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Analysis and Comment (67)

Where next for Britain’s angry teachers? Where next for Britain’s angry teachers? Stefan Rousseau/PA

Are the tables turning in Michael Gove’s war on teacher unions?

The Easter holidays have arrived, heralding the start of teacher union conference season. These are always important events, not least because according to research commissioned by the government, 97…
Maybe I’ll get a better mark if I answer in Mandarin. Maybe I’ll get a better mark if I answer in Mandarin. David Davies/PA

Reforms based on PISA tests alone won’t fix GCSE standards

With the creeping rise of exam results over the past few decades, many have questioned whether standards are really as high as they were in the past. More worrying still is whether pupils in the UK can…
Can I be a puzzle-maker when I grow up? Can I be a puzzle-maker when I grow up? Child with puzzle via Shutterstock

Why 21st century children need to excel at problem solving

It’s no longer enough for children just to be able to read, count or multiply. With computers now doing many mundane repetitive tasks for us, many jobs in today’s world require analytical skills and the…
Teachers don’t have all the answers. Teachers don’t have all the answers. Question marks via Shutterstock

We still don’t know what works in education

Education is one of the largest academic research enterprises in England, and yet in over 50 years, research into education has failed to find useful answers to many of the most basic questions about how…
Do I get a pupil premium with that? Do I get a pupil premium with that? Chris Radburn/PA Archive

If school meals are free, how do we know who needs help?

As September approaches, primary schools up and down the country are preparing to roll out universal free school lunches for all children in reception, year 1 and year 2. But if all meals are free, what…
Every head could do with a Team Sky to help them. Every head could do with a Team Sky to help them. Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Why school systems need to be more like the Tour de France

In The Importance of Teaching white paper in 2010, the government committed itself to developing a “self-improving system of schools”. Four years on there is a risk that a two-tier system will emerge in…
Double Dutch? Toddlers in the Netherlands get preschool language lessons. Double Dutch? Toddlers in the Netherlands get preschool language lessons. Valerie Kuypers/EPA

Early years education is a class leveller, not an optional extra

Learning certainly starts at birth, and some believe even before. Care by parents in the first three years of a child’s life is absolutely critical in order to learn how to walk, talk, self-regulate, and…
Random school place generator. Random school place generator. Jeremy Brooks

How ballots and banding are shaking up school admissions

As parents across England wait nervously for news of where their children have been allocated a secondary school place, new admissions policies of banding and ballots have come under scrutiny. The recent…
How can ‘disadvantaged’ students engage better in school? How can ‘disadvantaged’ students engage better in school? www.shutterstock.com.au

Education policy is failing to fix the biggest problem: inequality

The Conversation is running a series, Class in Australia, to identify, illuminate and debate its many manifestations. Here, John Smyth identifies the failure of government policies to tackle the nation’s…
Nearly home time. Nearly home time. kmoliver

Finland puts flexible holidays ahead of longer school days

The length of the school year and school days, as well as the timing of holidays, is always a controversial topic. While the debate rages in the UK about whether children should spend more time at school…
Can’t we play a game now? Can’t we play a game now? flickingerbrad

Children’s attention spans at risk from too much screen time

From iPads to Xboxes, the modern child has a vast array of electronic media to help alleviate boredom, pass the time and play online games. Parents may often wonder about the impact such activities can…
How many A*s does one family need? How many A*s does one family need? Andrew Milligan/PA

Twins show success at school is not just down to genes

There is a common misconception that genes are deterministic and that human potential is fixed at birth. This could not be further from the truth. We, as behavioural geneticists, see no evidence whatsoever…
Too many two-year-olds. Too many two-year-olds. Edmond Terakopian/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Very few schools are ready to take two-year-olds into class

Proposals to allow schools to start looking after two-year-olds go to the heart of a long-standing tension in education policy: is early childhood provision about childcare for working parents or is it…
Tale of the two Michaels. Tale of the two Michaels. John Stillwell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Ofsted row gets to heart of battle over Tory education policy

It is not very often that an education story is the lead item on the BBC’s Today programme, but the apparent sacking of Baroness Sally Morgan as chair of schools inspectorate Ofsted and comments by its…
Not just for games. Not just for games. flickingerbrad

Backlash against computing curriculum misses the point

Computing is an important subject, but it is only one of many that schools have to teach, and few would argue that it is more important than English, maths, or science. But as a high-profile debate continues…
Education is well financed in Australia but a number of inefficiencies need to be addressed. Education is well financed in Australia but a number of inefficiencies need to be addressed. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Securing Australia’s future: education

SECURING AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE: As the Commission of Audit reviews government activity and spending, The Conversation’s experts take a closer look at key policy areas tied to this funding – what’s working…
Once you done that there’s plenty more to be getting on with. Once you done that there’s plenty more to be getting on with. stuartpilbrow

Shock or yawn, PISA just preps children for a global work race

The triennial jamboree that is the publication of the OECD PISA tests kicked off with the usual round of blaming and name calling among politicians. Both sides of the political debate naturally found ammunition…
Can language nests revive endangered Indigenous languages? Can language nests revive endangered Indigenous languages? AAP/Tara Ravens

Language nests: a way to revive Indigenous languages at risk

More than 90% of Australia’s Indigenous languages are critically endangered and two-thirds of those languages spoken a hundred years ago are now dormant. The seeds of the current situation were sown long…
The government is reviewing significant early learning initiatives introduced under Labor. The government is reviewing significant early learning initiatives introduced under Labor. AAP/Dave Hunt

Policy outlook: Coalition set to slow progress in early childcare and learning

Early childhood education reforms, started under Labor, are looking increasingly shaky under a Coalition government. Despite a series of recent reports and mounting evidence that support the Labor reforms…
Al-Madinah school in Derby: making news for all the wrong reasons. Al-Madinah school in Derby: making news for all the wrong reasons. Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Growth of academies and free schools reinforces student segregation

Each new administration tends to try to improve compulsory education by introducing a new and purportedly better type of school. The current government has at least three, and is pushing vocational schools…
There’s renewed debate around whether universities need to specialise in research or teaching. There’s renewed debate around whether universities need to specialise in research or teaching. University image from www.shutterstock.com

Research and teaching – what do we actually want Australian universities to do?

“We must give universities more freedom to focus on what they are good at… If that means that some universities want to focus significantly more on teaching, then they should confidently do so… Government…
Education academics and teachers should be able to share ideas. Education academics and teachers should be able to share ideas. Seminar image from www.shutterstock.com

No Apple for teachers shows the value of sharing new ideas

Apparently, teachers and principals have no need to hear about research on international education policy and are too sensitive to deal with “controversial” ideas. Last week, the University of Melbourne’s…
For better or worse, the university experience has changed considerably over the past forty years. For better or worse, the university experience has changed considerably over the past forty years. University image from www.shutterstock.com

The university experience — then and now

Before the second world war, a very small minority of the population in Western societies went to universities. Most were men, most were from the social elite. From the late 1950s that changed. With a…
Hands up who wants to go to a private school? Barack Obama visits an elementary school in Silver Springs, Maryland. Hands up who wants to go to a private school? Barack Obama visits an elementary school in Silver Springs, Maryland. EPA/Chip Somodevilla

US elections: do school vouchers work?

Most Americans agree that public education in their country is broken. The infrastructure of thousands of schools is decaying, scores on standardised tests are stagnant, and roughly 1.2 million students…
There may be a new way to assess students' ability to collaborate and problem solve. There may be a new way to assess students' ability to collaborate and problem solve. Flickr/Lars Plougmann

Changing tests and the PM’s 2025 goal for schools

Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently announced a new goal for Australian schools – they would reach the top five ranked school systems in the world for reading, mathematics and science by 2025. The ranking…
A good knowledge of the different religions should be part of a National Curriculum. A good knowledge of the different religions should be part of a National Curriculum. Flickr/Jake Wasdin

Time for change: a new role for religion in education

After last week’s High Court challenge verdict on funding chaplains in schools, religious education is back in the headlines. The role of religion in Australian schools has been vigorously debated for…
All cut out to fit the same mould? We can’t assume that all universities are trying to be the same. All cut out to fit the same mould? We can’t assume that all universities are trying to be the same. Flickr/walterh

Universities can’t all be the same – it’s time we embraced diversity

James Cook University drew a lot of attention in the higher education sector recently by publicly “opting out” of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings. Their reason was simple enough…
The Victorian government’s TAFE cuts have shown other states exactly what not to do. The Victorian government’s TAFE cuts have shown other states exactly what not to do. Flickr/Takver

Victorian TAFE chaos: a lesson in how not to reform vocational education

For years, those concerned with vocational education and training have worried about how to lift the public profile of TAFEs. But what has taken many years for some – without much success – the Baillieu…
We need to take a harder look at Australian education and how we compare internationally. We need to take a harder look at Australian education and how we compare internationally. Flickr/marragem

The great equity debate: a fair go for Australian schools

Following the refusal of the federal government to commit to the Gonski Review and the recent announcement in Victoria of further cuts to already disadvantaged schools and students, the issue of equity…
Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s report, released today, presents some serious concerns for the future of Australian science. Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s report, released today, presents some serious concerns for the future of Australian science. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

A prescription for healthy science? Chief Scientist’s report points the way

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s Health of Australian Science report, launched today at the National Press Club, starts on an optimistic note. Australian science is generally in good health: school students…
The NAPLAN tests are about getting the best results for students. The NAPLAN tests are about getting the best results for students. Flickr/Elizabeth Albert

Don’t boycott NAPLAN! Turning our back skews good data

A small but vocal group is calling on parents to withdraw their children from the National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. But if this call is successful and enough children are…
We should be focusing on students' performance not teachers'. We should be focusing on students' performance not teachers'. Flickr/cybrarian77

Pupil power: time to ditch teacher bonuses and focus on student learning

Teacher bonus schemes are yet another example of education reform with the wrong focus. They narrowly look at teachers and their performance, and not the needs of students and their learning. It’s the…
Do we need to go down the Confucian path of learning - or is there another way? Do we need to go down the Confucian path of learning - or is there another way? AAP Image/Alan Porritt

NAPLAN tests mean academic achievement but is there a price?

As the fifth year of NAPLAN testing gets underway this week, it has prompted the usual debates. Are the tests in our student’s best interests? Are students adequately prepared? If teachers are “teaching…
Flickr/Discover Science & Engineering

Primary school science education – is there a winning formula?

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, released a worrying report earlier this year. Unhealthy Science? University Natural and Physical Sciences 2002 - 2009/10 revealed the number of students studying…
The Gonski review presents a generational opportunity to reform our school funding system. The Gonski review presents a generational opportunity to reform our school funding system. AAP/Graham Porrit

Gonski review: another wasted opportunity

The Gonski Review sought to create a new funding system for Australian schooling, because what we currently have is a mess. It was to be transparent, fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting…
David Gonski has conducted the most far-reaching review into school funding in Australia since the Whitlam years. David Gonski has conducted the most far-reaching review into school funding in Australia since the Whitlam years. AAP

Gonski review: the aim is worthy, but the implementation will be difficult

School funding has been a tortured issue for government, and especially federal Labor governments, for most of the past half century. Since the seminal Karmel Report of 1973, the funding levels and relativities…
While the wheels of bureaucracy turn, schools wait for more funding. While the wheels of bureaucracy turn, schools wait for more funding. Andreas Ebling

Gonski review: public inquiry on school funding needs more work

A two-year process of research, consultation, public input and expert consideration and analysis is a reasonable route to follow for a government-appointed independent inquiry into a major policy issue…
School funding is under the microscope for the first time in nearly 40 years. School funding is under the microscope for the first time in nearly 40 years. torres21

Gonski review: experts respond

A much-anticipated review of Australian school funding, spearheaded by businessman David Gonski, was handed to the Gillard government today. We asked Australian education experts to respond to the report’s…
Our academic experts crunch the numbers on school funding. Our academic experts crunch the numbers on school funding. Pink Sherbet Photography

Gonski review: full coverage

The biggest review of school funding in decades has been handed to the government. The report recommends an injection of A$5 billion to the education sector, three-quarters of which would go to public…
Western Australia may have mining wealth, but how do we fund schools in remote areas? Western Australia may have mining wealth, but how do we fund schools in remote areas? AAP/Rebecca Le May

The Gonski review needs to recommend one thing – spend as much as education costs

At first glance, the Gonski review presents an opportunity to correct the funding gap between “winners” (understood as the private schools) and “losers” (understood as the public schools). And it is timely…
Will Gonski be brave enough to point out what’s wrong with our schooling system? Will Gonski be brave enough to point out what’s wrong with our schooling system? AAP Image/Jenny Evans

Gonksi review: tradition or reform for an upside down system?

The Gonski review of school funding promises to be a watershed in the history of Australian education. Much is at stake. There is a real chance to fundamentally change the way our divided school system…
The government’s merry dance may come to nothing. The government’s merry dance may come to nothing. AAP/Joe Castro

Gonski review: the government will struggle to change school funding

When an Australian government is willing to risk losing an election over the way it funds our poorest, most disadvantaged schools, rather than our wealthy schools, only then will meaningful change be possible…
When jobs are disappearing, why are we training more journalists? When jobs are disappearing, why are we training more journalists? flickr

Can journalism graduates get jobs?

It usually begins mid-way through their university career. My office begins to fill with panicked journalism students who have seen the dismal job vacancies in their field and are starting to think their…
The mining boom has protected Australia from ill economic winds but will not continue forever. The mining boom has protected Australia from ill economic winds but will not continue forever. AAP/Le May

Why 2012 will be a crucial year for Australia

2012 will be a critical time in our development as a nation with huge uncertainties in many areas both in Australia and globally. Over more than ten years we have lived through a remarkable mining boom…
Australian universities must raise their game to compete in the global education market. Australian universities must raise their game to compete in the global education market. Flickr/Reality-check

Sink or swim? Australian universities in the next decade

The world is in a state of transition. The Indian and Chinese economies continue to grow at around 9 and 10 per cent respectively each year, while the North Atlantic economies - the 20th century epicentre…
We should be questioning the benefits of holding students back a year. We should be questioning the benefits of holding students back a year. Wikimedia Commons

Playing catch up: Should students repeat a grade at school?

Making students repeat a year when they’re not doing well socially or academically is not uncommon in Australia. About 8-10% of students repeat a grade at some point in school life. But there is a major…
Francis Galton pioneered the concept of eugenics in this lab in London in the late 19th century. Francis Galton pioneered the concept of eugenics in this lab in London in the late 19th century. Flickr/Science Museum London

Eugenics in Australia: The secret of Melbourne’s elite

Eugenics — the science of improving the race —was a powerful influence on the development of Western civilisation in the first half of the twentieth century. And Melbourne’s elite were among its chief…
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised an education revolution, but where are the results? Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised an education revolution, but where are the results? AAP

Education funding: more dollars than sense

All is not well in the Australian school system. Australian schools are struggling to meet the achievement levels of OECD leader Finland. With the release of the commissioned research reports for the Gonski…
A year four slump can be avoided if children are given the tools to read when very young. A year four slump can be avoided if children are given the tools to read when very young. Flickr/Éole

As easy as ABC: the way to ensure children learn to read

Human speech has long been present in every culture, and our brains have evolved specialized features to enable its rapid development when we are exposed to the speech of others. Reading however is a relatively…
More maths teachers means better outcomes for students. More maths teachers means better outcomes for students. Flickr

Mathematics: Why we need more qualified teachers

There is a crisis in the education system, and it’s affecting the life chances of many young Australians. The number of secondary teaching graduates with adequate qualifications to teach mathematics is…
Helping children recognise the sounds in words can improve their reading ability. Helping children recognise the sounds in words can improve their reading ability. Pratham Books/Flickr

Sounding off about teaching children to read

There are two main approaches to teaching children to read. Phonics, involves teaching children to recognise combinations of characters and establish the meanings of words based on combining them. The…

Research and News (4)