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The Forum > Article Comments > Through measurement to knowledge > Comments

Through measurement to knowledge : Comments

By John Ridd, published 21/2/2012

Educational measurement should lead to radical change in Queensland.

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Yes there are difficulties with science and maths education in Australia. Some of our states have been doing even worse. The lack of training to teach science and maths is part of that.
Unfortunately there are also cultural differences that leave us well behind East Asia (including Singapore). Chinese numbers are shorter, hence people using these languages start ahead of us being able to use and recall longer strings of numbers. If you don't believe me read the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.
Make sure you also read the chapters on the length of school year in most of these countries. Note the significant advantage the research showed from a longer study year. No wonder their students are leaving us behind.
Posted by Johndo, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 2:01:10 AM
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Better schooling is one aspect, but do we reward maths/science skills once students have left school?
Although identified as strategically important, these skills are not really respected in career terms except for small pockets in the broader economy.
I mentioned Econometrics to a senior manager of a (now ex) major Australian car parts retailer. "You can't manage what you don't measure" is core to econometric tools and is pretty obvious. He dismissed all mathematical approaches to business management because "I don't understand it and I can't trust what I don't understand". The idea of delegation of *any* management process to someone of modern education was simply unacceptable to him.
I find this attitude common amongst the Boomer management...never trust the ignorant youth (very disrespectful!) but put 100% trust in black box software. Given that the boomers are so numerous I think that the cultural impact on business practices is relevant.
I'm not trying to age-bash here...I've worked with some very progressive boomers and individuals can always break the pattern...but the nature of the information technology rate of change and the impact of a large excess of a particular age group definitely has big picture effects.
Is it a coincidence that the demographics of Japan's last decade are correlated with economic decline and appear to be echoed by the US, Britain and Australia? Turnover in business practice is stalled until this "grey ceiling" clears out. Boomers please, retire early or start a business...senior management jobs need to go to folks who understand the internet and IT! (BTW. I have no interest in senior management, but I want it done right!)
Also, given the general rise of anti-science in public life, adult daycare industries such as Superannuation, Big Banking, etc that only really reward "soft skills" (ie. Ladder climbing skills/politics). It is no surprise that hard science skills are not being pursued by kids. We know that *in theory* maths and science is important...but in society teachers, parents and kids know that "geeks" are given short shift by the wealthy, the ignorant and politicians (who are a bit of both!)
Posted by Ozandy, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 9:07:39 AM
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Unfortunately, essential service jobs do not have any glamour so many young people don't even entertain the thought of getting an apprenticeship or some other practical skill.
It'll become more & more obvious as the baby boomers start to fade out & we'll have no-one to do menial tasks. What's going to happen then is that menial tasks will become so expensive that no-one can afford to have anything done. The glamour jobs will then need pay rises again to pay for the menial task workers. It's a monster feeding on itself.
I can see only one solution, a non-military national service & a flat tax. If anyone can tell me how this is not the fairest way of all to equality i'd like them to explain it here.
After all, it is inequality that everyone's complaining about. So let's introduce equality by very 18 year old, no if's n' nuts does two years national service then chooses a career to start off with & everyone pays 20 cents in the dollar tax.
Why this would not improve things has to be detailed.
Posted by individual, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 9:37:40 AM
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In a comprehensive series of essays called “The Corruption of the Curriculum” written during 2007 by authors such as Frank Furedi, Shirley Laws, Michele Ledda, Chris McGovern, Simon Patterson, Alex Standish, Robert Whelan and David Perks. The conclusion of these authors, all of whom are experienced teachers, is that the curriculum is being drained of intellectual content in favor of promoting political issues such racism, the environment and gender.

Examples of the dumbing down process identified by the above authors include but are not limited to:

• Student centered educational approaches leading to constant attempts to make study more “relevant” to students immediate lives
• An underestimation of the capabilities of students and a desire to protect them from failure, leading to breaking down of subjects into ‘bite sized” chunks of digestible information at the expense of a deeper appreciation of the subjects as a whole
• The decline in practical work and laboratory experiments
• A disregard for the integrity of subject knowledge and an associated attempt to sideline teachers “knowledge intermediaries”
• Misplaced and exaggerated expectation about the role education can play in relation to wider social concerns
• Confusion about what science has to offer society

It must be remembered that these are only scientific study examples. Those of history, geography, literature, maths and modern languages have also been subjected to equally drastic socialization or dumbing down
Posted by spindoc, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 9:45:59 AM
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Alas, I reckon the US model of using cheap illegal immigrant for the low-status menial jobs will be more likely to take off.
We have already seen how the "free market" works for labour is "good as it provides jobs and industry"...but when labour becomes expensive due to highly skilled/educated kids with high expectations...then high skill jobs are exported to cheap countries and immigration is used to keep wages low. Another words, "free market labour" is only good when it makes labour cheap: They can game the system to maximise profits regardless of the long term cost to the community or national wealth.
The result is that the boomers are the last generation to see standard of living increase...subsequent gens have seen real wages stagnate while company profits soar (away over seas).
National service may indeed be necessary...but a shift to a central command society in non wartime is a big shift!
I'd rather we all can afford androids to mow our lawns and do the cleaning...that may be another 50 years but will *really* stuff up the labour market!
Posted by Ozandy, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 9:52:07 AM
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It wasn't all that long ago but perhaps before the time of some posters here when some so-called intellectuals complained bitterly that Plumbers were making very good money whilst they (the so-called intelligent) weren't making quite as much.
Their gripes was that why should someone who can make or fix things make more money than someone who can write meaningless essays & puts forward meaningless ideas.
I have already seen people getting paid $150 just to open a door for an intellectual who locked himself out.
Just look at Kevin 07. He speaks very articulate but ask him to make a sensible policy & he's utterly out of his depth.
we need people from a practical/business background in Government not some half-backed idealists with a BA or rather being BA's.
Posted by individual, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 5:22:56 PM
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