Apparently, the Turnbull government is going to give a billion dollars to “help” education.
A billion dollars? Why that’s nearly as much as they’ve committed to a new icebreaker (which got a $1.9 billion “investment”).
In return, schools have to extensively test kids from the womb and report to parents. Also, there’s a plan to make it compulsory to study either maths or a science at Year 12. Personally, I’d rather make it compulsory for all students to study an Arts subject.
Not all students are suited to doing the Arts, I expect some of you are saying. But that’s just the point. By Year 12, most students have a pretty good idea of their abilities and interests. Forcing them to do a maths or science for another year won’t magically turn them into the sort of person who suddenly wants to do engineering.
If not Arts, then a compulsory Politics or Basic Accounting might be more useful at Year 12.
Whenever I hear politicians emphasise the need to get back to basics, I’m always intrigued by how they think schools work and what it would actually mean in practice. Of course, every now and then a spelling error from someone under the age of twenty will be used as evidence that all kids are “functionally illiterate” and we need to get back to concentrating on literacy and numeracy.
These calls are often led by Murdoch’s organisation. You know, the one that brings you “The Bolt Report”.
Now, I don’t know if you were “concious” of it when you looked at the text scrolling in that photo of the PM-in-waiting grinning harder than Malcolm “The Cheshire Cat” Turnbull, but there’s a spelling mistake. “Conscious” has an “s”… Ok, we can all make mistakes, but one would hope that if is a media organisation so concerned about the basic isn’t going to employ a proof-reader, they’d at least run their copy through some sort of spell check.
I’m not against efforts at improving the literacy and numeracy of students, but we need to actually focus on what works, not some slogan that suggests that everything was ok in those halcyon days when most students left school at fifteen. They were all perfectly able to do everything in those days. Why everyone got ten out ten for spelling and nobody ever got less than 110% on an arithmetic exam… A gentleman of a particular age tried to tell me that when he was at school, there were no classes for students who were underperforming as nobody was underperforming and, while he wasn’t a particularly good at spelling, that was irrelevant.
We get a strange idea of things because of fiction. It always intrigues me in films set pre-1850 when the hoi polloi write notes and letters to each other as most of them were illiterate. But then I always wonder why those cars in 1940’s movies start first go, when even into the sixties it often used to take a bit of fiddling with the choke to get it going in the morning. (“What’s a choke?” I hear some ask.)
Whatever the merits of some of the proposals that Turnbull is making a condition of the extra funding, I can’t help but wonder what politicians think students do at school. If they are suggesting that students should cease to do any collaborative work, place less emphasis on sport and creative, problem solving activities, then they’re out of step with just about everything I’ve read about what most reports tell us employers are seeking from employees. (Yes, I know that some Liberal supporter will be quoted in the paper as saying that the current generation are unemployable because they can’t place Botswana on a map, recite the kings and queens of England and spell “conscious”, but any actual report emphasises the need for skills beyond the “basics”.) Perhaps they think that schools shouldn’t waste any time on history and geography. Or perhaps it’s some of those controversial subjects on health education where sexual matters are sometimes a subject of concern because schools seem to want to suggest that some people will have different views and values. Yes, it’s a given that any sex ed has to go, but it wouldn’t free up much time in the curriculum.
So is Turnbull expecting that we abandon much of the curriculum in return for drilling kids in grammar, spelling and numeracy all day long? Or does he actually want to produce students capable of thinking and creating, trying new things and well…
There’s a word for it. You know, when people work and experiment to come up with new and improved ways of doing things. Um…
Oh that’s it: Innovation!
Now where have I heard that before?