Saturday, March 03, 2007

bishop's pawns

Just now over Adele Horin, I choked on my toast.

The big problem is not whether we have too little narrative in history and too much critical analysis, or study too many movies in English and too little Shakespeare. It is not even that students moving states have to adapt to different curriculum demands, although that is tough. The big problem is the educational divide between the haves and have-nots. The Federal Government will not talk about it because its funding policy for private schools has exacerbated the divide. Labor won't talk about it - not after Mark Latham's "hit list" of elite schools went down so badly last time.

Course she's right, I realised. A national curriculum is essentially irrelevant when the achievement gap exists for socioeconomic reasons. So I've fallen right into the trap of engaging with the Liberal Party's strawman on education! Horin puts her finger on the real areas of crisis:
What is needed is a serious commitment to early intervention programs and to free preschool in disadvantaged areas, extra school funding and specialised teachers for low-achieviing students to help them meet state - or national - curriculum standards.

And I'd really like to see Bishop's truthful answer to this statistic from Horin:
Despite the impression the Federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, gives of poor national academic attainment, our students on average are high performers. Comparing results in 27 OECD countries, our 15-year-olds on average ranked second in literacy, sixth in mathematics, and fourth in problem-solving in international tests taken in 2000 and 2003.

Horin's right, it needs to be reframed. It's about the need to compensate for disadvantage.
The Coalition cannot get away with claiming curriculum is a national issue but funding schools to meet the challenge is a state matter. Labor must acknowledge many private schools are overfunded and many public schools are underfunded. It does not mean you need a "hit list". It does mean policies and resources should favour the long tail of underperformers, and start in poor communities from a child's birth.

Still, it's hard not to engage with the Government's ideological attacks on teaching. I feel they are based on absurd arguments that need to be challenged.
So back to my toast...