The Success of East Asian Students is Explained More by Family Attitudes Than Differences in Teaching

The high performance of East Asian countries in international tests such as the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is often ascribed to high-quality teaching and calls have been made for Australia to imitate the policies of these countries. This campaign has been led by Ben Jensen, formerly of the Grattan Institute, and was recently taken up by Kevin Donnelly.

Jensen has been in the forefront in promoting East Asia as a model for improving teacher quality in Australia. He argues that Australia has much to learn from teacher training and mentoring in these countries and that we should adopt East Asia’s “unerring focus on teacher performance”.

Donnelly on the other hand recently claimed that chalk and talk teaching and rote learning are key features of China’s education success and that Australia has been misguided in abandoning this method of teaching.

However, both claims of better teaching in East Asian countries than in Australia are highly dubious. They ignore the fact that the results of students of East Asian parents in Australia are much higher than for students of Australian born parents and are similar to and, in some cases, even higher than those in East Asian countries. This suggests that differences in teaching are not a critical factor. Continue reading “The Success of East Asian Students is Explained More by Family Attitudes Than Differences in Teaching”

Education Policy is Based on Myths According to Leading Academic

A leading education academic says that education policy in Australia is based on myths. Professor Stephen Dinham from the University of Melbourne said that Australia is getting “the worst of both worlds” by copying policies from the United States and the United Kingdom. He called for greater scrutiny of these policies by educationalists.

Continue reading “Education Policy is Based on Myths According to Leading Academic”

Australia Still Lags Badly in Pre-School Education

New data released by the OECD shows that Australia lags well behind most other OECD countries in enrolment in pre-school education. Though enrolment has increased significantly since 2005, it remains well below the average for OECD countries. Continue reading “Australia Still Lags Badly in Pre-School Education”

Are Gifted and Talented Classes a Bright Idea?

Gifted and talented classes are becoming increasingly popular in public schools. They are often seen as an alternative to private schooling.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald at the weekend said that non-selective high schools in NSW are increasingly doing their own testing to stream students into selective classes and some are doing it based on NAPLAN results. NSW also has the largest number of selective and partially selective public schools in Australia and they are in high demand. Continue reading “Are Gifted and Talented Classes a Bright Idea?”

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”