Equity and Access in Australian Education Conference 2014
(Presented by the Faculty of Education Monash University 31/10/14)
Education in Australia currently faces big challenges, one of which is equity of access to quality teaching and learning for all students.
This conference will examine some challenges in enabling equity and access and will examine contentious issues in the current education context.( The Monash Education Faculty is currently celebrating 50 years.) This is the second of these forums and will feature keynotes and responses.
Professor John Loughran- MC
Introduction from Scott Ryan ( Senator Victoria- Secretary assisting the Education Minister)
Opening address- The senator talked about the Menzie's education legacy and about the history of the Monash University Education Faculty since 1964. ( His history of education ended there and picked up again with the election of his government which is a staggering insult to all those teachers, principals and academics who have progressed Australian education for 4 decades) He also engaged in a defence of the Commonwealth's Gonski backdown. ( He didn't use the word backdown) He talked about how the commonwealth were not the sole provider of funding for education but failed to mention how every conservative state has slashed public education funding. Did we really need to hear about this at this conference?
He spent most of his speech talking about how much money they are spending on education while also saying that continual spending increases won't make improvements to quality. He also discussed the following points:
Teacher quality- Teacher training programs are being reviewed by a ministerial advisory group.
Strengthening curriculum- Report on this was released in October and will be reviewed by the States this year. ( Issues to be considered curriculum overcrowding, parent involvement, accessibility, re- balancing curriculum, reviewing ACARA)
Parental engagement- Targeted research undertaken to help parents to better involve themselves with their child's learning.
He talked nonsense about children being born nowadays to older parents.( He thinks there is a disconnect between parents and jargon driven schools) I think schools have never been more accessible to parents. all I can say is...he had his speech and he delivered it!
Ms Treopia Washington ( Director Special Initiatives Bowie State University in Arkansas US)
Treopia shared her experiences with education pursuing access and opportunity.
She grew up in a family of teachers and they all believed that learning never stops.
(Her name comes from Greek mythology.)
Arkansas is a southern state that enforced segregation but it didn't stop her from learning. Her mother sued for equal pay in the 1940s ( black teachers were paid less than white teachers) In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court declared state laws that established separate segregated schools were unconstitutional. Southern states slowly began de- segregate in the 1960s. In 1957 the Little Rock Nine attended a 'white school' and faced violent threats and rioting.The US Army escorted them into school. (One of Treopia's brothers was one of those first brave students. Martin Luther King attended his graduation at Central High School in Little Rock. Perseverance has its rewards.)
Treopia talked about her long journey in education. Bowie University began in the 1860s to train black students to educate freed slaves who had been denied an education. She would like to help establish a partnership between Bowie and Monash.
Dr Peter Anderson ( Paid respect to the Kulin Nation)
Lecturer in Indigenous Education Monash University
The first indigenous university graduate was not until 1965.
Dr Anderson discussed challenges for indigenous teachers.
1.2 % of teachers are indigenous ( 3700 teachers and 78 principals with a high attrition rate- 5 years of service before burn-out) and only 20 university faculty members. Indigenous education aims to have students contribute to society and the economy. No indigenous pedagogy in education. Dr Anderson said: 'It is our goal to shift the approach in the profession from a deficit approach to a rights based approach'. He is a strong advocate for a UN endorsed indigenous rights based approach.(UN Article 14)
Dr Anderson discussed the Australian policy context and wants his student teachers to meet the standards and share their knowledge once they start working. He discussed Noel Pearson's approach to education in northern Queensland and how the approaches there work for those children but there might be issues with engagement when those children go to year 7.( direct instruction ) He feels that the 'Jury is still out ' on this approach.
He paid tribute to Gough Whitlam and his contribution to indigenous education.
Professor Neil Selwyn
Lecturer in ICT Monash University
Neil spoke about access and equity in the digital age.
Education is not fair and equitable. There are no quick fixes.
Everyone in education needs to be realistic and open.He is pleased by the optimism in his field but doesn't necessarily share it.
Digital education can address access and equality but is it sustained change? This is an ideological driven area when it comes to determining success or failure.
Big picture in digital education- He thinks it sits within an unfair education system and an entrenched unfair society.( Wealthy are wealthier and the poor are poorer. 57 million children still miss out on a primary education) Where one goes to school in Australia does matter.There still is a digital divide ( access and usage) President Clinton talked about computers in schools being 'the great equaliser' Obama and the Gates Foundation and others have followed his lead.There are significant hopes attached to the success of digital technology.
Some great practice exists: MITs one laptop per child ( rugged laptops and tablets distributed to millions of children) Hole in the Wall ( PCs concreted in the walls of slums in Asia where children learnt how to use these PCs by playing with them) LA School District giving 3.5 million students their own devices. Online charter schools and cyber schools in the US. One million students in the US doing online learning. MOOC ( online courses) free from universities. Wikipeadia a fantastic resource.It also enables us to contribute to knowledge.
However at best there is little evidence of sustained change. Independent evaluation on one lap top per child shows little change. Hole in Wall not very effective. One to one programs show the children who benefit are those mostly from high socio-economic background. Virtual schools in the US showed only 25 % of academic success.
80% of MOOC participants are from the wealthiest background in the US. MOOCs only have 10% completion rate. Wikepedia is edited a written by elite male users.
His conclusion in that digital education is not as equitable as you would think.
Digital learning reflects our society. Equal access ( meritocratic- getting a fair go) does not mean equality. Ideology drives the success in digital education. What level of inequality are we prepared to put up with.
What do we do?
Neil is realistic. He believes technology education is not critical enough on itself and its perceived achievements. He believes we suffer from 3 kinds of hope when it comes to digital education:
false hope- that the world will have to get better, mythical hope when we celebrate individuals or hope deferred when we think things will get better in the future.
What can we be doing better? Can technology users be genuine collaborators and contributors? (There is inequality when it comes to creation/ collaborating, it is not accessed by everyone.) How can others ( not in education) make a difference? he discussed 'open access' mismatch between free -cost and freedom. he believes that we need bottom up development of technology.
The challenge is there.
Optus Industry Manager Education
What do we do with technology? Too much of it is focussed on technology that doesn't make a difference. She is concerned about poor teaching combined with technology. She says the corporates are very interested in education. The big question is how do we use technology to help children learn? How do we engage children? Learning is a social construct not learning alone watching podcasts.
Equity issues about devices is mute. She feels even the poorest students have access to devices. How it is used is more critical.
Investment in technology through businesses is mostly philanthropic.There is a role for business to play.We are very far behind what they are doing in Asia regarding business input into education.( She talked about 3 D Printers and 'game theory')
Technology when it connects people brings people together and makes a difference. Web 1.0 is a consumption model and Web 2.0 is about collaboration.
That is the 'step change' in technology education.
Sharing ideas is more important and has the power to connect people. Open access means access to stuff but access to each other is more important. It is not a magic bullet. But technology needs to be there in the first place.
Associate Professor Deb Corrigan
Science technology (Moving science education into the future)
Scientists say science is about looking for patterns, provide explanations and models and come to conclusions or understandings and act upon them.
In schools we reverse the process.Is that a viable approach.
How do we prepare children for the jobs that don't yet exist? What technology has yet to be developed? We discussed some provocative statements in science and what understandings do we have of values in science? Focusing on values provides a reflective framework for teachers and students to collaborate.( Refer the Monash Science continuum and the UNESCO 4 Pillars of learning )Knowledge needs to be reshape for teaching science. Science teaching in high schools is not working.( Lack of engagement)
( Refer Hype cycle of emerging technologies on Google.)
Ross Piling ( Director of BASF- a chemical company with a strong focus on R&D)
Ross talked about the demands coming from future population growth ( 9 billion people in 20 years) and he believes chemistry is an enabler for solving the issues of the future.
He discussed future trends and opportunities that Australia might have.We need to innovate. But we have declining numbers in the STEM* subjects.
Great decline in studying maths and science especially from girls. Business can do more to make science more relevant and engaging.Co-ordinated national approach required. There is a sense of urgency overseas but not in Australia.
Australia does not have a science strategy. ( Nor does it have a science minister)
We are falling behind. We are at risk of squandering our future generation.They need to be ready for the jobs of the future.
*Science,Technology, Engineering and Maths
Q and A Panel including ( Kathryn Greiner, Kevin Donnelly, Fran Cosgrove, Meredith Peace and Leonie Walsh)
A variety of questions were asked. I asked the following:
The Auditor General released a report in April this year entitled ‘Access to Education for Rural Students.’ In his report he stated ‘Students in rural areas have for a long time not performed as well as their metropolitan peers. They face barriers to accessing education and that DEECD has not managed to overcome, and there is no sign that the gap in performance is likely to narrow. Indeed, in some areas of performance the gap is getting wider.’ He also said ‘Unless DEECD adopts a cohesive and targeted strategy, it is unlikely that outcomes will improve.’
What would the panel do to rectify this situation?
Meredith Peace responded but didn't answer the question other than to talk about Gonski.
Responses to questions were varied and vague with few answers.
Kevin Donnelly was patronising and couldn't help reminding us that he 'writes in the newspapers'
Kathryn Greiner talked about equity and the Gonski review and made some excellent points. 'Schools need the financial capacity to acquire the resources that their students need.'
The conference ended at 4:30. I didn't stay for drinks, I had a train to catch.
It was an interesting conference. it was 'different' mixing with doctors and professors.
I got to Melbourne early this morning so I had a coffee and took a few photos of Parliament House ( Spring Street) before walking to the Hyatt.
Parliament House Mellbourne