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Gillard’s Education Policies – helping drop-out rates, rewarding teachers

11 August, 2010

Well, it took a while in this election campaign, but finally Gillard’s Labor have released their education promises.  With Federal Government taking a very big interest in the education system – more than any that I can personally remember! – it’s interesting that it’s taken so long for this to come out – what with the election a mere could of weeks away and all.

The big plan seems to be getting schools on board with the idea that money is tied to basic student responsibilities – that is, attending school, literacy and numeracy and the like.

It’s a nice big carrot, too – primary schools get a nice $75000 based on attendance, literacy and numeracy; where high schools get a cool $100000 based on attendance, retention and student outcomes (uni, training or work).

Further along the money promises, Labor would plan to give a 10% bonus to the top 10% of teachers.  And, Gillard said that an Australian Baccalaureate would be introduced, alongside the existing senior qualifications.  This would allow Australian subjects, as opposed to the International Baccalaureate (which, as you might guess, doesn’t), and would be the subject of prestige.

It sounds very good, of course – and it should.  I wonder how workable it is, though.  The first idea, tying grants to improvement, sounds good – of course, it’ll only be a matter of time before a way to rort that system is found, but hopefully if that happens, the grants will have done their jobs.  I wonder, though, how many schools are actually trying to get students to stay away from school – it seems likely to me that without any other changes, it’s a plan that will fail, awarding to grants to schools based on a particularly good year level, for instance.

The second idea, I’m curious about, if only because I have no idea how one would measure the top 10% of teachers.  One need only look at Facebook to see how many pages established about schools have best and worst teacher lists – and how many teachers wind up on both lists.  Even more, teachers are generally exceptional at particular things: one teacher may be good at getting disruptive students to still pay attention, another may be good at getting gifted and talented students a chance to shine.  Sure, there are teachers who obviously don’t make the cut, but I struggle to see how a system can be practically implemented that can establish who the top 10% are.

The idea of an Australian Baccalaureate should, in my opinion, be expanded upon.  We simply don’t have enough information to decide whether this is a good idea or not.

In short: I’m glad that Gillard is paying attention to education; I’m concerned to see how these policies will be implemented.  If implemented, I certainly hope that these policies are able to be well-resourced – that is, for this scheme to work, part of the money needs to go into providing people to do the extra work.

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