Page 3384 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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can be improved. That is the aim of this MPI. In fact I listened to the Chief Minister speak for seven minutes about how we had apparently bagged out education. He spent seven of his 15 minutes ranting on about the opposition bagging out education. So much for his benchmark speech! It was full of padding!

The current government is doing little to resolve the deep-seated problems that we see in the public education system, not only the standards of education themselves but the culture in which that education is delivered. I want to address both of these issues in my speech this afternoon.

If we look at the concerns of Kevin Donnelly, a noted educationalist, about our national curriculum-based education system, we see there are some serious faults in this approach. Donnelly says:

First, we need to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and make sure that they are not repeated. Instead of adopting education “fads” like “whole language” and “fuzzy maths” we need rigorous, academic standards.

Instead of destroying history and literature by reducing education to a child-centred, process approach we need to identify essential knowledge, understanding and skills that all students have the right to learn.

He goes on to say:

Second, we need to identify “best practice” in terms of what is happening internationally. Academics and teachers in the USA argue, to be successful, that curriculum should:

Be related to specific year levels instead of covering a range of years;

Acknowledge the central importance of the academic disciplines;

Be benchmarked against the world’s best equivalent documents;

Incorporate high stakes testing and remove students’ rights to be automatically promoted from year to year—

in other words, go through the gate before a student then progresses to the next level of education—

Be specific, easily understood and measurable.

That is what Donnelly says about curriculum. In fact, I would say that his arguments have a lot of merit. I would challenge this government to take notice of those and to add those to the mix.

In the ACT, for example, in budget paper 4, page 389, in “Strategic indicators—student performance”, we read that ACT students “participate in the Trends International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)”. We also read that ACT students “consistently achieve high levels in reading, writing and numeracy assessments against national benchmarks”. That is what TIMSS says. Yet if we look at this performance against international benchmarks, as opposed to just national ones, we see that things could certainly be improved.

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