued by the Commonwealth government's Clean Energy Regulator, they are trading at a little over $30 a certificate and collectively are worth more than $600,000.

Klaus Matthaei, one of 260 customers issued with certificates, said customers included pensioners who had borrowed money to buy solar panels or solar hot water systems and still had quite a lot to pay back.

In documents filed with the court, Mr Matthaei has raised concerns that many customers were unaware of the court proceedings, and that he had tracked down 59 other customers who had little idea of what was happening.

Also, Mr Matthaei said 15,000 STCs worth $475,000 were missing and those funds should be reimbursed before any other creditors were paid.

He told the court the remaining STCs should be treated as separate from the assets of Enviro Friendly Products and administered by the eligible beneficiaries and the profits distributed among them.

"The cost of the missing STCs should be claimed from the liquidation of the company and if necessary from the assets of the directors," he said in his statement to the court.

Mr Matthaei told The Canberra Times he and his wife spent about $24,000 on panels and believed they would get back $8000 from the credits over 18 months.

Worrells Solvency partner Stephen Hundy said customers were entitled to a certain number of certificates depending on the size of solar hot water or solar panel systems they bought.

They had been given the option of assigning their rights to an agent.

EFP was a registered agent and some of those rights could have been assigned to the company to create certificates.

He said the company indicated to customers they would register the 21,000 certificates and hold them on the customers' behalf, even though they were registered in the company's name.

"The first thing we need the court to find or direct, is whether they were certificates held in trust for the customers.

"As the liquidator, we're not putting any positions forward, we have simply put facts before the court and provided options how to deal with certificates, and because different customers are affected in different ways.

"Some no longer have certificates in the system. Some still have them in the system, in the company's name."

Mr Hundy told The Canberra Times earlier this year factors contributing to the demise of Enviro Friendly Products included changes to the ACT government's feed-in-tariff scheme, which ended abruptly in May.

At the time the government said the feed-in tariff contributed to growth in the ACT solar market, and interest was mostly driven by the high level of assistance from the federal government's solar credits program.


Queensland's past a focus of Qld. curriculum reforms

STUDENTS will learn more about Queensland history in state schools under the new national curriculum to be rolled out next year.

History will be taught as a stand-alone subject in Queensland primary schools, with the national curriculum subject rolled out in all Prep to Year 10 classrooms across the state from Term 1, 2013.

It follows the introduction of the English, mathematics and science national curriculum in Prep to Year 10 this year.

While history is currently covered under Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) in state primary schools, Education Queensland (EQ) assistant director-general Mark Campling said individual schools made decisions around SOSE time allocations.

"It has been a long time since we have specifically taught history in our primary schools," he said.  "I think it is a great step forward."

Mr Campling said writers of EQ's Curriculum into the Classroom (C2C), Australian Curriculum support documents, included lessons about Queensland when they could.

"Where there is an opportunity to learn more about Queensland, we do that," he said.

"For example, when they talk about colonisation, we then are able to take the concept of colonisation and actually take it from the Queensland perspective and talk about the Moreton Bay Settlement."

Mr Campling said students would learn history topics next year which in Years 3 to 6 might have been missed by some schools under SOSE.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said the new history curriculum would be a challenge for primary school teachers but they would be supported by C2C.

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said a greater level of professional development was still needed around the new history curriculum and he hoped teachers would be given time to do that by the start of the next school year.


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