Page 2631 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005
that we are not doing as well as we should in areas such as year 5 writing. But I do not think there is a crisis in numeracy to the extent that Mrs Dunne would have us believe.
Students in Singapore do do very well in maths and science. The Hansard report of the estimates committee shows that I was trying to make the point that schools in Singapore are very different from schools in the ACT. I am told that they use very different techniques in their teaching. I have not visited Singapore yet. I was due to go there on 4 July but I have had to cancel that trip for personal reasons. My understanding is that the way in which students are taught, their freedom within the school and their freedom to make decisions about their education are not as flexible as they are here. Mrs Dunne may think that is a better way to teach but what I was trying to say is that we are teaching children in Australia who live in Australia. They do not live in Singapore, which I am advised is culturally a very different environment. Part of the reason I wanted to go over there was to check that.
Part of the difference in the curriculum approach is that in the ACT, in Australia and across the UK and America, for example, we are teaching our students to be critical thinkers. Again, this is the advice that I have been given. I am not a teacher. Mrs Dunne, I apologise if I said you are not a teacher and you are one. But my advice is that students are taught to be critical thinkers. No longer do you just read and accept what the teacher says. There is a different relationship. That is not the method of teaching in Singapore. My advice is that the tables turn if you measure Singaporean students against some areas other than maths and science. That will be part of my investigations in Singapore, which I will head off to when I can.
In relation to the essential learning achievements that Mrs Dunne talked about, there was a unanimous approach to the curriculum renewal process. Every single stakeholder who worked in curriculum across the ACT was involved in that. I have never seen a more positive approach to agreement to a single document in education than I saw to that curriculum document. This included people like Di Kerr, Geoff Joy, who headed up the Catholic Education Office, the chief executive of the Department of Education and Training, numerous curriculum experts and teachers, and representative of the AEU and the P&C. Everybody was involved in that document and everyone has been very excited about how that is being implemented in the schools. So I would certainly argue strongly against the idea that there is some crisis in curriculum and crisis in learning in our schools.
We are a couple of steps ahead of the Liberals on maths retraining. A couple of years ago we introduced a retraining program for primary school teachers wanting to teach in high schools. We paid for the training at the University of Canberra to upgrade their qualifications to become maths teachers. We are dealing with a national shortage of maths teachers. So for a couple of years we have been dealing with this and encouraging the retraining of maths teachers.
I do not think the issue of voluntary contributions is going to go away. We have put in place very strict measures around advice as to what schools can ask for and how they ask for those contributions. Members say that there is not enough funding within schools to offer courses but I should point out that school boards make decisions about school budgets. They have a school budget. School-based management payments are given to the school. The school board then determines how those payments are to be allocated.