South Korea’s Education System is a Form of Child Abuse

Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said that Australia should strive to emulate the success of East Asian education systems. However, as Save Our Schools has pointed out on several occasions, there is a dark side to the success of East Asian that Gillard and others wilfully ignored. This dark side was highlighted in a recent article in the New York Times on the South Korean education system. Continue reading “South Korea’s Education System is a Form of Child Abuse”

Review of Class Size Research

Many policymakers and political commentators suggest that funding isn’t the problem in Australian education. They point money spent on reducing class sizes, arguing that this extra funding does not lead to better academic results.

Politicians and their advisers seem to agree, as they claim that much of Australia’s increased expenditure on education in the last 20 to 30 years has been ‘wasted’ on efforts to reduce class sizes. The class size issue also directs attention to the learning environment, while pupil/teacher ratio is typically an economic category illustrating the amount of money spent.

Most of this policy advice and commentary relies heavily on Jensen’s report (2010) on Australian education and teacher quality. Jensen suggests that the majority of studies around the world have shown that class size reductions do not significantly improve student outcomes, and that the funds should have been redirected toward enhancing teacher quality.

Although the results of individual studies are always questionable, a range of newer peer reviewed studies on the effects of small classes have now emerged, and they throw into doubt this advice being offered to policymakers in Australia. Continue reading “Review of Class Size Research”

The Culture Wars of Kevin Donnelly

The new Commonwealth Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, unleashed a storm when he appointed Kevin Donnelly (and Ken Wiltshire) to review the national curriculum. Both have been strident critics of the national curriculum, and at least in Donnelly’s case a long-term critic of the role of the “cultural left” in Australia. Continue reading “The Culture Wars of Kevin Donnelly”

Questioning The Role of Philanthropy in Education

One of the lesser known recommendations of the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling was that the Australian Government should create a fund to provide national leadership in philanthropy in schooling and to support schools in need of assistance to develop philanthropic partnerships. It said that greater use should be made of philanthropy to support schools.

A survey by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that philanthropic organisations provided $23.6 million in donations to school education in Australia in 2013 out of a total of $391 million distributed by philanthropic organisations responding to the survey.

In contrast to Australia, philanthropic organisations are heavily involved in school education in the United States and distribute billions to schools. The Gates, Walton and Broad foundations have come to exercise vast influence over American education policy through their strategic investments in education. The grants are used to support charter performance pay, vouchers and other market-based policies in education.

The influence of these foundations has been heavily criticised by advocates of public education. As Diane Ravitch, author of the Death and Life of the Great American School System and Reign of Error, has said: “There is something fundamentally anti-democratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people.”

The experience with these wealthy philanthropic foundations in the United States is a warning about increasing the role of philanthropy in public schools in Australia.

The following is an address by Joanne Barken to the Network for Public Education conference in Austin on March 1-2 about the role of big philanthropies in education policy. Continue reading “Questioning The Role of Philanthropy in Education”

OECD Report Says High Participation in Private Tutoring in Korea is Pernicious

A major factor in the success of East Asian schools in international tests is the long hours students devote to homework and after school tutoring. A chapter in a new report from the OECD shows that Korea has amongst the highest participation in after-school tutoring in the world. It says that participation is much higher amongst students from affluent families and is exacerbating social inequality. Private tutoring is also narrowing education experience and harming the rounded development of students and their well-being. Continue reading “OECD Report Says High Participation in Private Tutoring in Korea is Pernicious”

Australia Fails to Achieve Universal Pre-school Target

Australia has dramatically failed to achieve its target of universal pre-school education by 2013. New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that only 78 per cent of 4 year-olds attended some form of pre-school education in 2013. However, attendance was up slightly from 75 per cent in 2012. Continue reading “Australia Fails to Achieve Universal Pre-school Target”

Public Schools in the Top Performing Countries Have Little Autonomy in Budgeting and Staffing

Australia’s approach to school autonomy in budgeting and staffing is at odds with the latest results from the OECD’s Programme for International Assessments (PISA). An OECD report on PISA 2012 shows that public schools in the top performing countries generally have little autonomy in budgeting and staffing but considerable autonomy over curriculum and assessment. Strangely, however, the Australian Government is intent on devolving greater responsibility over school budgets and staffing to principals rather than responsibility for curriculum and assessment. Continue reading “Public Schools in the Top Performing Countries Have Little Autonomy in Budgeting and Staffing”

Kevin Donnelly – The “Cory Bernadi” of Education Policy

Kevin Donnelly has been a tireless campaigner against the Gonski report, using a variety of spurious arguments. But a recent opinion piece in The Australian breaks new ground, because he has explicitly linked educational inequalities in Australia to genetic differences in cognitive ability. Continue reading “Kevin Donnelly – The “Cory Bernadi” of Education Policy”

Call For Senate Inquiry into the National Curriculum

Save Our Schools today called for a Senate inquiry into the national curriculum. SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the inquiry established by the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, last week is clearly biased. Continue reading “Call For Senate Inquiry into the National Curriculum”