Are our students REALLY that bad?

In his regular (excellent) column in The Age on Saturday, 19th April, veteran advertising guru Harold Mitchell made the following incisive comments:

“Australian high school students are now up to three years behind Asian students in maths, despite increased funding.

“25 per cent of year 9 students cannot read well enough for further learning.

“25 per cent of young people have mental health issues.

“Unemployment for young people is 21 per cent in some areas.

“(Australia) can’t win with figures like that.”

Money, it seems, is not the answer. There has been heaps of money thrown into the education pot over decades. But for what?

Harold Mitchell makes the point that “David Gonski had all the answers in his Gonski report on education …, but we’re not paying attention to him.”

Sad. Very sad.

Whether or not you agree with Gonski and his recommendations, there’s one thing we can ALL agree on, and that’s the importance of learning the basics, the fundamentals. Doing so makes progress — personal and national — possible. Without those fundamentals, we’ve had it!

In the same week, an article in the Herald Sun under the heading “Teacher Training the Top Priority” had the following intro paras . . . “Aspiring teachers face beefed-up training to raise the performance of Australian schoolchildren. Explicit training in the teaching of literacy and numeracy has been flagged for consideration.”

Has it REALLY come to this? Do we, ‘The Lucky Country’, have to eat humble pie, and actually ADMIT that our educational standards aren’t what they should be? I think so!

It’s hard to believe that a country with so much going for it, so many very clever and influential professionals working in the education space, simply aren’t “delivering the goods”.

Well, perhaps that’s unfair. Gonski certainly made a valuable contribution. But it seems that politicians have stepped in.

Now we have an enquiry or two. Doubtless that will set us back yet again.

And yet — teachers everywhere know what needs to be done. They’re just not allowed to do it!

When I was at school (in the late 1940s, no less), we chanted tables every morning for10 minutes. 10 minutes. Every morning, no less. AND we had to learn spelling words, and grammar. AND we had our Grade 5 Reader, packed full with worthwhile literature, classics. No full-colour, highly-attractive illustrations for us — just boring print. AND we had mental arithmetic. And we had to learn to calculate in pounds, shillings and pence — none of that decimal currency convenience for us!. But most of us — the vast majority — learnt to read, write and calculate quickly and accurately.

What’s gone wrong?

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Or is it?

We’re all part of the problem. And we CAN be part of the solution.

Those of us who are teachers are in a prime position to influence those decision-makers to start making RIGHT decisions for a change.

Decisions that will HELP TEACHERS TEACH.

Decisions that will have a positive effect of lifting educational standards in this country, not in 10 years, not in 5 years, but within a year or two.

It’s becoming increasingly urgent.

To ignore the signs is to ignore the potentially horrific consequences.

Let’s do it! Now!





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