Page 3414 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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MR SPEAKER: The member’s time has expired.


MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (6.23): Earlier today we had a discussion of a matter of public importance which was proposed by Mrs Dunne in which she raised the issue of the state of education in the ACT schools. The implication was that the state of education in ACT schools is not good, from pretty much everything that Mrs Dunne was saying.

I did rise to speak in that debate but, unfortunately, we ran out of time; so I want to raise a couple of points which were not really addressed. I would like to state at the outset that Mrs Dunne stated that the minister for education is herself a product of the sixties. That is indeed incorrect. I am a product of the sixties, having been born in 1969. I know Ms Gallagher is a year or two younger than I am; so she is in fact a product of the seventies.

Mr Pratt made quite a few comments and quoted quite considerably from Dr Kevin Donnelly’s book. I thought it would be interesting to point out that, while Dr Kevin Donnelly was being quoted as some great think-tank in education, Dr Donnelly is, in fact, a member of the right-wing section of the Victorian Liberal Party. He was the former chief-of-staff to Kevin Andrews. He failed in the last rounds of preselection for the seats of Kew and East Yarra. I understand he is sniffing around the seat of Kooyong to try to knock off Petro Georgiou.

Whilst he does have a doctorate in education—that is true—he has never been an academic in the field. His book Why our schools are failing is a right-wing rant against progressive education and education unions. It was published by the Menzies Centre. I understand that Malcolm Turnbull wrote the foreword to his book. While that does not necessarily take away from any of the ideas that he puts forward—he has every right to his own ideas—to quote him as an independent thinker on education and an expert would be erroneous and a little misleading, I would suggest.

Mr Pratt made a comment about this government having an issue with living up to national standards; we do not want to be meshed against national standards. I point out that there are only the numeracy and literacy benchmarks. The Chief Minister quite rightly pointed out that the students in this jurisdiction continually top and outstrip the national average in that regard.

It is very important to point out the terms of the issues that Mrs Dunne was raising with regards to curriculum. I was fascinated to hear Piaget being raised. I have not heard that name for quite a few years, since I did my teaching qualification. At the moment, we have no territory-wide curriculum. What we have in the ACT is a school-based curriculum. What is being proposed with the curriculum that has been put forward by the department is a territory-wide framework which will not necessarily take away from the school-based curriculum but will add a rigour that is saying that in most instances we do better than the rest of the country and that in a lot of instances we are up there with the rest of the world. That does not mean we cannot strive for more. And that is what the department of education, under the leadership of this government, is trying to do.

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