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The Forum > Article Comments > Autonomous schools pay education dividend > Comments

Autonomous schools pay education dividend : Comments

By Kevin Donnelly, published 13/1/2012

One size fits all education fits no-one for anything.

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Kevin Donnelly's proposal would lead to more "dumbed down" students; students less capable of thinking for themselves and educated in their own particular religious or cultural cocoon. Too many student leave school not knowing how other people in different cocoons live and what those other students think and believe. Also they have never tested their own ideas against the often different ideas of students from different backgrounds.

There is one way to improve the education system and guarentee the future internal well being of Australia.

Eliminate all indocrination effects by teaching all young students how to think clearly. It is easy, give each student the opportunity and encouragement to listen to and evaluate the ideas of every other student they are in contact with. And, expand the range of backgrounds each student is in contact with.

Encourage each student to listen politely to every other student's ideas, and throw their own ideas into the discussion, on as many open ended questions as their group can think of for their age.

Give every student such an opportunity for one hour per week from the very start of their of school education and their intellectual ability will improve at least by 6-7% and the behaviour of every student will improve substantially.

Bullying will be virtually eliminated as students learn to negotiate their differences.

Don't take my word for it; read and evaluate the evidence for yourselves. That is what I am advocationg the children do. Try it yourself.

The first and best evidence is available at On Line Opinion. Read it at,

Kevin Donnelly's recipe is to continue the indoctrination of young children and undermine Australian society and our long term well being.
Posted by Foyle, Friday, 13 January 2012 8:16:04 AM
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Well written well researched cogent article, most parents with school age children will likely agree with. Autonomy is good; and clearly proven best practise; but, that freedom shouldn't extend to a completely standardised compulsory national curriculum. After all, our dependence on mining and services, means a very mobile populations and kids continually obliged to frequently change locations and schools; often without much forewarning mid term.
Simply put, teaching is a vocation and part of a growing service industry; and, not every teacher is there for the best reasons? Even so, those that are prepared to put their hand out for the taxpayer funded pay packet every week; ought to be au fait with community views and values.
Untried and unproven theories/teaching methods are all well and good; but need to be convincingly proven, before being introduced into the class room! Our kids are not specimens; nor are our classrooms laboratories!
Nor are school districts fiefdoms for political activists! There is no place for that or political indoctrination inside our classrooms. Green views may be good, but ought only be introduced, with countervailing views and the lessons of history! It's supposed to be education not dogma indoctrination; and how to think; not what to think!
Autonomy ought to allow more funds to be directed away from entirely unnecessary central administration and onto the coalface inside the classroom.
A win/win outcome; except for unelected petty tyrants trying to preserve their minor empires?
More autonomy could enable more local/regional competition for funding and students; and, parents able to vote with their feet?
Posted by Rhrosty, Friday, 13 January 2012 8:41:41 AM
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Common sense tells us adults ought to be in charge not children. Children ought to be encouraged to discuss cultural difference critically; and indeed, identify any perceived shortcomings; and, the right to be different, but only in a very controlled and moderated environment; rather than a largely uncontrolled school yard. Where ethnic and other difference can become right of entry into a pseudo tribal club; and or, a mindless excuse for bullying?
Personal phones ought to remain in lockers during school hours! Kids ought to be obliged to socialise with each other; not a small clique of club members! They are there to learn and expand their minds; not close them off. If a parent needs to talk to a student during school hours, it ought only occur via the school phone system. This ought to allow the school to have some insight into home conditions/supervision etc; some of which may have extremely important education consequences/outcomes?
[And, Kids must be instructed that gum must be disposed off hygienically for very cogent health reasons.]
My experience seems to suggest, holding the biggest bullies responsible and accountable for eliminating bullying, seems to result in a bully free culture. However, only genuine autonomy, would allow such radical innovation to be introduced or allowed?
Posted by Rhrosty, Friday, 13 January 2012 9:14:24 AM
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The trick in this discussion is the use of the abstraction, “autonomy”.

The true history of autonomy on Victoria is that schools here gained curriculum autonomy from the late 1960s onwards. The Coalition government that ran the state from 1992 to 1999 made a song and dance about increasing school autonomy but what it actually did was reduce school autonomy and increase principal power. It centralised curriculum control, reduced professional input at the school level and imposed onerous time-consuming accountability mechanisms. To this day, it has the media and commentariat fooled. My first school had more autonomy in 1974 than my second last did in 1994.

Victoria has had elected school councils, supported by the teacher unions, since the 1970s. It has had local appointment of principals, supported by the unions, since the 1980s. It has had local appointment of senior staff, supported by the unions, since the early 1990s. It has had local appointment of all staff, supported by the unions, since the mid 1990s. It has had principal budgetary control since the mid-2000s. But it still has some teacher input, and principals are not free to fire people on a whim.

The real issue is the distribution of power between the school community and the principal. The claimed school autonomy of the 1990s was a pretence under which power was taken from school communities and concentrated in the hands of principals, many of whom lack the leadership skills that their colleagues of 30 years ago showed every day and who are already out of their depth.
Posted by Chris C, Friday, 13 January 2012 9:25:15 AM
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Foyle’s cry from the heart to employ the ‘one way’(only way?) to improve Australian Education is no doubt well meaning - but sadly well removed from reality .
Helping children to think clearly is central to good education.
But is Foyle's way the only way? I don’t think so.

Dr Donnelly’s very clearly argued case for releasing Australian education from the ‘soviet style’ of inflexible, centralized education in the iron grip of the unions and remote bureaucrats, accountable only to ideology of the Government of the day, is supported by some very compelling empirical evidence.

Education in Australia needs more openness and accountability. Schools need to be more transparent and accountable to parents and the families they serve.
Our recent attempt at a national educational improvement does not bode well. The new Australian Curriculum fails to clearly articulate what schools are expected to teach their pupils.
So obscure is this new document that school systems are finding it necessary to provide ‘expert interpretations’ to convey to experienced classroom teachers just what employing authorities think the new curriculum means. In Queensland this is being achieved by the confused ‘C2C’ initiative.
The outcome of the Australian Curriculum is likely to be one ‘curriculum’, many interpretations, and poor standards for all.

It is time for all Australian families to enjoy much greater choice, and a say in how the school their children attend will be run.
For years, families who can afford to pay fees have had this freedom. But left wing ideologues in the unions and government have decreed that this option should be denied to the neediest members of society – and the research shows that the education opportunities of these children have suffered.

Who has stood to benefit from this situation?

Is it because the left believes that underprivileged children should be denied the benefits identified in the research Dr Donnelly cites or because it will destroy the hegemony the left enjoys in the grotesquely centralized enterprise that Australia employs in the falsehood we accept as ‘equitable public education’ controlled by big unions and big government bureaucracies?
Posted by CARFAX, Friday, 13 January 2012 10:05:59 AM
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Nice article. Expect the frothing of the mouth.

'Local research by Gary Marks, at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) concludes that Catholic and independent schools outperform government schools even after adjusting results for students' socioeconomic background.'

please don't threaten tax payer public funding by pointing out facts.
Posted by runner, Friday, 13 January 2012 11:24:13 AM
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