Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Closing Australia’s education divide will take a generation, landmark study finds

More pretence that all students have equal potential. The "divide" is the poor achievements of Aboriginal and working class children. In the USA the "gap" is between black and white pupils. And huge efforts and many bright-eyed ideas have been used to close that gap -- to no effect. So it would be optimistic indeed to think that things might be different in Australia

They are not. All sorts of efforts have been made to improve Aboriginal education but just getting Aboriginal children to attend school is a major difficulty. School is just not attractive to them and the parents don't care

And the basic thing underlying the gap is the same in the USA and Australia: the difference in Average IQ. IQ is highly correlated with educational success and both Aborigines and American blacks score abysmally on it. There is simply no way out of that situation

One of the most comprehensive studies of Australia's education system has found postcodes and family backgrounds impact the opportunities available to students from pre-school to adulthood, with one in three disadvantaged students falling through the cracks.

Sergio Macklin, the deputy lead of education policy at Victoria University's Michell Institute, released the report Educational Opportunity in Australia, which calls for immediate extra resources to help disadvantaged, Indigenous and remote students.

"Educational success is strongly linked to the wealth of a young person's family and where they grow up," Mr Macklin said.

"I think Australia's really letting down students from low-income families, Aboriginal students and those in remote areas."

The report critiques progress on last December's Alice Springs Education Council meeting where, in the wake of Australia's poor performance against its international counterparts, education ministers pledged to deliver a system that produced excellence and equity.

Last year's poor results on equality of education have now been exacerbated by remote learning, with some students without internet or stability at home falling weeks behind their peers.

"The children and young people that were being worst served by the education system are probably the ones that are being most affected by it," Mr Macklin said.

"So you'll see employment stress in families dramatically increased student vulnerability."

The report followed the progress of more than 300,000 students from school entry through primary school, into high school and onto early adulthood.

Mr Macklin believes the problem will take a generation to fix.

The report found disadvantaged students were more than twice as likely as their peers to not be in study or work by the age of 24.

The national average of students missing out on either work or study is 15 per cent, but this rises to 32 per cent of students from the lowest SES backgrounds, 38 per cent from very remote areas and 45 per cent among Indigenous young people.

"I think what this report highlights is that we're losing young people's opportunities in adulthood — and that's a real problem for young people," Mr Macklin said.

"But it's also a real problem for Australia. It puts a handbrake on our recovery efforts from the COVID recession."

Australian homes are now the biggest in the world and set to get even larger as more people work from home

Queensland homes are getting bigger as COVID-19 encourages more people to work from home and seek bigger dwellings in outer suburban or regional areas.

Latest research from CommSec shows that Queensland built the third-largest homes, including houses and apartments, in the country last financial year with an average floor area of 194.3 sq metres. Only Victoria and Western Australia had larger homes.

All new homes built in 2019-20 (average floor area, square metres)

Western Australia 218.5
Victoria 217
Queensland 194.3
South Australia 193.3
Northern Territory 181.8
ACT 178.3
Tasmania 174.8
NSW 171.8

Source: CommSec

CommSec chief economist Craig James said COVID-19 had caused more families to look for bigger homes and others to add extra rooms to their existing homes.

Mr James said the data shows Australia is again building the biggest houses in the world 235.8 sq m as opposed to 233.1 sq m in the US.

“The recent trends to butler’s pantries, mud rooms and home theatres has given more families justification to build bigger homes,” Mr James said. “More Aussies could embrace working from home in a bigger way, opting to move out of apartments in, or near the CBD, in preference for a larger home in a regional or suburban area.”

CommSec’s Mr James said COVID could lead to greater cohabitation, such as children returning to the family home, resulting in the need for more space.

“The trends from COVID-19 are still emerging.” he said. “If a vaccine were found in coming days and weeks, then there may be a return to pre-virus normalcy. However, it certainly does appear that so many norms have been challenged.”

Mr James said Australian homes were larger than those built in the 1980s and 1990s and are 27 per cent larger than those constructed 30 years ago.

Issues with China in Australia

A public hearing held over three weeks ago as part of the Senate inquiry into issues facing diaspora communities in Australia has sparked ongoing controversy after Senator Eric Abetz repeatedly demanded that three Chinese-Australian witnesses “unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] dictatorship”.

His demands were made in the context of the Party’s persecution of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang and its extra-territorial attempts to intimidate and silence Uyghurs living in Australia.

The trio — Wesa Chau (a deputy lord mayor candidate for Melbourne), Ormond Chiu (a research fellow at think tank Per Capita) and Yun Jiang (an ANU researcher and co-editor of China Neican) — made it clear they did not endorse the Party or its actions and re-affirmed their support for universal human rights and democratic values.

But they rightly refused to be hectored into making blanket public condemnations, arguing that this amounted to an unfair “loyalty test” based on ethnicity.

The exchange has only served to highlight the undue pressures some Chinese-Australians face. These pressures cut both ways.

It is intolerable that some citizens cannot criticise the CCP without being stalked and harassed and/or fearing for family members back home. It is equally intolerable that others may feel they need to self-censor or stay silent to avoid being tarred as a CCP sympathiser.

And from a national security perspective — as Natasha Kassam and Darren Lim recently argued — such a line of questioning may make it harder for security agencies to investigate foreign interference, if it alienates rather than engages the very communities that are not only the most targeted by such interference but also the most important to countering it as a major source of knowledge, understanding and intelligence.

We must ensure that genuine concerns about CCP interference do not lead to over-reactions that undermine liberal values and community cohesion, undercutting ritual claims that Australia is one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world.

Joel Fitzgibbon refuses to rule out running for Anthony Albanese's job after quitting Labor frontbench and savaging party for being too woke

The 58-year-old MP for the New South Wales coal-mining seat of Hunter said he has 'no intention' of trying to oust leader Anthony Albanese but would if enough colleagues asked him to.

'I have no intention of running for the leadership. I would have to be drafted. And in the current climate, I'm not so sure I could be confident of that occurring,' he said.

Mr Fitzgibbon quit after colleagues raised concerns he has been undermining Labor's climate change policy by consistently backing fossil fuel industries, particularly gas and coal.

Since Bill Shorten's election loss in 2019, he has argued that Labor should limit its climate change ambition to win back regional, working class voters.

'The Labor Party has been spending too much time in recent years talking about issues like climate change, and not enough time talking about the needs of our traditional base,' he said.

'If you want to act on climate change, the first step is to become the government. And to become the government, you need to have a climate change and energy policy that can be embraced by a majority of the Australian people.

'That is something we have failed to do for the last seven or eight years.'

Mr Fitzgibbon said he warned Mr Albanese that he would quit the frontbench 18 months ago - and said he would not challenge for leadership.

'Anthony Albanese has my support. He will lead us to the next election. I set myself a timetable 18 months ago and I was determined to stick with it,' he said.

The 58-year-old, who suffered a large swing against him in the 2019 election, said Labor has effectively become too 'woke' and has alienated working class voters in order to win inner-city votes.

'I think there has been a cultural shift and too much of an emphasis on our more newly arrived base, and not sufficient emphasis on our traditional base,' he said.

The MP said he wanted to 'take the Labor Party back to its traditional roots, back to the Labor Party I knew when I first became a member 36 years ago.'

He wants to the party to focus on 'blue-collar workers, the people who have traditionally voted for us in very large number but somehow haven't been voting for us in large number over the course of possibly the last decade.

'I've seen them come up to the polling in high viz, carrying LNP how-to-vote cards, carrying One Nation cards and I ask myself how it all went so terribly wrong.'

Mr Fitzgibbon, who has previously threatened to quit if Labor adopts a 2030 emissions target that he finds too ambitious, will step down as shadow minister for agriculture and resources to become a backbench MP.

The move has sparked speculation he will try to oust Mr Albanese, who is trailing Scott Morrison in the polls, before the next election, due in May 2022. Asked if Mr Albanese can win the next election, he said: 'Albo can win if he listens to Joel Fitzgibbon more.'

The MP said he regrets not running for leadership in 2019. 'I don't believe I would have won that contest, but I think a contest would have been good for the rank-and-file and the industrial wing of the party,' he said.

'And it would have been an opportunity for me to develop a mandate for my determination to take the Labor Party back to its traditional roots.'

Mr Fitzgibbon suffered a 14.2 per cent swing against him on primary votes at the May 2019 federal election.

His coal-mining seat of Hunter is now marginal, with a three per cent buffer after preferences, for an electorate Labor has held continuously since 1910.

Labor's 45 per cent carbon emissions reduction target by 2030 was received badly in the Hunter and the regional Queensland seats of Dawson, Flynn and Capricornia.

'If you begin demonising coal workers, coal generation workers, you're immediately demonising oil and gas workers, power generation workers. And by the time that message gets through, you're demonising manufacturing workers, and it goes on and on,' he said.

It comes as the Opposition attempts to put pressure on Scott Morrison to adopt a net zero emissions target following Joe Biden's election as US President.

Mr Morrison has refused to follow others including China, South Korea, Japan, the UK, New Zealand and the European Union in setting a net-zero carbon emissions target to combat global warming.

Former Vice President Biden's election victory means the US - the world's second largest polluter after China - will in January have a leader that also favours a net zero 2050 goal, leaving Australia even more isolated on the issue.

Mr Albanese on Monday piled pressure on Mr Morrison and said a future Labor government would adopt a net zero 2050 target. 'Australia is now isolated amongst our major trading partners,' he said.

In a press conference on Monday morning, Mr Morrison said he would not bow to international pressure and that his government alone would decide Australia's climate targets.

'Australia will always set its policies based on Australia's interests,' he said. He said he wanted to achieve net zero emissions but feared a target could harm the economy and threaten thousands of jobs in fossil fuel industries. 'I owe it to Australians that if we make such commitments, I have to be able to explain how we get there and what it would cost,' he said. 'Our goal is to achieve [net zero] as soon as you can, but we'll do it on the basis of a technology roadmap.'

Mr Morrison slammed Labor for wanting to sign Australia up 'unconditionally' to a net-zero target without knowing the cost.

He doubled down in Question Time in Parliament, saying: 'Until such time as we can be very clear with the Australian people about what the cost of that is... it would be very deceptive on the Australian people and not honest with them to make such commitments.'

Mr Albanese - who believes investment in renewable energy will create jobs and bring power bills down - said he would announce his costings closer to the next federal election, which is due in May 2022.

Climate change is a prickly issue for Mr Morrison who would face a rebellion from Nationals and right-wing Liberals in his government if he were seen to be harming fossil fuel industries.




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