Tag Archives: declining standards

Why Primary Teachers Deserve — a Fair Break!

Robin Pic

Once upon a time there was a curriculum — Maths, English, etc. — in primary schools that clearly set out a standard towards which all students should strive.

Sure, some students would well and truly exceed that standard, while others would struggle, but, under the teacher’s guidance, do the very best they could with what they had!

But, today, what do we have?

Some pretty books, some whiz-bang technology, some amazingly-equipped buildings, and heaps of kids who don’t know their tables!

Oh, yes, and we have homework sheets galore that seem to challenge parents and students alike.

Maybe the old ways weren’t so bad!

Maybe a solid curriculum that DEMANDS students and teachers to stretch, to challenge themselves without having to design and redesign their particular school’s approach to the learning essentials, would be a GREAT THING for all.

But, maybe that’s just Pollyanna stuff!

We’ve done our bit, with our interest-packed homework and worded problem sheets.

But teachers and schools need to be given permission, and a concrete curriculum, that actually makes teaching more manageable for all.

Better outcomes would be the ASSURED result!

And isn’t that what we ALL want?

Primary Teachers — WHY TEACH MATHS as though it’s yesteryear?

Why do we teach maths these days as though nothing has changed in the past 50 years? It’s almost embarrassing!

BECAUSE . . . SO MUCH HAS CHANGED!

Whereas in the past, our teaching resources were the product of time-consuming publishing regimes and deadlines, the technology of today has changed all that!

Maths lessons today can be centred around the REAL WORLD — the world in which students and teachers alike are living in each day.

And WHY NOT!

So that’s why anyone worth their salt is looking around for teaching resources that actually RELATE to today’s world.

Such things DO exist!

Just look for them.

And if you need help finding such valuable teaching stuff, just leave a comment at the foot of this blog.

We can help!

Oops! I forgot to teach that!

With technology in everyone’s pocket these days, it’s a temptation to think that children know far more than they actually do!

Mr Google, that wonderful machine, is never far away.

And Cirri is there, ever present, to answer their every need. Well, almost!

But we teachers have to see through this mist, this subterfuge, and use our special “teacher-detector-facility” to get to the bottom of the reality — that many children these days can cope with the superficial stuff — the research (copy and paste), the investigation (group work and so-called “teamwork”), the tests in which students can take in with them texts, cheat sheets, calculators that have the capacity to land a person on the moon . . .

And yet they can’t give you change from $10 without a machine telling them how much to give.

Yes, sure, things have changed. But is that change better?

To be sure, in some ways it is. The English curriculum has done it well! It is a prime example of an approach, relatively recently adopted, that GENUINELY teaches students how to express themselves, how to identify manipulation in texts and newspaper columns, how to present their arguments in public in a competent, interesting and fluent manner.

Great! But, Maths?

Are we preparing our students, not just for a career, but for a life in which calculations are a daily necessity?

Maybe not!

Another look at the curriculum, perhaps?

Here’s hoping!

Who Teaches Maths Best — Schools or McDonalds?

Sometimes the so-called “experts” get in the way.
And that’s ESPECIALLY true in education.
Spelling standards? Out the window!
Grammar? What’s that?
Tables mastery? Oh, so boring!
Automatic response? Why? We have calculators and iPads to do that!

Well, some of us think that this is a tragedy! A REAL tragedy.

We’re TRYING to do something about it through our website.

But, really and truly, it’s up to “the experts” to reverse the trends, to remedy their ways, to reform the curriculum so that it actually addresses some of the weaknesses that are so GLARINGLY OBVIOUS to anyone who cares to check.

SO . . . Good on McDonalds for training the teenagers working for them. For enforcing standards of work and efficiency and honesty and reliability and . . . I could go on!

May our schools take on some of the McDonalds attitudes and values. Not a popular thought, but a GREAT one!

Thanks, McDonalds!

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!