Page 2352 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

into our primary schools. One hour a week for all students is not going to deliver much in the way of cultural awareness and understanding, unless it is very well taught, and it is going to deliver almost nothing in terms of language proficiency; yet language is one of the key learning areas in our curriculum documents. In that context, I am quite disappointed with the ACT curriculum framework which seems to cover civics exhaustively, at the expense of and short-changing culture, language and perhaps environmental understanding.

Canberra is well placed to lead Australia in regard to languages, but we are reluctant to go down that path. It is worth noting that the Australian Primary Principals Association has dug its heels in, in the face of a perceived overcrowding of the curriculum, for which I would read “the unreasonable expectation of social engineering foisted on teachers and schools by governments”, most recently the Howard government, “and ill-informed panic about supposedly poor literacy and numeracy standards”.

The response seems to have been to try to limit their requirements to literacy, numeracy, history and sport. In that process, language has been put in the too-hard basket; also, the arts, music and other areas where students who are otherwise not doing well at school might excel with the flow-on effects that that has on their other learning areas. I urge the ACT government to work around such resistance.

Also on primary schools, the other area that primary teachers are now calling out for support in is the arts. While and when the Chief Minister, off his own bat, hands out education money to engage his favourite arts education companies, can I suggest he look out for those who can spend a lot of time in primary schools providing stimulating, diverse experiences for the students and supporting their classroom teachers in learning how to work creatively across the art forms.

There are a couple of extra points I would like to add. The first relates to my mention earlier of fine facilities in wonderful new prisons. In this case, wonderful new schools are not going to solve the problem alone. As you know, I am concerned about the emphasis on building very large new schools, with a whole lot of levels of areas. I have not been convinced by any of the research that I have read that that is the way to go. It may be a resource-effective way to go.

I am sure that in many ways the schools do have terrific advantages for some teachers, in that there is a very broad range of collegiate professionalism. They are beaut new schools, with the latest equipment. But it worries me a great deal that those schools have to be reached by buses or they require children to be driven to school. And we know that we are entering a carbon-constrained time and, with oil price rises, it is going to be expensive. I am very concerned that we do not have the public transport to get kids to school. The kids who used to walk to school and ride to their local schools now do not do that.

There is a very interesting letter in the paper today, and I am sure you all read it, about a woman who does not have a car—oh, my God, in Canberra! Yet it happens. Her bus has been changed because of the changed ACTION network. She is one of the casualties. “Now,” she says, “we walk a lot.” (Second speaking period taken.)

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .