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NAPLAN, Domestic Violence, Corruption And Good Old Uncle Otto!

Ideas are a bit like being caught it in a river; it’s easy to be swept along without stopping to actually think about whether or not you should swim to the side and have a think about where you’re being taken.

So yesterday, I found the commentary on NAPLAN rather strange, and I was concerned about where the current seemed to be heading.

To summarise, we’ve had NAPLAN for seven years now and (amazingly!) we haven’t seen significant improvement in the test scores.

There was also a story on the radio about a place where they’d trialled putting domestic violence offenders in remand when they breached an intervention order. This was showing some signs of being effective the spokesman said.

In other words, when you actually do something, it sometimes works.

Which sort of made me think of NAPLAN.

The whole idea that simply testing students every two years would have led to any improvement is as ridiculous as expecting that getting people ignoring intervention orders to do surveys would have led to a reduction in the number of breaches.

If NAPLAN had been combined with some teaching initiative, or at the end of the Gonski reforms then there might be something to question, if scores “hadn’t significantly improved”.

Of course, for some people, the expectation was that NAPLAN would mean that teachers tried harder. It’ll be interesting to see if this data is interpreted by politicians to mean that maybe teachers are trying as hard as they can, or whether we’ll have someone like Christopher Pyne* telling us that this simply means that there’s no need for extra funding because we now spend more on education than we did when Australia was first colonised and that literacy levels were better back then and that the only answer is to privatise it because the private sector does everything better.

Like corruption.

Well, I should be careful what I say here because there’s been allegations of a criminal nature about Australia Post sub-contractors and everyone should have the presumption of innocence. However, it’s more the light it’s shining on the wonderful shifting of much of the TAFE sector into private hands that interests me.

Apparently, unlike the public sector, the private sector exists to make a profit, and, as a result, some people put making money before giving students a quality education. Or, in some cases, any education.

Who’da thunk that, eh?

Certainly not the Liberals who seem to think that their mates in the private sector can run anything more efficiently than they can. So let’s sell off everything and then we’ll let people self-regulate, because – as Bronwyn Bishop shows – self-regulation takes away a lot of that needless red-tape that just adds to the cost. In the case, of the TAFE sector, the lack of efficient regulation means that private prividers can eliminate costly things like teachers and course delivery, making them infinitely more efficient than the those old, innefficient monolithic government organisations who were slowed done by the requirements that they actually try to teach people some skills.

And speaking of more efficient, I notice that WA politician, Peter Abetz (Eric’s brother) was quoted as saying that Great Uncle Otto, the Nazi, wasn’t all bad. Given the views of the Nazis on homosexuality and Eric’s recent pronouncements on same sex marriage, I was a little concerned as to what he considered were some of Otto’s accomplishments. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that all Peter mentioned was how his relative had ignored Hitler’s orders about razing Paris as the Germans were retreating and prefering to negotiate with the incoming Allied Forces for a civilised withdrawl. (Shame that doesn’t run in the family!)

What a man! Ignoring orders from your superiors as it becomes clear that they’re losing the war. Sort of reminds me of the Liberal backbench standing up to Tony over Bronwyn Bishop. That sort of thing shows great courage.

Medals all round, I say.

Nah, make it knighthoods. Not for Otto though. “I must not give foreigners knighthoods” was one of the conditions of him staying on as leader after his near death experience earlier this year.

* For those of you who watched “Mad Men”, does anyone else find that Peter Campbell reminds them of Christopher Pyne, or is it just me?

pyne campbell p



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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    Pyne Says No More Money is needed. Problem is Mr Pyne it is h. I will give y a hint. Read Gonski. You might just find out why the extra money isn’t working. Fund the child not the system. You will then get somewhere. Being proud to say have not read Gonski just tells one how thick you are. It is where you spend the money.

  2. Matters Not

    Noticed that Queensland students are ‘improving’ when looking at NAPLAN. Teachers working harder? Differently? Who knows? But one can be certain, that since Bligh introduced a ‘prep’ year and changed (raised) the school starting age the students, on average, are now 6 months older and probably more mature.

    Yet I saw on TV a commentator suggesting that other States should look at Queensland and see why the ‘improvement’ is happening.

    The simple fact is that students achieve at a higher level when they get older. In Russia starting age is six while in Finland it’s nearly seven.

    Perhaps we could raise the starting age to 10. Then we would seem significant improvements.

  3. Cassandra

    I worked for one of these private providers of education, the bosses leased nice new cars for themselves and paid themselves good wages but there were not enough desks for the students.

  4. diannaart

    My sister teaches maths and Science, specialising in Electronics, to years 9 – 11. She has been doing so for 4 years – successfully, however she is on a contract – not because she is providing temporary support for someone on leave – the position is vacant. Once again she is waiting to find out if her contract will be extended for another year.

    Security of tenure not only benefits teachers – it allows them to plan!, but also to students who know they will have continuity – a teacher they are familiar with and who is fully aware of each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Instead of more money being thrown every which way, except to students, teachers and schools – surely the Dept. of Education can ensure that teachers who have successfully completed a maximum 2 years, be given permanency?

  5. kizhmet

    The current arrangement which sees more government funding per student being paid to private schools annoys the hell out of me. A good education should be a right, NOT a priviliege. Research clearly shows students from public schools achieve better results in the first two years at University (can’t recall the sources) – why are we funding private schools?

    @ Matters Not – my birthday is in June. I had to repeat year 6 because, at 11.5yrs I was considered too young to advance to high school. Best thing that could have happened. I went from a ‘B’ average to a straight ‘A’ grade student and never looked back. Based on my personal experience I agree six months can make all the difference!

    There is not one minister in the current coalition government who has a clue about what is best for this country’s education, health, environment, disadvantaged etc etc etc. What are we paying them for?

  6. kerri

    It always amuses me that when talk turns to academic performance people look first to the teachers!!
    The teachers are not doing their job!! The job they get paid peanuts for, are forced to work long hours out of the classroom for and are never given any credit for when things go well!
    When students do well. We praise the student.
    When students do poorly. We blame the teachers.
    I would lay money down to bet those same teacher critics are the first to say, of their own little darlings, that it is not their fault the kids are uncontrollable? Honestly what do they teach them in school these days?
    It also incences me greatly that teachers are treated like children by the bureaucracy (eg: NAPLAN testing which is more about what teachers haven’t done than what students have) with threats to pay for results and constant piling on of bureaucratic pressures to force them to work harder! As soon as any government official enters the Education field they revert to punishing their minions in the way their teachers punished them.
    How about we recognise that teachers are a vastly underpaid force of dedicated paupers who are treated very poorly all round and rarely praised for working under difficult circumstances with the little darlings we all can’t wait to be rid of after the school holidays.
    Everyone has been to school, so everyone thinks they know how schooling works!
    Christopher Pyne needs to spend 1 year home schooling his little darlings without outside help and on a teachers wage before he can begin to speak with any authority about education.
    Here’s hoping after the next election he may get part of the opportunity to do just that!

  7. kerri

    And Matter Not, I did an Educational study at Uni on that very topic of late starts schooling looking at Sweden I think? And yes very effective to start later and possibly there would be more repsect for the teaching profession if parents had to spend 10 years amusing their kids before they get to dump them on someone else?
    When I left teaching to be a mum, other mums at Kinder were agonising over when to put their kid in school if their birthday was early in the year. My advice was that no child ever suffered from being held back a year.
    My own experience bore that out. My cousin who is 6months older than I was put up in school. I went to uni she worked in retail. The promotion was in recognition of a bright precocious girl but it ultimately damaged ger as she failed to keep up.

  8. Adrianne Haddow

    It would also help if the designers of the test looked at the curriculum and scope and sequence of learning of the children they are testing. Children are tested in the middle of the year, often on concepts that according to the curriculum scope and sequence will not be taught until the latter part of that year or stage.
    Also some of the questions are worded in such a way that they result in tricking the students. The obvious answer is not necessarily the correct answer. Children from non-English speaking backgrounds are often confounded by the fact that answers are based on inferential understanding of the text they are required to read or are culturally specific to white Australian students.
    The testing in NSW begins in Kindergarten with the Best Start round of testing before they have even begun formal learning. This means students who have not had the benefit of preschool or literate, switched- on parents often start school on an uneven playing field.

  9. Matters Not

    There is not one minister in the current coalition government who has a clue about what is best for this country’s education, health, environment, disadvantaged etc etc etc

    That’s a good situation. Ministers who claim to ‘know’ and want to interfere in the administration of Departments and Agencies are a real problem.

    Gillard, for example, wanted us to compete in international rankings (PISA for example) against some of the Asian nations (in many cases Asian cities), while having no understanding as to how their supposed ‘success’ is achieved. Such a goal was never going to be realised and would be an ‘educational’ disaster if we even tried and worse if we came close.

    As for:

    when talk turns to academic performance people look first to the teachers

    Indeed. If a football team is performing badly then the coach comes under the pump. Which is fair enough because football coaches have the luxury of ‘recruitment’ for the season and then ‘selection’ for a particular game. If teachers were able to select their students and decide who would compete (and those who wouldn’t partake) in particular tests or exams then they would have to shoulder the blame. But that’s not the case.

    The greatest predictor (not the only force at play) of educational success for any group of students is the socioeconomic location of the parent cohort. Look at the SES rating (ICSEA value) given to the school on the My School website and understand the reasons why.

    Gonski was all about funding students on that basis, broadly speaking.

  10. kerri

    Good points Matters Not! This has also been the power of the private school system. To simply expel kids who were not performing well. Easy task. Kids who can’t keep up often exhibit behavioural problems so expel them and the average performance improves. Footy coaches also have a heap more money to address training issues and of course there is always the financial penalty (to footballers) of not succeeding.
    Concepts often lost on young growing minds.
    Teaching kids who don’t want to be taught is by far one of society’s most difficult tasks. Telling parents the truth about their kids underperformance is also a very difficult task. Gonski would have gone a long way to solve these and other issues. Unfortunately the LNP believe in keeping the unwashed masses downtrodden and ill informed. Unfortunately some of those masses actually voted for them! Hopefully not again!

  11. Matters Not

    kids who don’t want to be taught

    Kids always want to learn but not necessarily what you want them to learn.

  12. stephentardrew

    And that is the burning question Matters Not.

    This assumption that somehow children are a fairly homogeneous lot is just stupidity. There are a variety of IQs and aptitudes in a whole range of axes of possibility that are, in a sense, evolutionary necessities as organisms experiment with diverse possibilities. We cannot predict the most adaptive strategies that is up to nature yet we cajole and label students based upon some fantasised norm that makes little sense. Evolution wants diversity while constrained uncreative societies want homogeneity.

    This whole productivity rubbish is going to have to change simply because mindless work is just that mindless. So machines take over as much of life is mechanised does not mean there are not going to be new pathways to satisfactory living. I have worked with troubled kids and they have hopes and desires like anyone else however the system, as it is set up, plays against their sense of difference and disillusionment with convention.

    We should be encouraging difference and diversity not trying to build safe little strait jackets to feed the corporate, financial, military industrial complex. A lot of these kids are marginalised and disenfranchised for a reason yet we think blind adherence to conformity is somehow going to resolve deeply felt emotional dislocation.

    Fear of difference and change is taken out on kids who do not, through no fault of their own, belong in a conformist system of conventional habituation. I know I was one and ended up in Nimbin and the alternative lifestyle movement. Most kids these days do not have that opportunity yet it should most definitely be there before they are abused and rejected as intellectual failures.

  13. Poselequestion

    Who is behind the company that operates the search vessel that TA throws money at, desperate for a “Mission Accomplished” moment? A cool $100 million so far and a dont spare the horses pledge from the man.

  14. Matters Not

    Yes Australia has committed $100 million to the search (6 Australian on board) while Malaysia has committed $40 million (38 Malaysians on board). China which lost the most lives (by a significant number with 152 on board) commits absolutely nothing.

    No wonder China agreed to a Free Trade Deal with Australia because it was clear to them we are mugs.

    The cost of these ‘photo opportunities’ and ‘sound bites’ are egregious.

    Stop this nonsense now!

  15. Lee

    Speaking of China screwing others, has anyone seen a doco on SBS called All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace? It’s a 3 part series and available on SBS On Demand.

    There’s a summary of each episode on Wikipedia and I think that a lot of the regulars on AIMN would find it very interesting. After watching the section on China playing the USA for mugs, our thoughts went immediately to the TPP.

    “However, in reality, to avoid a repeat of the earlier collapse, China’s Politburo had decided to manage America’s economy via similar techniques to those used by America on the other Far Eastern countries; by keeping China’s exchange rate artificially low, they sold cheap goods to America, and with the proceeds, had bought American bonds. The money flooding into America permitted massive loans to be available to those that would previously be considered too risky. The belief in America was that computers could stabilise and hedge the lending of the money. This permitted lending beyond the point that was actually sustainable. The high level of loan defaulting led ultimately to the 2008 collapse due to a similar housing bubble that the Far Eastern countries had previously faced.”

  16. abbienoiraude


    Thank you for your comment. Best on this subject.
    Difference is so loathed and vilified in this society.
    I had a ‘different’ child. She was ‘weird’ as in – ambitious, clever, flamboyant, eager, precocious, determined etc
    I was overwhelmed.
    Finally she was ‘tested’.
    Boy did she pay at 12 for being ‘different’ in a public school being raised by parents on DSP! Teachers expected her to be a drop kick failure being raised by us on ‘welfare’.
    Youngest to be accepted to Scientia programme. ( I baby sat other peoples children for 8 months to get the funds to get her to NSW Uni).

    Now at 36 she is finally ‘normal’ except her personality shines and fills a room.
    At 17 she got to Sydney Uni and did honours. She was hated there too. From country NSW working part time to top up Austudy and didn’t have mummy and daddy to help her as she negotiated living in a share house. Even her lecturer told her she would fail if she didn’t live at home!

    The ‘system’ hates children like our daughter. Conservatives are repulsed and scoffing. So it is not just one end of the spectrum Pyne has no idea about. Left up to him none of my 3 children could go to uni…
    Guess where our son is?
    Owns a primary school in South Korea.
    Result of no ‘networking’ that helped ignorant arses like Private School boys sitting on Govt front bench.

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