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”

Victorian Education Corruption Scandal: Our Children Deserve Much Better

Nino Napoli, disgraced Victorian Education Department bureaucrat, may be the public face of the most disgraceful and shameful episode in living memory in Victorian state education, but he is far from being the whole story.

The IBAC Inquiry has uncovered corruption on a breathtaking scale. Disturbingly it involves erstwhile highly respected senior bureaucrats and long serving principals. Many in education are appalled at the revelations that millions of dollars of public money has been siphoned off for private use. That the funds were earmarked for expenditure on disadvantaged children and needy schools renders the behaviour utterly disgraceful. More than a few principals and teachers have been reduced to tears. Continue reading “Victorian Education Corruption Scandal: Our Children Deserve Much Better”

Lessons That Matter From East Asian Education

The success of East Asian countries in international tests has led to a flurry of interest in many other countries, including Australia, to analyse the reasons for this success and apply the lessons. However, a paper published last month by internationally renowned US educator, Yong Zhao, shows that East Asian countries are abandoning education practices and policies that many outside observers have praised. The targets for reform are the very education practices and policies that have been praised by outside observers – national curriculum, high-stakes testing, meritocracy, direct instruction, and long school hours. Continue reading “Lessons That Matter From East Asian Education”