Our Better Angels: Should We Include or Segregate Students?

A disputed recommendation from the Disability Commission’s Report is whether or not segregated education should be phased out from 2025. Those Commissioners advocating such a change are on the side of our better angels. It is proper to have an inclusive society and we should condemn any section of our community that segregates sections of the population. Any form of segregation evokes the injustice experienced when societies were divided by the colour of one’s skin. This segregation is motivated by a child’s ability, on the face of it equally offensive. So, why is there some support for segregation in education and why is this only a problem for students with disabilities?

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School Autonomy and Social Justice in Education

The following is a speech by Trevor Cobbold to a form at Deakin Univeristy to launch a report on School Autonomy Reform and Social Justice in Australian Public Education. The Report is available here.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the project team on its work. It has provided one of the most comprehensive reviews of the literature on school autonomy and contributed greatly to our knowledge about the implementation of school autonomy in Australian schools and its impact on students, teachers and principals.

Rather than review the array of its findings I would like to focus on a few key issues:

  • The meaning of social justice in education;
  • School autonomy and student achievement;
  • School autonomy and the bureaucratisation of schooling.
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Public Education – A problem for the ALP

One major problem the ALP has to face is the state of public education.  The new Federal Government may be able to shift some blame on to the Coalition for the current shameful conditions. However, they are in a bind, if they seek to redress these problems they will face substantial electoral backlash, the majority of swing voters have already left the public sector.  A further problem is that the geneses of these current conditions lies at the feet of the Rudd/Gillard ALP Governments. 

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The Purpose of Education

I find it hard to think of a time when the management of the education of our children is in such disarray.  Recent announcements by the NSW Minister for Education and I assume endorsed by her senior bureaucrats have exposed what I believe to be a level of incompetence not previously experienced by the teaching profession.  The implementation of an increased level of the supervision of teachers’ and schools’ performance implies that they are not of ‘quality’ resulting in the unrealistic and inconsequential levels of accreditation, the purpose of which seems to reflect a complete distrust of the teaching profession.  The latest initiative is to provide lesson plans to support the teachers, perhaps the most ill-informed and insulting policy I have seen.

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Behind the News – The Decline of Public Education

The NSW Education Minister’s idea that the offer of an increase in pay would solve the complete systems failure of NSW’s Public School’s education department reveals her inability to grasp even the fundamental problems facing our schools; the inadequacies that exist have reached crisis point.  There are many obvious explanations of what is wrong primarily the insufficient funding which Trevor Cobbold from the Save Our Schools public schools advocacy group persistently identifies.  Another evident problem is the exhausting, non-teaching duties and administrative workload that has grown in recent years.  It would seem, if the political will existed these problems could be easily solved.  However, the contemporary education bureaucracy is underpinned by a faulty belief system that is the corner stone of all public services, the dependence on the principles of neoliberalism.

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Fully Fund Public Schools to Increase Productivity

Prime Minister Albanese says that increasing productivity is a priority for the Labor Government. A key component of increasing productivity is improving workforce knowledge and skills. However, major barriers to improving Australia’s workforce knowledge and skills include the large proportion of disadvantaged students who do not achieve an adequate level of education and the large achievement gaps between rich and poor. Over 80 per cent of disadvantaged students attend public schools and they are massively under-funded. Fully funding public schools will be fundamental to achieving Labor’s goal of increased productivity and economic prosperity because money matters in education.

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Media Release: A Public Education Agenda for the New Education Minister

Save Our Schools (SOS) today presented a public education agenda for the new Minister for Education, Jason Clare. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that Labor’s silence on crucial issues in public education must end: “The new Minister must step up for public schools”.

“Labor went to the election without an agenda for public education. It cannot be a do nothing government on public education. There are major issues and challenges facing public education that the new Minister must take action on.

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Tudge Fudges School Results and Funding

The Minister for Education, Alan Tudge, resorted to fudging figures to denigrate Australia’s school performance at the The Age education summit last week. He claimed the UK as the new benchmark for education performance but he misrepresented its results by ignoring serious flaws in them and other evidence showing no improvement. He also fudged data on school funding and student results in Australia.

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Does Education Technology Improve Learning?

In recent years, use of information and communications technology in classroom learning has increased massively. A new paper published in the Journal of Economic Literature provides a comprehensive review of studies of the impact of new technology on learning. It finds that some education technologies contribute to the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills in some circumstances and some are not as successful. It recommends more detailed research on the mechanisms by which these technologies can improve learning and in what education situations.

The overall results of the review suggest that educators and policy makers should exercise considerable caution in selecting education technology products and not be seduced by the marketing campaigns of education technology companies. Relatively few education technology products have been thoroughly evaluated for learning and cost effectiveness. Educators need support in deciding which products offer the most potential for meeting for the learning needs of their school and classroom. Inadequate discrimination in the adoption of products can be highly wasteful financially and fail to improve learning.

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Statement on the “Science of Reading” from US Think Tank

The US National Education Policy Center and the Education Deans for Justice and Equity have jointly released a Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading”. It is reprinted here in the interests of promoting rational debate.

For the past few years, a wave of media has reignited the unproductive Reading Wars, which frame early-literacy teaching as a battle between opposing camps. This coverage speaks of an established “science of reading” as the appropriate focus of teacher education programs and as the necessary approach for early-reading instruction. Unfortunately, this media coverage has distorted the research evidence on the teaching of reading, with the result that policymakers are now promoting and implementing policy based on misinformation.

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