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Social class affects school achievement less than you think

In a recent article in The Conversation, Stewart Riddle cited UK, US and Australian research to argue that: … social class is the strongest predictor of educational achievement. But recent research shows…

Some research shows outcomes may not be as closely related to socioeconomic status as often thought. www.shutterstock.com.au

In a recent article in The Conversation, Stewart Riddle cited UK, US and Australian research to argue that:

… social class is the strongest predictor of educational achievement.

But recent research shows this isn’t the case.

While there is no doubt that social class, whether measured by the parents' occupation, level of education, postcode or wealth, has a strong influence on students' educational outcomes, it is not the greatest influence.

A counter argument to the belief that demography is destiny can be found in Gary Marks' recent publication, Education, Social Background and Cognitive Ability.

Marks, a researcher at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne, has written extensively on the relationship between social class, educational outcomes and the reasons Catholic and independent schools achieve such strong results in areas like standardised tests, completion rates and tertiary entry.

Marks argues in his recent book that it is wrong to suggest that social class is such a significant factor:

… socioeconomic background, no matter how it is measured, is only moderately associated with educational outcomes.

Marks also observes that:

Western societies have done a reasonable job in reducing socioeconomic inequalities in education.

After analysing Year 12 results across Catholic, independent and government schools, Marks concludes social class only accounts for 20-30% when explaining why non-government schools outperform government schools.

Other more significant factors include student motivation and prior ability, classroom environment, school culture and teacher quality. Marks is not the only researcher questioning the over-emphasis on the importance of social class.

On examining the impact of schools on students' transition to university, the authors of an LSAY survey of Australian Youth Sinan Gemici, Patrick Lim and Tom Karmel conclude:

… the average socioeconomic status of students at a school does not emerge as a significant factor, after controlling for individual characteristics…

Additional evidence that social class is not such an influential factor determining success or failure can be found in a 2008 University of Melbourne publication by Professor Kaye Stacey and Doctor Max Stephens analysing Australia’s performance in international mathematics tests.

In relation to the impact of social class the authors conclude:

… the correlations in Australia between socioeconomic background and performance have never been particularly strong when compared internationally. This means that socioeconomic background is not a particularly strong predictor of performance…

Associated with the argument that social class is the strongest predictor of educational achievement is the belief that “inequity is entrenched in the Australian school system”.

Once again, the evidence suggests otherwise. Centre for Independent Studies Research Fellow Benjamin Herscovitch, after analysing what people from different social classes are able to earn, concludes “Australia is extremely socially mobile”.

After citing a number of overseas studies, Herscovitch goes on to argue that Australia has a high degree of educational mobility and that, compared to a number of other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, Australia is a “world leader in educational mobility”.

Evidence that education provides a ladder of opportunity is also supported by a 2008 OECD study, Growing Unequal?: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries Country Note: Australia, where Australia rates highly.

The paper notes:

Australia is one of the most socially mobile countries in the OECD.

It also observes that public services such as education “reduce overall income inequality by more than in most other countries”.

Based on the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment results, Geoff Masters from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) makes a similar point when he writes:

In the popular jargon, Australia is high quality/high equity.

As noted in the National Catholic Education Commission’s submission to the Gonski review of school funding, it’s also true that Catholic schools, in particular, are very effective at promoting equity in education.

Based on an analysis of the 2009 PISA test results carried out by ACER, the submission notes that:

… the equity of outcomes achieved by Catholic schools in Australia exceeds Finland, which is widely regarded by many groups as the international benchmark on equity.

When education minister, Julia Gillard argued that demography was not destiny and that it was the responsibility of teachers, schools and education sectors to do more to ensure equity of outcomes for all students, regardless of background.

Central to such an endeavour, as noted by the OECD paper Do parents' occupations have an impact on student performance? exploring why some Asian education systems appear more effective in promoting equity in education, is having high expectations and working on the assumption, notwithstanding the influence of social class, that:

… it is possible to provide children of factory workers the same high-quality education opportunities that the children of lawyers and doctors receive.

Instead of accepting what can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, believing that with a rigorous curriculum, motivated and talented teachers, sound school leadership and strong parental engagement, it is possible to raise standards for all students across a range of backgrounds.

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63 Comments sorted by

  1. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Social class is one factor - another is the level of investment in education.

    The more money is thrown at a problem, the more likely it is that someone is motivated enough to try fixing the problem.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to David Arthur

      "Instead of accepting what can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, believing that with a rigorous curriculum, motivated and talented teachers, sound school leadership and strong parental engagement, it is possible to raise standards for all students across a range of backgrounds." Agreed.

      Class is a predictor to the extent that it indicates parental engagement, and possibly availability of motivated and talented teachers, and sound school leadership.

      The greatest failure of Australian social policy over the last half century has been the way in which an underclass has been permitted to develop, and with increasing inequality (laissez-faire economics?), grow to engulf an ever-larger proportion of this nation's citizens.

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    2. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to David Arthur

      Hi David, I agree about investment; and I would add the home environment also influences a child's educational achievements. Kids need to be encouraged to learn and to resist being indoctrinated. I'm a bit worried about Mr Pyne's ideas for the overhauling the curriculum!

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    3. Jack Ruffin
      Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Jane Middlemist

      Pyne is a problem. It's just a way to justify subverting the Gonski findings.
      Class is alive and well in education. Kevin D quotes Gary Marks -" social class only accounts for 20-30% when explaining why non-government schools outperform government schools.". Well Kevin there is the link. Or do you thinks 20-30% insignificant?

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    4. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      Your observation "It's just a way to justify subverting the Gonski findings" is pretty evident Mr Ruffin, taken together with various utterances about education by Mr Pyne.
      I keep being reminded of a witty comment by a TC contributor (can't remember who) "Can't anyone find something useful for him to do?" (Pyne that is)

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  2. John Perry

    Teacher

    There's a whole heap of other stuff in Stewart's original article that Kevin rather conveniently glossed over. I'd be keen to hear Stewart's take on this article.

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    1. Michael Rogers

      Retired

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Apt demolition of Donnelly, but until the society as a whole regards learning as life long and not a developmental conditioning process of a particular age cohort to produce a docile and obedient workforce, we will have to put up with such ideological and cultist control fantasies as promulgated by the likes of Donnelly and Pyne.

      That Donnelly was appointed to review the National Curriculum (Finland does fine without one) reveals all.

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Julie, don't faint now, but I agree with everything you've said. While my own research/readings lead me to largely share the conclusion of this article's headline, even I am underwhelmed by this particular prosecution of that argument. I wonder why TC did not choose instead one of the academics cited, as authorities and evidence, who has actually published their evidence-based arguments in respectable and trust-worthy academic forums? If the mods are reading, could you please ask Dr. Gary Marks at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research to write on this topic? I would like to read a more academically-inflected treatment of his book, just published - *Education, Social Background and Cognitive Ability: The Decline of the Social*
      http://melbourneinstitute.com/miaesr/publications/books/decline_social.html

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    3. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Michael Rogers

      I know I know Michael, This example of his inability to think clearly is not a good advertisement for his ability to review the National Curriculum.

      Or I could assume that he is intelligent enough to see the problems with this piece and understand that it is propaganda but that means that he is a very dishonest man and is happy to accept that it is 'right' and good to obscure the real facts because.......?

      God told him so?

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    4. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      lol Andy I am not surprised that you can change your mind, I always thought you could do it. We can all get more intelligent by opening our minds. :)

      Marks has been cited - badly perhaps? - by Kevein Donnelly on another TC article.

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    5. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Whoops this is *that* thread lol.

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    6. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Michael Rogers

      Your point about lifelong learning is very important, Mr R. Too many people seem to "crystallise" at an early stage, keep voting for the same party no matter what, do not keep up with new knowledge in their profession, don't change their minds about climate science once the evidence has become overwhelming, and so on.
      Such people hold society back, giving rise to adages such as:
      We don't stop learning because we grow old - we grow old because we stop learning. Not applicable to our bodies but imo it is certainly true of our mental state.

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    7. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Kevin Donnelly

      It is unfortunate that the editors changed your text, Kevin.

      I apologise for that part of my critique but I would appreciate some explanation of the reasoning that supports your argument that the effects of 'class' on the performance of our poorest children at school is not a significant factor.

      Do you really 'believe' that we cannot raise the ability of 'the poor' by providing more resources for the schools that educate the lower class?

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  3. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Are private schools not a sign of class in and of itself?

    like if you go to a better school - something you said had a big influence on achievement - isn't that a form of class?

    The mere fact that these private schools might be better than public schools is indicative of a class system

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  4. Jack Ruffin
    Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Sure there are many issues that influence educational outcomes and class is one we definitely can do something about. Our best approach is to build on the excellent work and recommendations in the Gonski Report. This would ensure that we were funding our education system to further our aim for equality.
    Secondly isn't the private school system one of the main expressions of class in Australia?

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  5. Dan Fashaw

    Student

    Good God.

    If this is the person who is reviewing our curriculum we are in trouble. Compete skewing of relevant facts and purposeful misrepresentation of quoted authors, studies and articles along with a disturbing thought process that completely disregards the fact that if your born to a lower income home, in a lower income area, and go to public school then you are far more likely to find these "individual factors" such as poor "prior ability, classroom environment, school culture and teacher…

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    1. Jane Middlemist

      citizen

      In reply to Dan Fashaw

      Yes Mr F. Casually dismissing a 20-30% difference in outcomes for students in public schools is not at all reassuring. A nice thought of yours: becoming 'a true world leader'. Gonski made a good start but Mr Pyne not likely to help us get there… :(

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  6. Jane Middlemist

    citizen

    During my child's school years, I was interested in how very aware she was of "class" signals - commenting on expensive - or cheap - cars used by parents to pick up their kids, and which kids were invited to certain birthday parties and who was 'left out' and why that was so.
    She seemed unperturbed by not being "one of the rich and fashionable" but simply remarked on the phenomenon from time to time. Other parents have noticed this too, and have said as much to me, in casual conversations.
    So class most certainly does play a role in children's own perception of class and its effects on their social life, even at the level of childish categorisation of themselves and fellow students.
    Judging oneself to be "of a lower class' than fellow students quite possibly leads to lower expectations of what one can achieve and would, I think, impact on outcomes e.g. higher education attempted and, as a consequence, self-limiting choices between careers later.

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  7. Ned Johnson

    Teacher

    This is the same Kevin Donnelly who found research years ago that proved state school children would perform better if their class sizes were increased. Jeff Kennett was delighted with the discovery. Is anyone really in any doubt about why some schools "outperform" other schools? Apart from the fact that some people are better than other people, of course. We have whole suburbs of superior people, don't we?

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    1. Michelle Singh

      Tutor in Gender Studies & Sociology at Griffith University

      In reply to Ned Johnson

      Thanks for reminding us of that fact, Ned. The previous findings by Donnelly about class sizes, I mean - not the whole suburbs of superior people. I'm well aware of that :).

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    2. Raine S Ferdinands

      Education at Education

      In reply to Ned Johnson

      It will be great to have smaller class size, Ned, better for the teacher mostly. It is very much like parenting … fewer children provides more 'quality time' with children. But we all know that quality time does nothing for children of irresponsible and cavalier parents.
      What is more meaningful and effective are teacher subject-matter knowledge, motivation, dedication and appropriate pedagogical skills, amongst other qualities. The calibre of school leadership is an equally important factor. Parents…

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    3. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Raine S Ferdinands

      Raine The article is not about class size and you seem to have misunderstood the comments about Donnellys research into class size. As I understand this, Ned pointed out that Donnelly has done research that shows that smaller class sizes are better but Michelle was suggesting that this will only happen in private schools not in the public schools because Donnelly is only concerned with the upper class.

      So people are not really happy with Mr Donnelly's ability to do this education analysis. He…

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    4. Chris Curtis

      retired teacher

      In reply to Kevin Donnelly

      Kevin,

      I don’t think you have ever said that there was research years ago that “proved” state school children would perform better if their class sizes were increased”, but you have long argued that class sizes do not matter. That is certainly the case you made during the Kennett era, when that teacher-bashing government was pushing class sizes up.

      At the beginning of that benighted period in the state’s history, you wrote:
      “Listening to the cries of those attacking recent cuts in the education…

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    5. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Chris Curtis

      Ahhh ... Where would we be without Chris Curtis?

      I hope his response answered your question, Kevin.

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    6. Kevin Donnelly

      Senior Research Fellow - School of Education at Australian Catholic University

      In reply to Chris Curtis

      Hi Chris, I've not argued that reducing class size does not matter - in fact, I ague that if classes are small enough (say 10 to 15) then there are improvements. What I then argue is that such would be the cost, that it is impractical. OECD research is consistent that class size is not a significant factor in relation to raising standards. And it is true that Catholic schools, with larger classes compared to government schools, achieve strong results

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    7. Chris Curtis

      retired teacher

      In reply to John Perry

      John,

      I’ve been cutting articles out of the newspapers for more than 45 years. Sometimes it is hard to find the one I want, but in this case I remembered a previous internet discussion with Kevin Donnelly and that I had already typed it onto the computer

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    8. Chris Curtis

      retired teacher

      In reply to Kevin Donnelly

      Hi, Kevin,

      You have consistently argued against class size reductions, and you do sometimes refer to cost. However, the cost of keeping classes in the low 20s, which is where they have been in this state for the last 40 years in my experience, has been easily manageable.

      In Tennessee’s Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) study (available at http://www.heros-inc.org/) in 1980s, students and teachers were randomly assigned to a small class of 15-17 students, a regular class of 22-26 students…

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    9. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Kevin Donnelly

      Kevin, this is just disingenuous, stating that Catholic results show that class size doesn't matter. The cohort at Catholic schools - ALL Catholic schools - is markedly different from those at government schools and you know it. Why else would the Catholic school system have been arguing for the bottom 50% rather than the bottom 25% during the Gonski discussions?

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  8. Kris Rogers

    Biostatistician

    Might be worth noting that for the LSAY study they explicitly control for Tertiary Entrance Rank (TER). This may be appropriate for their study, but if you try to then look at these results as evidence of no assocation between socioeconomic status (SES) and probability of transitioning to university, you have taken out a very important variable on the causal pathway. If you want to link this particular study to the overall claim Kevin Donnelly makes, you would need to assume that SES does not impact on TER.

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Kris Rogers

      Kris, I'm pretty convinced that SES is a key conceptual variable in determining academic performance by school kids. BUT, just WTF does a particular author mean by SES? Unless SES can be operationalized at a refined level, then attributing variance to "SES" starts to sound like data mining. I am especially suspicious of recent trends to build "composite" *indices* of SES, which throw everything, including the kitchen sink into them - again data mining. The OECD PISA analyses are particularly prominent…

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  9. John Campbell

    farmer

    Problem is it is very hard to believe anything Kevin Donnelly says.

    A bit more evidence and less hearsay would be more appropriate.

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  10. John Campbell

    farmer

    We've all hear about the, now highly discredited, trickle down effect.

    I'm suspecting this article has some such association. That is it is spin disguised as academic endevour for two purposes.

    One to test the waters and refine both the spin and answers to the sort of critical responses he is likely to get while secondly ensuring class remains relatively untouched in education and Australian society in general as no doubt suits most of the Libs.

    You wouldn't at all be surprised if you found the IPA now pushing this exact line and claiming it had been demonstrated by 'experts'.

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  11. Raine S Ferdinands

    Education at Education

    Thanks Kevin. Your conclusion is spot on. Our curriculum is reasonably sound. "….motivated and talented teachers, sound school leadership and strong parental engagement.." are absolutely crucial for quality education for all students any where. I am absolutely thrilled to read this.

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  12. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    Kevin Donnelly's decision to publish his article under the ACU appellation, rather than the University of Melbourne, says it all. Donnelly is part of a cabal led by the adventurous and enterprising ACU VC, Greg Craven, to become the intellectual mouthpiece of the Federal Coalition Government, particularly on school education policy issues.

    This will not be a challenging role to perform since no other university would be prepared to compromise its scholarship and research quality framework to…

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    1. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      And in the 'best' tradition of George Bush, surround yourself with quack pseudo intellectual spin merchants who will faithfully peddle the party line.

      You would have to say this perversion of science and intellectual endeavour shows a very worrying trend, not only for society in general but for academic institutions whose reputations must necessarily suffer as all will to a greater or lesser extent be tainted.

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Campbell

      Thanks, John. Like Pooh-Bah, I was merely concerned to provide corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and perhaps unconvincing narrative ;)

      Also, if one didn't find the time to laugh hollowly at evidence of Church corruption and connivance in fixing the books with the state on such a grand scale, one would indeed have nowhere else to go except to break down and cry out to Heaven for vengeance!

      I am sure that some of these people find it difficult to sleep at night or lye straight in bed.....I've run out of metaphors to describe their despicable ways and the extent of their corruption!

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    3. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Campbell

      And yes; it taints....horribly and indelibly stains the reputation of the rest of ACU and Catholic schools, for I know there to be good people... not just morally good but intellectually outstanding persons....working in them. Craven himself is such a one, intellectually brilliant but with a soul perverted by the worst kind of discarded Catholic apologetics and bizarrely clerical mindset.

      In the end you'd have to wonder about how politics, rather than truth, justice and integrity, spreads like…

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    4. Raine S Ferdinands

      Education at Education

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "cleaning up 'Godly' institutions that cannot be trusted to understand simple ethical precepts such as conflict of interest, that are well understood in the secular world."
      Understanding is one thing but the discipline and the moral courage to abide by those values is an entirely different thing.
      Individuals with devious minds and corrupt intentions exist everywhere, even in this secular world of ours too, Michael. Hence it is too simplistic to taint Godly institutions as the source of this…

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    5. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Raine S Ferdinands

      Ah, mais non, Mme/M'sieur! You miss the point of the original blog and my posts.

      I write, both as a Catholic and an accredited researcher, with an established public record in the academic field and knowledge-base, which The Conversation applauds and enjoins to be emulated, of the extent to which the Catholic education system in this country has been perverted by some in the higher echelons of Church and state to serve a purpose other than its original mission, which is to educate the poor…

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    6. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Raine S Ferdinands

      "Understanding is one thing but the discipline and the moral courage to abide by those values is an entirely different thing."

      From what I've experienced from Christian education in regards to protecting it's flock, I would have to think very few people involved have any moral courage.

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    7. Raine S Ferdinands

      Education at Education

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael, the Catholic Church and its institutions of learning do not need my assistance in defending its cause … not in any way. I have no grandiose ideas of a 'knight in shining armour'. They have dozens of the finest, and amply capable solicitors of this land to represent them. I am also not questioning or condoning your credibility as a researcher; that you take offence is surprising. My intention was to keep afloat the good side of this institution while its cancer is being (hopefully) extracted…

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    8. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Raine S Ferdinands

      I think Raine that the institutions in our society *do* need your assistance, not in defending the cause, but in ensuring that the good side of the institution is looked after and the cancer is extracted. It is not enough for good people, like you to hope that it is being extracted.

      You need to take responsibility for what is going on in an institution that you value. It is up to all of us to hold our valued institution to account and help them not grow cancers.

      You are happy to 'agree' with…

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    9. Kevin Donnelly

      Senior Research Fellow - School of Education at Australian Catholic University

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Hi Michael, for the record I am a Catholic and have taken communion and confirmation and I'm not sure what Protestant schools you are referring to - although I did teach at an Anglican school for a while.

      Also I have a Masters and Ph'D in education with a focus on curriculum.

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    10. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Kevin Donnelly

      Hi Kevin

      Thanks for getting back to me.

      There are several different kinds of Catholics and, while my support for the social inclusion that is the hallmark of contemporary post-Vatican II Catholicism would make it churlish of me to exclude you as a Catholic, here are several reasons, none of them based on a lack of Christian charity on my part, why I would be concerned to identify you and your views as Catholic.

      1. The endorsements that you receive from the publications of Michael Gilchrist…

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    11. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Raine S Ferdinands

      Raine, you misread the context yet again. It is precisely because the history of this country in the earlier half of European settlement has been been one of deep sectarian strife that nobody, least of all the Catholic Bishops, want to see a return to a time when Catholics had to fight hard to restore some semblance of public funding for their schools, against enormous opposition initially from the other Churches and later from the state school lobby.

      In the ensuing struggle there was, as you…

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    12. Raine S Ferdinands

      Education at Education

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Hi Michael
      Thank for getting back to me.

      So, yeah, again missing the context and deliberately so … I am rather amused with the salutations you reserve for Kevin and the "Best regards" sign off. Suddenly referring to him as Dr Donnelly, etc after you have insulted him and denied him his own academic credentials. You have taken it upon yourself to be both judge and jury about his faith? Your reply to my comments isn't really a response to my comments, rather it appears to serve as a platform…

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    13. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Raine S Ferdinands

      Ah, there you go again, raining on my parade ;(

      1. No sudden referrals, just common politeness ('kind regards' rather than 'best', because he had the unusual decency to reply). Nor did I deny him his academic credentials. Beyond experiencing difficulty with French verbs, your problems extend to misunderstanding plain English. (Since you insist, please note that 'Parlay' is a betting term and not interchangeable with 'Parlez' or any derivation thereof, which is the context in which you used it…

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    14. Raine S Ferdinands

      Education at Education

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Ahhhhhhhhh Michael …. master of deflection. Pomposity reigns. Subject over killed. Merci, monsieur, et au revoir. Tennis beckoning this “conservative.”

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    15. Raine S Ferdinands

      Education at Education

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Ahhhhh Michael …. master of deflection. Pomposity reigns. Subject over killed. Merci, monsieur, et au revoir. Tennis beckoning this “conservative.”

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    16. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Raine S Ferdinands

      Game, set & match to me, I'm afraid! I hope your withdrawal from this blog provides a salutary warning about venturing into territory that offends your politics, especially after trying to intimidate me about the prospect of legal action from others regarding the evidence I've presented here on the extent to which ACU and the higher echelons within the educational wing of the Catholic Church in Australia have resiled from the Church's educational mission and joined forces with the government to influence…

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  13. Philip Roberts

    Assistant Professor (Curriculum Studies) at University of Canberra

    Kevin refers to the virtues of pursuing a ‘rigorous curriculum’ - while this sounds like something everyone would support as a matter of common sense I often wonder what it actually means. It has become one of those terms assumed to not need any explanation.

    However, over many decades there has been substantial research about how the curriculum produces inequality. The best work to date is probably that by Richard Teese and his Colleagues (see for example the books Academic Success & Social…

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    1. Kevin Donnelly

      Senior Research Fellow - School of Education at Australian Catholic University

      In reply to Philip Roberts

      Within the philosophy of education movement, including Hirst and Peters and Australia's Brian Crittenden, there is a substantial and detailed explanatiuon of what is meant by a rigorous curriculum. Jerone Bruner argues a similar line when he talks about the need to teach the 'structure of the discipline'.

      Such educators, as I do as well, also question the belief that knowldge is simply a socio-cultural construct imposed by the elites to disempower disadvantaged groups. That's why Gramsci argues that working class kids need to learn Algebra, Latin and Greek.

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Kevin Donnelly

      Kevin (if I may) there's a very interesting essay by an obscure philosopher, Barry Kanpol, at a Catholic university somewhere in the US, called St Joseph's, who appears to address your criticisms about the postmodern curriculum not being rigorous enough. David Zyngier of Monash evidently uses it as a text for one of his courses but that association should not be enough to condemn either Zyngier or Kanpol ;)

      http://users.monash.edu.au/~dzyngier/Critical%20Pedagogy%20For%20Beginning%20Teachers%20Barry%20Kanpol.htm

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  14. Dennis Alexander

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I would contend that of the purported stronger influences: "student motivation and prior ability, classroom environment, school culture and teacher quality" only the last is possibly independent of or unaffected by either the student's or the school's socio-economic position, and even that would need some more evidence to convince me. But then, I am especially suspicious of the notion of "teacher quality" because, I suggest, "teaching quality" is more important and more measurable - it is about what they do and how they do it, not who they are or what grades they made.

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