Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Prime Minister's

long awaited response to the Gonski Report was delivered yesterday - and sounded like a damp squib.
For those of you outside Downunder the "Gonski Report" is the report into education funding which was commissioned by the present Federal Government. Naturally the person they chose to write it is someone who shares the political leanings of the government - although I doubt it was quite what the government expected.
Nevertheless it can be summed up along the lines of "we need to spend a lot more money on public education".
The Senior Cat, who was once the principal of one of the largest and most difficult schools in the state, has been following this story. I am a former teacher. I have been following it. I know others who have been following the story too.
We all agree that more money would be nice but we also believe that money will not solve the present or future problems. They are going to need a change of philosophy.
The Senior Cat went to school in the days when class sizes of 50 or more were standard. There was the Qualifying Certificate at the end of primary school. It was stiff examination which decided whether you went to a high school (grammar school) or technical high school (secondary modern).  There was also the Intermediate, the Leaving and the Leaving Honours (sub old fashioned O level, O level and a sort of sub-A level). You could actually go to university after the Leaving - and some did.
By the time I was at school the class sizes were down to about 45 in the primary but still around 50 in high school. There was the Progress Certificate rather than the Qualifying Certificate - and yes, it was easier. You did it over the last two years of primary school.  There were still high schools and technical high schools and the same examinations there.
Now there is no examination at the end of the state primary schools although some fee paying schools do have examinations. There is merely a Year 12 certificate or "the Matric" at the end of high school. A lot of that is internally assessed. Class sizes are less than half of what they once were.
Yes there is more to teach but the Senior Cat has serious questions about what is being taught. He says you need a basic set of skills in order to be able to learn other things. You need to be able to read and write with confidence. You need to know and understand basic number facts in order to go on to other concepts. You need basic social skills before you can "negotiate". He says a school should not be seen as a place where you are constantly entertained.
Others agree with him. They do not necessarily want to return to class sizes of 50 plus but they do want to see a return to teaching and learning the skills that will allow children to go on learning.
There was nothing really said about that. I suspect it would not be popular. Teachers pay lip service to it but many of them do not want to be faced with that challenge. It is hard enough to keep their young charges entertained.

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