-- R.G. Menzies
LIBERTARIAN/CONSERVATIVE DIGEST AND COMMENTARY FROM AN ACADEMIC PSYCHOLOGIST in Brisbane, Australia. My academic publications are widely read
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More deliberate ignorance from the Left
It's been known for years that PISA results are a pretty good proxy for IQ but Leftists hate anything that contradicts their "all men are equal" fantasy. So differencres below that are largely reflective of IQ are explained in all sorts of other bullshit ways -- not enough money being spent being the front runner, as usual.
The two main differences highlighted below are both an example of IQ effects: East Asians are brighter than we are and poor people and their children are a lot less bright than top earners and their children. That's why the poor are not top earners. Awful stuff to say, I know, but that is the reality -- and disliking reality won't change it
Most of the remaining variance in educational results is probably due to teaching methods. Australian classrooms are still very low discipline and permissive and that can have a very depressing effect on educational results. Bringing back corporal punishment for disruptive students would undoubtedly bring standards back up to what they once were
Another bit of bullshit below is the call for "high quality early childhood education". Have none of these galahs heard of America's "Head Start" program? It's been going for many years with nil results. It's kept going mainly as a child-minding service
Spare a thought for Australia's 15-year-olds. If they don't have enough to contend with, between the immediate demands of Snapchat and a future of robots stealing their jobs, now they have to bear the brunt of a nation's slighted pride.
The latest PISA results are out, and they are not good.
What PISA says about Australian schools
The major global test of student achievement reveals just how far Australian high school students are behind their peers in the world's best performing countries.
The real-life problem-solving skills of Australia's teenagers are declining in the fields of maths, science and reading, according to the global Programme for International Student Assessment that's taken by over half a million 15-year-olds.
Australian students have gone backwards relative to their international peers, but also relative to Australian 15-year-olds in 2000 when PISA started.
This has implications for literally everything, from the way we fund schools, to our future competitiveness in the global innovation economy, to the way we market ourselves as a major exporter of quality higher education to the world.
The data churned out by PISA is rich and deep, and education experts will be wading through it for years to come. Rather like the postmortem of an election, interested parties can slice and dice the data in many ways to find evidence to back their preferred argument.
So the federal education minister Simon Birmingham will quite reasonably point out that at a systemic level we have record levels of funding, but that money hasn't led to improved results.
But Labor, who suspects the government of sophistry to justify not funding the full Gonski, will see confirmation of why it introduced needs-based funding in the first place.
Researchers will point out that the money has often not been going where it would make the most difference.
Some will blame teachers, or the shortage of qualified maths teachers, or the education unions, who themselves will point out that our culture undervalues teachers compared with high-performing countries like Singapore and South Korea. And places a higher burden of paperwork on them.
And some will argue with the ref: questioning the cultural bias or methodology or legitimacy of the test.
One problem with that, though. Countries reasonably comparable to Australia did better than us, like Canada and Ireland. (Even though some are sliding backwards too.)
The international league tables get the headlines – can we really have been beaten in maths by obscure upstarts like Estonia? Poland? Vietnam? And, god help us, New Zealand?
But there's actually a bigger problem than being worse at maths, reading and science than literally all of east Asia.
It's buried in the Results by Student Background part of the report.
If you compare Australian students in the top and bottom quarter by their parents' socio economic background, the bottom 25 per cent are on average three years of schooling behind the top 25 per cent.
That's in all three tested areas in PISA: scientific, mathematical and reading literacy. And it means that a kid born poor, by no fault of their own, is on average getting a far crappier education than a kid born rich. The achievement gap is almost as bad for indigenous kids.
You don't need to smash your PISA results to see that's deeply unfair, and a waste of human potential.
As Dr Sue Thomson from the Australian Council for Education Research points out, we're just not dealing with the equity gap.
"I was quite saddened to look at that data," she said. "There's no difference over 16 years of reading, 13 years of maths – no changes. We are still not attending to those gaps."
So why is this everyone's problem? If you're not moved by the fairness argument, try broad self-interest.
The PISA results deal in averages.
"The deterioration in Australia's performance is because we now have more low performing students and fewer high performing students," as Dr Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre for Independent Studies said.
So just leaving the bottom quartile to languish drags the whole system down, and that impacts on everyone.
But there is no future in promoting anti-elitism in the name of egalitarianism, either.
We have to do both: improve Australia's results by lifting the bottom end, as well as the top. An OECD report from 2012 revealed that the world's best-performing education systems actually have both high quality and high equity, or access for all.
As for the top end, most of the states have a gifted and talented education policy, but there's virtually no systemic investment or resources to back it. That needs action. Needs-based funding should extend to the needs of high-potential kids too.
As for the bottom, the evidence suggests two things will make the most difference. Systemic investment in universal high quality early childhood education; and needs-based funding.
So the policy debate circles back to Gonski. A genuine sector-blind, needs-based funding model would distribute government funding by metrics of student need, with additional loading for remote and regional schools, disabled students, indigenous students and low SES students, wherever they are at school.
If there is to be no more money than the government has already committed for school funding, then that means one thing: redistributing the funding available on a more effective and equitable basis.
But there's logic, and then there's political reality. The school funding debate is at a stalemate.
The country's education ministers have their work cut out for them at COAG next week.
By JR on Tuesday, December 13, 2016
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