Weekly Wrap: July 4, 2019

04 July 2019

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the education sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.


Australia wants to sell HSC [Higher School Certificate], VCE [Victorian Certificate of Education] to the world

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australia plans to promote the Higher School Certificate and Victorian Certificate of Education as rivals to Britain's A-levels as part of a new push to export its education expertise to the lucrative international school market. Despite high regard for the quality of Australia's education system and growing demand from Asia, the country's curriculum, assessment and regulatory material is offered in only 89 overseas schools, a 0.01 per cent slice of the market. Victoria is the biggest exporter of education products and expertise, servicing more than 30 overseas schools, according to a report by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for the federal education department. New South Wales and other states - except Tasmania and the Northern Territory - service between eight and 14 schools abroad between them. In comparison, 495,000 students from across 130 countries sit Britain's AS and A level exams. The NESA report put the case for exporting Australian education products. A tender has now gone out to identify opportunities in the market.

New tool targets the whole student

The Australian reports that a new classroom assessment tool means teachers could soon be able to better diagnose which students risk falling behind and which should be fast-tracked. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority has revealed that work has started on a major recommendation to come from last year’s Gonski education review, which could transform the way students are monitored and assessed. Providing teachers with a new online formative assessment tool is part of a broader push away from marking students only on their knowledge — using the traditional A-E grading system — to also considering the amount of progress they make in their learning over a period of time. It is part of a push away from the current year-based curriculum, which assigns students to a particular classroom according to their age. A key part of the project, which is being led by Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation executive director Jenny Donovan, will be to define specific “learning progressions”.

How will schooling change over the next 10 years?

An article in Teacher asks, what are some pressing issues that Australian educators are likely to face over the next decade? What will classrooms look like in 10 years? And, what role will artificial intelligence have in changing the ways schools operate? Professor Neil Selwyn from the Faculty of Education at Monash University is an expert on digital education. His current research projects include writing on artificial intelligence, automation, data-driven education and digital education futures. He says that, in some ways, the issues that educators are likely to face are the same that they’ve been tackling for the past decade. Selwyn also says that schools are going to be facing many of the same issues that Australia is going to face more broadly – like climate change, dealing with changing demographics and developing schooling to fit the needs of indigenous and migrant populations. But Selwyn says there are likely to be some new challenges as well.

Getting the best people in front of the classroom

According to the Financial Review, improving school education is an economic imperative as much as a social one. Australia’s national report card reads “must do better”. Education is one of the easiest of university courses to get into. About one in ten graduating teachers fail a test designed to show that their literacy and numeracy skills are in the top 30 per cent of the population. Also too many new teachers say they were not taught the capabilities they need to manage a classroom, or the skills to teach evidence-based approaches such as phonics. Strengthening initial teacher education (ITE) is an agreed national priority. But ITE reform has a long history, so education ministers should build on what is already underway rather than starting new. After a major review in 2014, the Commonwealth government tightened the accreditation requirements for ITE courses and implemented the national literacy and numeracy test described above. In 2019, a new “teaching performance assessment” is being trialled which requires graduating students to demonstrate that they have the practical skills and knowledge to succeed in the classroom.

Banning mobile phones in schools: beneficial or risky? Here’s what the evidence says

According to The Conversation, Victorian education minister James Merlino’s announcement that mobile phones will be banned for all students at state primary and secondary schools is certainly a bold move. The policy has been justified as a direct response to mounting levels of cyberbullying, concerns over distractions and schools struggling with discipline relating to students’ misuse of phones. The Victorian announcement follows a French government ban on mobiles in school in 2018. Debates on the issue are also taking place in Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. There is considerable public support for banning mobiles. In a recently conducted survey of more than 2,000 Australian adults, nearly 80 per cent supported a ban on mobile phones in classrooms. Just under one-third supported an outright ban from schools altogether. But while banning phones from classrooms, and from school altogether, might seem sensible, there are number of reasons to be cautious. Previous experience, such as in New York, suggests a blanket ban might introduce even more problems. And the little research evidence that addresses the issue is mixed.

Rise of the “social media teacher”: the ups and downs of being “edu-famous”

An article published by Monash University reports that many of the issues arising from the increased use of digital technology in schools aren’t particularly new. For example, current calls to ban smartphones from schools often forget that this isn’t the first time that students have been distracted in class. Similarly, issues of cyberbullying and online cheating are certainly not novel behaviours. However, the rise of the “social media teacher” is a good example of how digital culture is causing shifts in education that very few experts might have predicted 20 years ago. A recent piece in the Sydney Morning Herald gives a good illustration of recent trends. It describes the rise of what might be termed the “teacher-influencer” – in particular the growing number of primary school teachers using Instagram to showcase their classrooms to a wider online audience. Examples such as these highlight the phenomenon of a new generation of teachers who are now bona fide “micro-celebrities” within the world of education. In internet terms, these are “edu-famous” individuals with tens of thousands of followers.

Why special assistance schools are in demand

According to The Educator, in April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a royal commission into disability to address long-standing systemic issues around the treatment of Australia’s most vulnerable people. Throughout Australia’s schools, this issue has caused consternation among principals who are concerned about how they can provide sufficient support and safeguards for these students. In 2018, Queensland’s private schools enrolled 11,862 students with a disability, representing 19 per cent of the sector’s student population. Most of these students attend mainstream independent schools although more than 8,000 attend one of the 121 special schools in the sector. About 1 in 10 of Queensland’s 212 independent schools is now accredited as a Special Assistance School (SAS), according to Independent Schools Queensland.

Foxtel and Screen Australia announce new series Money School

A media release from Screen Australia has announced a new four-part documentary series from producer Essential Media with best-selling author and media commentator Scott Pape, also known as the Barefoot Investor – Money School. Premiering on Foxtel in early 2020, Money School follows behind the scenes as Scott launches a financial revolution that he hopes will change the nation – starting with kids in school. Scott has created a brand-new money education program for primary and secondary schools, based on his best-selling books, which he hopes to eventually roll out to every school in Australia – beginning with a number of pilot schools this year. The Barefoot Money Movement has received an overwhelming response since its launch in May, with 8991 principals and teachers supporting the initiative, and over 2000 schools, or one in five of all Australian schools, applying to be part of the program.

How schools can help students kick bad food habits

According to The Educator, Flinders University researchers have found that promoting substitution is the answer to turn around children’s excessive consumption of nutrient-poor foods and beverages – resulting in nutritional benefits that are even better than reducing intake of these discretionary food and drink choices. Research shows 81 per cent of Australian children are not meeting physical activity guidelines, compounding an issue that is already top of mind for schools and parents – childhood obesity. Another survey found that 57.6 per cent of parents are concerned children may struggle to maintain a healthy weight in life and be at risk of serious disease (51.2 per cent) as a result of poor food choices. Researchers from Flinders University recently studied the impact on the energy and nutrient intakes of more than 2000 Australian two to 18-year-olds through simulations of three dietary strategies.

Irlen syndrome, the condition medical experts say doesn't exist, promoted to school teachers

The ABC News reports that tinted lenses are often proposed as the treatment for a controversial medical condition. Available in all the colours of the rainbow, the glasses are synonymous with Irlen syndrome, described as "a visual perceptual problem". The only problem is, according to most medical experts, Irlen syndrome does not exist. Last year, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) came out strongly against Irlen syndrome, saying that there was no evidence the condition existed or the treatment of reading difficulties with Irlen lenses worked. In its position paper, RANZCO methodically dispelled the reasons why anecdotal evidence from parents showed Irlen lenses working. Yet information and treatment for Irlen syndrome continues to make its way into schools, raising questions around who is sharing information with educators on medical conditions and learning disabilities.


Schools to teach pupils about perils of fake news and catfishing (United Kingdom)

The Guardian reports that guidance on teaching online safety in schools to make children more resilient to catfishing, fake news and other online harms has been announced by the education secretary. The guidelines will combine teaching on relationships, citizenship and computing to help students understand the technology behind targeted advertising, false profiles and other digital issues. The guidance, which is non-statutory, will advise schools to teach students about how URLs are made and what an IP address is, as well as how companies make targeted adverts through tracking behaviour and how someone can create a fake profile. The culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, also expressed commitment to implementing the UK Government’s Online Harms White Paper and vowed to create a regulator that would impose sanctions on tech companies failing to abide by a code of practice.

Education around consent, sexual violence and pornography “inconsistent” in New Zealand (New Zealand)

According to Stuff, students have searched for pornography on New Zealand school networks 300,000 times in one month, the Ministry of Education has revealed. The figure was raised by the ministry's Pauline Cleaver at a meeting of the Education and Workforce Committee, where Wellington High School student Lauren Jack's petition to provide better, more inclusive sex education in schools was discussed. Cleaver said physical/biological/puberty aspects were "well covered" in compulsory health and PE curriculums, however the ministry was "concerned" some students were missing out on full coverage. Some teachers were "ill-equipped" or not confident discussing issues like consent, sexual violence and the harmful effects of pornography. At present, schools were "overwhelmed" with "competing information" from 109 external sex education providers, whose services were "inconsistent", Cleaver said. Schools also held "conflicting views" about what topics should be taught as part of sex education. Current legislation means boards of trustees can consult with communities every two years on what they want to see taught, and make decisions from there.

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