Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"A tide of privatization"?  A prejudice in search of some facts -- in Australia

Emma Rowe (above and below) makes a huge effort to be objective but in the end she breaks down and lets her hatred of private schools peep out.  She writes for a webzine called "The Conversation" which claims "Academic rigour, journalistic flair". I guess they do have some journalistic flair, whatever that might be, but the "academic rigour" was a laugh from the beginning.  I would call it Leftist propaganda with an occasional nod to conservatism. I guess that nod is rigour from a Leftist viewpoint.

A condensed version of  Emma's article:  "Since 2010, the average independent school has increased its share of enrolments from 18% to 18.39%. That constitutes a disturbing tide of privatisation in our secondary schools" 

The poor woman is completely obsessed if she sees such a trivial change as "a disturbing tide."  An eddy, perhaps, but no sort of tide.

And to get her "tide" she had to ignore primary schools and concentrate on secondary schools only. She plainly wishes to find that private schools overall are unfairly favoured by the government but has to ignore half the facts to make her attempted case.  But Leftists are good at cherrypicking and selective vision.

And what about the fact that Australian parents contribute more towards the education of their children than parents in many other countries do?  Many would see that as a welcome reduction of the burden borne by the taxpayer.  But not Emma.  She says: "This is clearly problematic for those families with less capacity to pay."  Classic Leftist envy obliterates all other considerations. All must have prizes.  The Left must know that their pursuit of equality is pissing into the wind but their devotion to it is relentless and merciless.  Procrustes is their idol

You may have heard recently that public schools in Australia have experienced increased enrolments. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that public schools in Australia have increased their share of enrolments, “reversing a forty-year trend”.

A spokesperson from the Australian Bureau of Statistics stated that it was a “reversal of the steady drift” towards private schools. This is misleading, for two reasons:

First, the overall population in Australia has increased, which has resulted in increased enrolments for many schooling sectors. In total there are 1.28% more students (full-time) enrolled in schools.

Second, while enrolment in public and independent primary schools (excluding Catholic schools) has increased, enrolment in public secondary schools has decreased.

We have one of the highest levels of private school enrolment within the OECD, and our country also maintains the highest levels of private expenditure towards schools (contributions from households).

It is untrue that there is a reversal of the steady drift if we look at secondary schools.

As the more expensive constituent of schooling, and also the gateway to higher education, it is the secondary school where politics truly come to the fore.

When it comes to debates about funding and privatisation, the secondary school sector is far more entangled in the politics of choice.

When we are told that our public school enrolment is increasing, this may lead you to believe that our public schools are strong and healthy. This disguises the ugly truth that many of our public secondary schools are struggling, mainly due to an ongoing stream of policies that have attacked and undermined our public secondary schools.

By how much as public secondary school enrolments decreased?

Since 2010, the public secondary school has decreased its enrolments from 60% to 59.13%.

Since 2010, the average independent school has increased its share of enrolments from 18% to 18.39%.

These changes seem very minor, and when regarded in the context of population increases, are relatively insignificant.

However, when taken with a more longitudinal analysis, it is evident that the independent secondary school in Australia has continually bolstered its enrolment share.

The independent secondary school sector has experienced the largest proportional increase in enrolment from 1990 to 2016 (6.39%).

The government (public) school has recorded the largest proportional decrease during this same period (8.87%).

Evidently, there is a consistent pattern of growth within the independent sector and a consistent pattern of decline, in terms of enrolment levels, within the public sector.

It would be simplistic to argue that this is simply a matter of demand, rather than complicated by many other factors including economic, social and cultural shifts.

As education reforms bolstered funding for the private sector, enrolment levels in the private sector increased at a similar rate and time period.
Encouraging private school choice

The government has always played a role in encouraging particular consumer choices. This is no different for schooling.

Throughout the 1990s and beyond, public schools were consistently closed or merged across various states and territories. This undoubtedly establishes a sense of instability and volatility for the consumer.

Among the reasons cited for these closures was lack of enrolment numbers. Unlike private schools, public schools must consistently prove their economic feasibility. (This reason was strongly refuted by the public. In Victoria in the 1990s, it was described as “the biggest battle over education in more than a decade”.)

While the overall number of full-time secondary students grew, by 2011 the availability of public schools had declined.

The total percentage of public schools in Australia has decreased by 2%. On the other hand, the percentage of private schools has increased by 1% of the total number of schools.

We tend to widely accept privatisation of our schools. In Australia, the overall proportion of students in private schools is 35% ( but 41% in secondary school). This far outweighs the average OECD country, where 18% is the average number.

Compare this to the US, where approximately 8% of students attend private schools. In Canada, this percentage is even lower (approximately 6%), and lower again in countries such as New Zealand, Finland or Sweden.

We also have one of the highest percentages of private expenditure within the school sector. What this means is that we rely far more on a “user-pays” system than the average OECD country.

This is clearly problematic for those families with less capacity to pay.

This was noted in the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2016 report. When it comes to secondary schooling, for the majority of OECD countries, 90% of expenditure comes from government funds. But this wasn’t the case for Australia, Chile and Columbia, which “rely on over one-fifth of private expenditure at this level”.

While many other OECD countries do fund their private schools, they are also subject to a host of regulations.

When it comes to the funding private schools, Australia is classified as a “high funding and low regulation” country. In comparison to other OECD countries, private schools have little accountability in terms of how they spend their money.

Add to this a dominant cultural narrative around the superiority of private schooling, and you have a disturbing tide of privatisation in our secondary schools.

This tide of privatisation will only further entrench equity gaps for students from families who cannot afford to pay. It will also add to the household burden for those families struggling to pay their private school costs.


Trump's NASA Budget Eliminates Education Office, Plunging America Into The Dark

Ethan Siegel (below) is a bit of an oddball so you need to take him with a grain of salt


What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid? Was 'astronaut' or 'scientist' ever on the list? Did you ever find space fascinating, and want to learn more about it? Was the possibility of exploring other worlds, searching for extraterrestrial life, building a rocket or experiencing zero-gravity ever a part of your dreams? NASA's Office of Education, in its current incarnation, oversees and administers around sixty different programs that benefit educators, K-12 students, as well as undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students and researchers. With the Trump administration officially announcing their budget for the next fiscal year, they provide only $37 million for NASA's Education Office, with one major stipulation: the office must be eliminated entirely.

Anything you've ever learned, seen, or experienced from NASA has been a result of education and public outreach. The above photo? It's known simply as "Earthrise," and was the first time a human being had ever seen the Earth rise over the limb of the Moon. It also was one of the most widely shared and distributed photographs of all-time before the rise of the internet, along with photos of the Moon landings and of the iconic blue marble photo of the full Earth as seen by Apollo 17. Since then, Hubble images, pictures from spacecraft visiting other worlds, information, explainers, Q&A sessions, videos and pretty much anything else NASA-related you can find on the internet has only come about because of education and public outreach efforts.

How many current scientists and engineers were inspired to choose their path, at a young age, by a glimpse into the great Universe beyond planet Earth? How many children across the country (and world) make it their first major goal to be chosen by NASA for a grant, program, or experience to be on the periphery of space exploration? How many young researchers and aspiring scientists are benefitting from the opportunities that NASA makes available to them, from internships to scholarships to research opportunities? And how many adults feed their insatiable hunger for the joys and wonders of the Universe with information that NASA creates especially for the public?

That last one is a personal issue to me, because for the past four years, I've been the astrophysicist whom NASA approached to write their once-a-month column for astronomy clubs worldwide. In nearly 300 locations across the world, more than half of which are in the United States, amateur astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts gather in clubs to host events, speakers, observing parties, and to share about their excitement in space. And one of the things that NASA would do was supply the clubs with an exclusive monthly column, highlighting an astronomical discovery or event that would be of particular interest to them. It was a small column and a small contribution that was probably read, on a monthly basis, by only a few thousand people.

And, like many things that benefit only a small number of people with low visibility, it seems like an easy thing to cut. But cutting it saved virtually nothing: the agency saves less than $3,000 per year by eliminating this program. Yes, it's a small, relatively low-importance program in the grand scheme of things, but if you're one of the few affected people, it seems like you're losing one more opportunity to have the things you delight in simply brought to you. There are some 60 employers and contractors whose positions will be eliminated completely from this, plus a number of programs devoted to outreach and education, but the biggest hit is that the Office of Education will disappear entirely.

Think about why we, as a society, would be okay with that? Why would we say, "Hey, you know these people who devote their lives to educating the public about these scientific areas they've become experts in? You know those activities they engage in, the services they perform, and the expert knowledge that they bring to the world? Let's eliminate that." We teach every generation of children in America that they can grow up to be anything they want, that America is the land of opportunity, and the way you better yourself is through education and hard work. So why, then, would we take away opportunities that help those very same people pursue their grandest dreams, and to take away the (already minimal) education resources we provide to them?

Yes, there are many other reasons to be upset about the proposed NASA budget for the coming fiscal year, including cuts to Earth Science and the potential cancelling of up to five missions. But when you eliminate the Office of Education, you're blatantly declaring that the children, students, teachers, and adults all over the world who benefit from the opportunities and knowledge that the office provides simply aren't worth it. All the teachers who use NASA's Space Place and Kid's Club as education resources, all the students who apply for grants and opportunities with NASA, all the interns who hope to springboard into a spaceflight career, all the adults who feed their lifelong love of astronomy with information: you're not worth it.

Meanwhile, according to the latest results from the OECD, the United States ranks 25th worldwide in science education, well behind Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, among many others. By many metrics, the United States is number one in the world, but by others, we have to improve. Why, instead, are we okay with making our nation less informed, less capable, and less rich in opportunity for people of all ages? The promise was to make America great, but in order to be truly great, we need to invest in ourselves. Without education, we fail to invest in the greatest source of richness for us all: our minds.


Britain's strictest school gets top marks from Inspectorate

Katharine Birbalsingh is popular among British Conservatives

Michaela Community School – a controversial free school renowned for its “no excuses” behaviour policy – has been judged outstanding in all categories by Ofsted inspectors.

The school in north-west London won top marks in its first inspection since opening in 2014, with Ofsted inspectors praising the school’s “lively and engaging teaching” and “exemplary” attitudes to learning among pupils.

“Since the school opened, leaders and governors have worked very effectively together with staff, pupils, parents and carers to establish a strong sense of community at the school. Pupils typically commented that they feel part of a close-knit family,” the inspectors wrote.

The school’s tough behaviour policy, which includes disciplinary action for even minor infringements of school rules, was also highly praised.

“The behaviour of pupils is outstanding. Pupils are polite, well mannered and very respectful,” the report notes. “Pupils behave responsibly and are highly self-disciplined. They follow the school’s conduct guidelines conscientiously so that lessons run very smoothly and without interruption. The school is an extremely calm and safe learning environment.”

The Ofsted rating will come as a relief for the school’s head teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, who left a job as a deputy head after criticising school behaviour policies in a high-profile speech to the Conservative party conference in 2010.

“All of us involved at Michaela – staff, pupils, parents and governors – are united in our determination and aspiration for our school. It is always great to receive feedback like this about what we are doing and I’m very proud of everyone at Michaela,” Birbalsingh said in response.

Birbalsingh was given approval by the Department for Education to open Michaela under the free school policy championed by Michael Gove as education secretary. But it was not until September 2014 that Michaela opened its doors in a converted office block close to Wembley football stadium.

The school prides itself on its “no excuses” disciplinary approach, with pupils given demerits or detention for forgetting to bring a pencil or pen, for grimacing at teachers or for talking in corridors when moving between lessons.

More than a third of the school’s pupils are eligible for free school meals, and the large majority of them are from ethnic minorities. The school also has a higher than average proportion of pupils with special educational needs.

The Ofsted inspectors were impressed with the progress they saw among the pupils at all levels.

“Disadvantaged pupils make substantial progress and achieve as well as other pupils. Leaders and teachers have equally high expectations of all pupils,” the report said. “The most able pupils, including most-able disadvantaged pupils, make exceedingly strong progress over time. They are challenged by demanding work that motivates them to meet their teachers’ expectations.

“Pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities are encouraged and supported effectively. They make similar exceptional progress from their starting points at a similar rate to all pupils.”

The school currently has 360 pupils in years seven, eight and nine, and has yet to have a cohort sit GCSE exams.

The inspectors’ major complaint was the school’s lack of sporting facilities or outside space, noting that except for playing table tennis or basketball, “other sporting activities are limited”.

The school has often become a cause for bitter debate on social media, especially after reports that children whose parents had failed to pay for their lunches were made to eat away from their classmates.

But Ofsted described the school’s efforts to promote pupils’ personal welfare as “outstanding”.

“Pupils are readily appreciative and caring. They acknowledge enthusiastically what members of the school community have done well and generously celebrate the successes and achievements of others,” the report notes.

Suella Fernandes, the Conservative MP and chair of governors, said: “It is testament to the dedication of our leadership and staff and the pupils themselves that we have received this grading and it is an excellent stepping stone to our future success as a school.”


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