Friday, April 08, 2016

Credentialism is alive and well in Australia

The value assigned to more and more education is a great folly.  Jobs that were once done perfectly well by a high school graduate now mainly go to university graduates.  Teaching is a good example.  You mostly now have to have a 4-year teaching degree to become a teacher.  Yet for two years I successfully taught senior High School geography even though my highest qualification for it was junior High School geography.  I just kept a chapter ahead in our geography book.

As the ups and downs of the mining boom stole the headlines Australia was experiencing a less celebrated economic transformation: a know-how boom.

Since the middle of last decade the share of adults with an advanced post-school qualification has swelled dramatically.

In 2005 the proportion of Australians aged between 20 and 64 with a Certificate III qualification or higher has jumped from 47 per cent to 60 per cent (Certificate III level recognises advanced technical skills and knowledge, such as a tradesman). In that period the share of 20- to 64-year-olds with a bachelor degree or higher has climbed from about 21 per cent to nearly 30 per cent.

The trend for school students to stay in class longer is similar. Over the past decade the national year 12 student retention rate has climbed from 74.7 per cent to 87 per cent.

Government policies have played a role in boosting the number of adults with university degrees and technical qualifications but the main driver towards obtaining those qualifications is a perception among individuals that know-how has become a modern necessity. It's a reflection of a momentous economic shift towards knowledge-based employment. Those with higher qualifications are more likely to be employed, to earn more when they are employed, to increase the productivity of their co-workers, to increase innovation and technical change and increase employers' profits.

The proportion of adults with a higher qualification is set to keep rising.

That's good news, overall. But the know-how boom has also exacerbated a hazardous political fault line.

Despite all those new qualifications, a big portion of voters still have little or no post-school education. And that leaves them increasingly vulnerable to economic change.

Employment in high-skill, high-value knowledge industries has tended to grow more quickly than other sectors, especially in big cities. Low-skill workers are likely to face growing competition from new migrants, offshoring and even robots.

"It's pretty Darwinian out there in the labour market these days," says Dr Nicholas Gruen, the economist who authors the Wellbeing Index. "If you don't have a post-school qualification the odds are stacked against you."

That's an obvious recipe for discontent. You don't have to look far to see the strife this growing educational-cultural divide can fuel.

In the US, Donald Trump's unsavoury campaign for President has been underpinned by poorly educated voters angry about how society is changing. His candidacy has exposed a deep fissure in US politics: class and education. Analysts note that the single best predictor of support for Trump during the Republican Party primaries has been the absence of a college degree.

In Britain, the educational-cultural divide is a factor in the campaign to exit the European Union, known as "Brexit.

The Economist magazine points out those without tertiary qualifications are much more likely to favour "Brexit" than graduates. It argues that "Britain's great European divide is really about education and class". Britain is scheduled to hold a referendum in June asking voters whether they want Britain to remain in the 28-nation economic block. The latest opinion polls show the "Leave Europe" camp with a solid lead.

Should Britain vote to leave the EU the uncertainty would shake global financial markets and probably take a toll on the global economy.

Australian politics isn't plagued by Trumpism or Brexit but it would be folly to assume politics here is immune to the educational-cultural divisions on show in English-speaking democracies with whom we often compare ourselves.

"It's a big new divide all right," says Gruen. "We've seen it before with Pauline Hanson and to some extent the National Party. It's a pretty toxic situation."

The know-how gap in Australia looms as a significant economic and political challenge. That should shine the spotlight on the effectiveness of our education systems: from early childhood through to universities.


No, charters aren’t ‘draining’ Boston Public School funding

MANY ARE the ways of expressing the same idea, some factual and precise, others crafty and misleading. Example? Well, if one says that education funding follows a student when she leaves a district school for a charter school, that’s factual. A listener hearing that would probably say: Makes sense to me.

It’s no surprise, then, that the teachers unions have devised a different way to describe that reality. “The MTA . . . opposes lifting the cap on charter schools because, among other issues, they drain resources from local districts, leading to the destabilization of public schools,” asserts the Massachusetts Teachers Association, taking aim at the Senate’s new charter-school bill.

“Currently charters drain . . . $121 million from the Boston Public Schools,” declares the Boston Teachers Union, which also opposes the Senate’s effort.

Here’s what “drain” really means: After a six-year transition period, district schools no longer receive any funding for a student who, more than a half-decade earlier, departed for a charter. (If your bathtub drained that slowly, you’d probably call a plumber.)

Now, the fact that the unions oppose a Senate bill that calls for $1.4 billion in new public-school funding and includes only a (disappointingly) small charter-cap lift suggests, once again, that their opposition isn’t primarily about district funding levels but rather about more disruptive competition from public schools that aren’t automatically unionized.

Still, given the union rhetoric, it’s important to realize that Boston’s district schools haven’t seen their funding “drained” by charters. “The contention that the Boston school budget is being affected by the increase in charter school tuition is not accurate,” notes Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, which just released a thorough new report on BPS funding.

Actually, BPS spending has grown even as its enrollment has declined. Yes, the increases were small during the last recession, but it’s been healthy since: Spending was up 6 percent in fiscal year 2013, 6.4 percent in 2014, 3.9 percent in 2015, and 4 percent in 2016. The total five-year increase: 23.4 percent. The 10-year increase: 41.2 percent.

One big issue the research bureau highlighted is that the district hasn’t adjusted for lower enrollment, only some of which was caused by students leaving for charters. The research bureau and the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. have both found that BPS has significant overcapacity. The research bureau conservatively estimates the potential savings of a right-sized district at about $21.5 million a year; McKinsey & Co. put possible savings at perhaps $90 million.

If BPS is to focus its spending more effectively, some tough decisions obviously lie ahead. But imagine if we had a truly innovative system, working with a forward-looking union. Why, they might even reconfigure the school day, stagger daily teaching and vacation schedules, and thus use the extra teaching capacity to significantly lengthen learning time.

After all, that’s part of what makes charters so attractive — and so successful.

Boston charter students typically get about 375 more school hours a year within the context of a 180-day year than do students in regular-day schools. Meanwhile, most charters have longer school years as well.

Currently fewer than half of BPS schools have an extended day. Adding another 40 minutes to the day, or about 120 hours a year, in another 50 schools — a change the district is implementing in fits and starts — will cost another $12.5 million a year.

There, charters are a real bargain. Longer day and all, their average cost per student is $560 less a year than the BPS’s.

So: Given the facts, calling charters a drain on the system is silliness on stilts. With their longer days and stronger results, they are a gain for the system.


Australia: Sydney University students claim they were left 'heavily traumatised' after they were 'violently pushed and viciously assaulted' by police during a library protest against fees

Defiant student protesters routinely claim police brutality when the police bring them under control

A group of students were left 'heavily traumatised' after police 'violently pushed' them out of The University of Sydney library during a protest against the deregulation of university fees.

Footage of the incident was posted online by the university's newspaper, Honi Soit, and showed officers grabbing students by the arm and pushing them through glass doors.

One of the protesters, Georgia Mantle, said police 'put me in a wristlock and pulled my hair and lifted me up by the ankles'.

The incident took place before the arrival of Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham who was due to adjudicate the Liberal Club's annual John Howard Debating Cup.

Students had been chanting and delivering speeches for about 15 minutes before police surrounded them and forced them out, according to Honi Soit.

But one of the protesters, April Holcombe, said no-one had provoked the response as everyone was 'peacefully standing outside the venue when police came and violently pushed everyone out of the building'.

She said police had 'viciously assaulted' an Aboriginal woman as well.

Another student Liam Carrigan added fellow protesters were 'nearly trampled' during the incident.

As a result, a security door at the library was damaged.

In footage of the protests, students can be heard chanting: 'Simon Birmingham get out, we know what you're all about: Cuts, job losses, money for the bosses.'

One protester says over on a loud speaker: 'We're education activists and we're here because there's a Liberal education minister in this building and he has the gall to step into this university when he wants to deregulate university fees.'

'Officers attended the Sydney University campus where a small student protest was taking place,' she said.

'There were no arrests. However a small number of protesters were moved on after allegedly breaching the peace.'


No comments: