Tag Archives: Australia

Addressing teacher quality in Australia and India

Reports over the past month show that Australia and India are countries are implementing new policies to address teacher quality, albeit with two distinctly different approaches.

In Australia, principals will be given the power to address teacher behavior as part of an $150 million reform effort to improve the quality of teaching. Education Minister Adrian Piccoli described it to the AAP as “more like a private sector approach to performance management….It’s going to be a fair process but a tougher process than what exists already.” Teachers who fail to meet the new standards of conduct could be released, demoted, fined or cautioned. Additional reforms include salaries based on meeting standards rather than employment length.

In India, the government has adopted a three-pronged strategy to improve teacher quality, which includes (i) the strengthening of Teacher Education Institutions, (ii) the revision of curriculum for teacher education in accordance with the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education 2009 and (iii) the laying down of minimum qualifications for Teacher Educators and their continuous professional development.

In Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the Indian state of Kerala, the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) will embark on a three-month study to analyze how classroom practices correspond to the prescribed curriculum of the district’s primary schools.  As Mohammed Kabir, a DIET official, explained to The Hindu, “There is an increasing need to analyze the problems faced by practicing teachers to get a complete picture. Sometimes, teachers follow textbook-based teaching while the curriculum mandates on activity-based learning. This might be out of habit or due to lack of understanding about the methodology. Here, teachers can open up on the problems they face in adapting to the methods”, said Mohammed Kabir, a DIET official.

A view from Australia

Dr. Leila Morsy Eckert

Dr. Leila Morsy Eckert

Recent reports from Australia question how the changes outlined in the Gonski school funding reform would be impacted by the outcome of the nation’s recent election, in which Prime Minister Julia Gillard was replaced by her opponent, Kevin Rudd. We asked Dr. Leila Morsy Eckert, a Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of New South Wales, to provide us with some background information on the reform effort, different perspectives on the issue, and the implications of this reform for education in Australia.

What does this reform mean for education in Australia? How will it change?

The Better Schools: A National Plan for School Improvement, colloquially known as the Gonski reforms, are in principal meant to account for the real cost of educating a child. Funding is allocated to schools on the basis of the average cost of a student’s education. A base amount of funding will be allocated per child. Additional funding, or “loadings,” will be given to schools based on whether the children who attend that school are, on average, disadvantaged. Disadvantage will be measured on the basis of socio-economic status, language background other than English, indigeneity, rural or small schools, and disability. Funding is sector-blind, meaning that the Catholic Schools Sector and the Independent (Private) Schools Sector will also receive money. 

What are some of the different perspectives on the issues? 

Overall, there is consensus that the current funding system is unclear and unequal (much funding is duplicated, and it is difficult to trace where funding is coming from and where it is going to). However, Catholic School and Independent School representatives have been concerned that they will lose money under the new policy. Others still believe that the premise of the new funding mechanism itself is flawed. Indeed, the Federal Government in Australia funds non-government schools. Many education researchers believe that this has resulted in a system where any family that can afford to send their child to a private or Catholic school does so. One consequence is that public schools have become a place of last resort for all those who cannot afford a private education. The Gonski reforms continue this trend of federal funding of non-government schools. 

What do you expect will be happening in the near future? 

While the reforms have passed in the Senate, it is unclear what will happen next. Politically, there has been a change of leadership—Julia Gillard, the driving force behind the reforms, was replaced as Prime Minister last week by Kevin Rudd, who supports the reforms but to a less fervent degree than Gillard. Also, not all Australian states and territories have signed up to the federal reforms. So, it may be a slow start for any actual change to roll out across the country. 

For more information:

Independent schools sign up to Better Schools plan in $1bn deal

Giles digs in on Better Schools funding scheme

Gonski reforms in ‘chaos’: Pyne

Scan of news: Access and Funding

Sources in many countries over the past few weeks highlight issues ranging from educational access and funding, to quality curriculum and government corruption. Here is a quick glimpse of what we’ve seen on the issues of access and funding:

Pia Philip Michael and Bridget Nagomoro visited the UK to discuss the challenges to girls' education in South Sudan. Photograph: Leapfrog Public Relations

Pia Philip Michael and Bridget Nagomoro visited the UK to discuss the challenges to girls’ education in South Sudan. Photograph: Leapfrog Public Relations

Reports have shown that the United Arab Emirates is struggling with the issue of high tuition and long student wait lists, while Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Education has suggested that the government link educational subsidies with evidence of high quality. Australia and the Philippines seek to increase investment in educational research by launching a partnership that aims to raise the quality of education in the Philippines through investing in research to support K-12 education. Meanwhile, union leaders in Peru met to develop policies that would defend the right of indigenous peoples to public education. Sudan aims to keep young girls in primary school by involving officials in the effort to spread the national message on educating girls. India is about to launch the second round of the Right to Education Act admissions, which will include a reservation of 25% seats in private schools for disadvantaged groups; however, reports reveals that word has not yet reached parents who would benefit most from the new provision. 


Education takes a dramatic new course
Hall, B.  The Age (10 July 2012)

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) announced that all schools would be required to enroll in dance, drama, media arts, music and the visual arts until year 10 under a draft new national curriculum released yesterday.  However, schools would have some discretion as to how they teach them.  In conjunction with the announcement, the Education Minister, Peter Garrett, said “making the arts a key part of the new national curriculum would have ‘huge’ positive impacts for students.”  For instance, teaching such subjects inspires creativity, encourages young people to think critically, boosts self-esteem, aids the development of their sense of identity and can provide great benefits for learning in other core areas.


Baillieu plan to get rid of bad teachers
Topsfield, J.  The Age (21 June 2012)

Under a plan to be released for consultation entitled “New directions for school leadership and the teaching profession,” the Victorian State government plans to amongst other things, sack the worst 5 percent of teachers.  According to the plan, principals often view the process of firing teachers as burdensome:  ”This [current] process [of firing teachers] seldom results in the departure of the teacher and there is a strong perception among principals that it is cumbersome, lengthy and overly complex.”  The plan’s other controversial suggestions include “teachers doing extra days of professional development during school holidays, teachers of hard-to-staff subjects such as maths and science earning more money and principals coming from professions other than teaching.”  The intent behind the plans is to enable Victorian students to match the performance of students in places like Finland and Shanghai on international assessment tests, like PISA, in a decade.


Principals warned off test boycott
Topsfield, J.  The Age (15 May 2012)

Principals have been warned not to encourage students to boycott NAPLAN, the standardized tests for Years 3, 5, 7, and 9 in reading, writing, language conventions, and numeracy.  Opposition to the test has been building, as groups like Say No to NAPLAN have expressed concerns about the examinations.  The move to boycott by principals takes advantage of provisions in the program that “the tests are not compulsory and parents have the right to withdraw their children on the grounds of philosophical objections or religious beliefs.”  The testing authority’s response to this tactic:  “Parents do have the right to withdraw their children from the tests, but we emphasise that principals are not to actively encourage students not to participate,” adding that ”we would consider that quite inappropriate for obvious reasons.”


Annual appraisal plan includes observing teachers in classroom
Arlington, K.  Sydney Morning Herald (27 April 2012)

Australia is implementing its first national guidelines for performance assessments of teachers, giving them a clear understanding of 1) what they will be expected to achieve each year and 2) how their performance will be measured.  Every teacher will set goals for the year, have their performance reviewed, and provide evidence in support of their performance.  (Evidence will include improved student results and feedback from students, parents, peers or supervisors on goal attainment.)  Classroom observations will also be carried out.  In return, teachers will receive constructive feedback and may be eligible for performance bonuses. National consultations of the document, developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), will be held before it is implemented next year.  Anthony Mackay, the chair of the AITSL, argues for “recognizing and supporting the best” teachers here.

In addition, below is a video from AITSL about the desired outcomes of teaching standards:


Students reap rewards of greater autonomy for principals
Arlington, K.  Sydney Morning Herald (13 March 2012) 

This article from the perspective of New South Wales parents and educators focuses on the benefits — mainly flexibility — that the school autonomy plans will provide with the shift in personnel and financial decision-making power from the state government to individual principals.  According to one principal, “'[We have] the opportunity to think differently and find solutions to issues that haven’t been found before.”  According to the article, this flexibility enables principals to bring into public schools what private schools have been doing all along — treating each child as an individual.   (The perspective of principals from the New South Wales Teachers Union can be found here; an article about a report funded by the Treasury outlining the autonomy plan as a cost-effective plan can be found here.)


Catching up: Learning from the best school systems in East Asia
Jensen, B.  Grattan Institute (February 2012)

Four of the five top education nations in the PISA 2009 study come from East Asia – Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore.  (Finland ranked third in the study.)  In order to draw lessons for Australia, this report from the Grattan Institute found that it was neither cultural factors (Confucianism, Tiger Mums, rote learning) nor the amount of budget that contributed to educational success.  Instead, the report suggests that these countries implemented ideas and levers that are known to be effective for system improvement (e.g. focus on effective student learning, a strong culture of teacher education, collaboration, mentoring, feedback, and sustained professional development).


Principals want more power but no strings
Stevenson, A. and B. Robins. The Sydney Morning Herald (12 March 2012)

Described as the most far-reaching reforms in New South Wales (NSW) in a century, the education department is shifting significant responsibility from the head office to the principal’s desk.  Principals have greater autonomy to control staffing, finances, and maintenance at a local level.  Currently, principals manage only 10 percent of funds, but the plan would give them authority over 70 percent of their budget, delivered through two revenue streams – for staff and for equipment and maintenance.  Nonetheless, the NSW Teachers Federation expressed concerns about related budget cuts. “We fear for class sizes, we fear for staff numbers and the loss of specialist positions. This is a government hell-bent on making savings and making principals deliver them under the guise of autonomy.”