Thursday, 6 December 2007
The Education Debate
Julia Gillard has blamed the Howard government for Australia slipping on the international league table of student outcomes.
Blame is a waste of time, but I’m feeling encouraged simply by the fact that education is where it should be - at the centre of national political debate. If the new government does nothing else, getting it up front is an accomplishment.
Back in the nineties, When Borbridge was in power in Queensland, there was an initiative called “Leading Schools”. It was decided that the best way to improve schools was to make them self managing. Schools were offered extra cash to sign up, and many did, especially high schools. At the same time as this was happening, research was commissioned which was supposed to show that self-managed schools would get better results for students. When the research was completed a few years later, it showed absolutely no correlation between how schools were managed and results for students. What it did show was a strong link between teacher performance and student results. “Leading Schools” was abandoned after two years.
This is a long winded way of showing that the best way of improving results for students is by improving teacher performance. So far, no administration has tackled this, except for the ill-considered notion of performance pay for teachers which has been shown time and again to be counter-productive.
Some suggestions from a teacher since 1968 -
Increase teacher pay by 25% immediately.
Transfer any teacher who has been on the same class or in the same school for more than three years to another teaching posting.
Mandate - by affirmative action - a minimum of 25% male teachers at every school.
Put the best teachers on the most difficult classes.
Fine parents whose children are suspended for bad behaviour - $1000 a throw.
Make TE scores for teachers 5 or better.
Mandate a post graduate qualification for all newly graduating teachers.
Introduce a statewide internship programme, so that graduating teachers spend their last year of training in schools day by day - same as medical graduates.
Provide realistic bonuses for teachers who work in difficult and challenging situations. I’m talking thousands monthly.
Make teacher registration dependent on continuing study - in other words, if you’re not studying, you can’t teach.
The unions would probably accept this conditional on the first suggestion (the pay rise).
I’d give it five years, and you’d see major improvements. Let’s see what Rudd does once the Trojan Horses (the laptops) are sorted.
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