New Study Undermines Case for a Year 1 Phonics Test

A new study comprehensively refutes the claim that phonetics is little used in teaching reading in Australian schools. It shows that the large majority of teachers in Australian primary schools use a combination of methods in teaching reading, including phonetics.

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Scotch College Property Buying Spree Supported by the Taxpayer

It was reported in The Age this week that the elite Melbourne private school, Scotch College, has been on a $25 million spending spree over the past 20 years buying up surrounding properties to expand the school. It is part of the facilities arms race between wealthy private schools to market the school and lure students.

What The Age report did not mention is that this spending spree was directly and indirectly supported by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments. Continue reading “Scotch College Property Buying Spree Supported by the Taxpayer”

The Hidden Cost of East Asian Test Results

East Asian countries dominate the education arms race. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan regularly get the highest scores on international tests such as the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Other countries, including Australia, seek to emulate their test results.

However, a key factor behind the success of these countries is the cultural emphasis on studying at the expense of other activities outside school. This brings costs in terms of student well-being and health which are frequently ignored.

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Student Absenteeism is High in Australia

Student absenteeism is a well-documented factor in poor performance at school.  Students who skip school, skip classes and arrive late for school tend to have lower test scores [OECD, PISA 2012 Results: What Makes Schools Successful? Resources, Policies and Practices (Volume IV), 2013, p. 60].

It is likely to be a factor behind the high proportion of Australian students who do not achieve expected international standards in reading, mathematics and science. Data from PISA 2015 show that a much higher percentage of Australian students skipped a day of school at least once in the two weeks prior to the PISA test than in other high performing countries and the OECD average.

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Schools in Deep Water Over Mandatory Swim Lessons

Earlier this week principals in Victorian government primary schools were stunned to learn that as from the beginning of 2017 that all students would have to be able to swim 50 metres continuously by the time they finished year 6. Swimming would become a mandatory part of the new Victorian Curriculum as part of the Andrews Government’s aim to prevent deaths by drowning.

It didn’t help that principals found this out via the media.

There is no disagreement about the goal – having all children competent in swimming is a no brainer. But, as is too often the case, the devil is in the detail and in this case the detail doesn’t stack up. More’s the pity because with some meaningful consultation between the government and school principals, so many of the self-inflicted obstacles to potential success with this initiative could have been avoided and the government would have been on a winner.

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Technology is No Game-Changer in the Classroom

Technology will revolutionize the classroom! I have been hearing these promises for most of my 20 year physics teaching career and yet there is scant high quality evidence for it. Cyber schools show little learning. The OECD found “no appreciable improvement in student achievement” with large scale investments in computer technology. Computer technology seems like such a natural fit in the classroom. Why has it not been the game changer that it should be?

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More Evidence That Better School Results Increases Economic Growth

A study published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research this week shows that bringing all students up to a basic level of education increases work force skills and economic growth. It adds to the substantial weight of international and Australian evidence that increasing student achievement increases economic growth.

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School Size Matters

Recent research on school size suggests that student results tend to be lower in large primary schools than in small schools, but at the secondary level the results are mixed. The research also indicates that disadvantaged students tend to do better in smaller schools. Large schools also tend to have poorer social outcomes and lower parental involvement.

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Preschool Education Has Major Benefits

A comprehensive new review of research on the impact of early childhood education in Australia and overseas shows that universal access to preschool education enhances developmental outcomes for all children, particularly for disadvantaged children. The review was published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Continue reading “Preschool Education Has Major Benefits”

Australia’s Heavy Investment in Computers in Schools Has Not Paid Off

Australia’s heavy investment in computer-based technology in schools has failed to improve student performance in reading, mathematics and science according to a new report published by the OECD last week. Australian students are very high users of computer technology at school and at home, but this has not translated into learning improvements. The high expectations for new technology in schools have not been realised. Continue reading “Australia’s Heavy Investment in Computers in Schools Has Not Paid Off”