Thursday, May 31, 2007

Attempt to destroy the unique Oxford University system underway

Fabulous success must be levelled down

Funding reforms will put at risk the one-to-one tutorials in Oxford colleges, according to dons and students. They say that the proposals risk turning the university into a two-tier system. The row over the change in funding rules comes after John Hood, the vice-chancellor, was defeated last year when dons threw out his plans to hand the strategic control of the university to business and political outsiders.

In a letter to undergraduates, union representatives from 23 colleges are urging the student body to reject the funding plans, which could come into effect in October next year. Under the joint resource allocation mechanism, the university will distribute government money “as earned” between departments and colleges, so that research-intensive colleges receive more. Colleges will also be compensated for taking more graduates and overseas students.

The students’ college representatives say that poorer colleges, such as St Catherine’s, Keble, Hertford and Pembroke, will lose funding to richer colleges and face having to cut their distinctive one-to-one tutorial system. This will be divisive, they say, splitting the university between the rich and poor colleges.

“Richer ‘mixed’ colleges such as St John’s and Christ Church, while subject to the same incentives to turn to research, will be rich enough to subsidise their tutorial systems,” they wrote. “The evident result of some colleges maintaining the tutorial system, while others are forced to move to classroom-based teaching, is that Oxford will fragment.” Since 1998 colleges and departments have shared out the government block grant, based partly on research and partly on student numbers, so that no college should suffer. Oxford wants to change the system to reward research. Donald Hay, the chairman of the funding committee for the new system, said that it was being phased in over a decade and that the university would subsidise tutorials.


Weak testing methods mask educational failings

Good marks from one source can't disguise Australia's falling standards of education, writes Kevin Donnelly. The PISA assessments are very undemanding

HOW well are Australian students performing? Based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment test, they appear to be doing very well. The results of the 2000 literacy test ranked Australia second out of 32 countries and in 2003 only four countries outperformed our 15-year-old students in mathematics. Groups with a vested interest in arguing that all is well, such as the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council for Educational Research, quote the results in their submissions to the Senate inquiry into education standards as evidence that there is no crisis.

Wrong. While the PISA test reflects favourably on Australian students, it is open to a number of criticisms. As argued by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute in its Senate inquiry submission, the PISA test "is not a valid assessment of mathematics knowledge, as only a fragment of the curriculum is tested".

The outstanding performance of Australian students in the PISA literacy test is also open to doubt, as students did not lose marks for faulty spelling, grammar and punctuation. If our students had been corrected, many would have failed as, in the words of one researcher, "It was an exception rather than a rule in Australia to find a student response that was written in well-constructed sentences, with no spelling or grammatical error."

A second measure of the performance of Australian students is the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study carried out in 1995, 1999 and 2003 and involving up to 46 countries. These tests assess essential mathematics and science knowledge. Australian students in Years 4 and 8, while doing well, are in the second XI as measured by TIMSS and are consistently outperformed by countries such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

In more successful overseas education systems, more students achieve at the highest level. In the 2003 TIMSS science test, only 9per cent of Year8 Australian students performed at the advanced level, compared with 25 per cent from Taiwan and 15 per cent from Japan and England. In mathematics, only 7 per cent of Australian Year8 students performed at the advanced level, compared with 44 per cent of students in Singapore. There is also a significant gap in Australia between better performing and less able students. Successful countries overseas are able to get more children to perform at the higher end of the scale, while Australia has a long tail of underperformers.

Further proof is found in a US report by the American Institutes for Research, published on April 24. While acknowledging the difficulties in terms of methodology and making comparative judgments, the report interprets the TIMSS Year8 test results in the light of the expected levels of performance (basic, proficient and advanced) as measured by the US-based assessment of educational progress. On analysing the 1999 TIMMS results for Year8, the US report lists the following countries as having greater numbers of students achieving at the advanced level: Singapore, 34 per cent; South Korea, 26 per cent; Hong Kong, 23 per cent; Japan, 24 per cent; and Belgium, 15 per cent. The percentage of Australian students who achieve at the advanced level is 8 per cent.

The situation is not as bad with the Year8 science results: only Taiwan and Singapore appear to have significantly more students performing at the advanced level. But in the 2003 Year8 TIMMS test, Australians students again underperformed. While 35 per cent of Singaporean students performed at the advanced level, 24 per cent from Hong Kong, 29 per cent from South Korea, 30 per cent from Taiwan and 20 per cent from Japan, only 5 per cent of Australian students achieved at the top level.

Much has been made of the dumbing-down influence of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, where everyone is a winner and the curriculum promotes a one-size-fits-all approach, in explaining student underperformance. But also of concern is the way Australia carries out its national benchmark testing in literacy and numeracy.

The results over the past four years at Years3 and 5 suggest all is well in numeracy. About 90 to 94 per cent of students reach the benchmark standard and in reading the figure hovers close to 92 per cent. Such results appear worth celebrating. Not so. Not only is the benchmark described as the agreed minimum acceptable standard - defined as "standards of performance below which students will have difficulty progressing satisfactorily at school" - but there is the suspicion that the bar is set so low that the overwhelming majority of children are guaranteed success.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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1 comment:

Matthew Cain said...

Oxford university has rejected reports of an end to tutorials. Is its response convincing? Judge for yourself here: