Blogosphere experts respond

Andrew Norton on Labor’s higher education announcements.

Joshua Gans on Labor’s broadband-to-schools policy.

Update: Adrian Pagan guestposts at JQ on WorkChoices research (is this the first time we’ve seen a current or past member of the RBA board in the blogosphere?).

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6 Responses to Blogosphere experts respond

  1. invig says:

    Life Matters had a good speaker on this morning on the education stuff. Regarding all the talk of ripping the guts out of public schools, I say good! Make them all privately run, assess them, report the results publicly and then fund them accordingly. Giving parents a cash rebate is also good as it increases the power of the market to delineate a good school from the not-so-good ones.

    Oh yeah, and Fred Niles’s plan to close down the Muslim schools? He has a point if they are run by Saudi money on a Wahabist tradition. To get around that, simply assess them as per above. If they pass all the 3R’s competencies (including internet/media awareness as well), then they can’t be spending too much time drumming fundamentalist rubbish into the kids heads.

  2. invig says:

    Grodscorp has a very interesting piece from a primary teacher.

    She makes the point that children need many things, such as social skills, and not just the 3R’s.

    The points I would make are;
    a) measuring the 3R’s is easier than soft skills
    b) if teachers had a supportive environment, and sufficient time, they would teach the soft skills as it makes their job more fulfilling
    c) parents want their kids to be taught this stuff as well, and the schools that do so will be both well-attended
    d) happy, well-adjusted kids are more likely to absorb the 3R’s (making the school better funded)

    Overall, I think the soft skills are HIGHLY important, but can remain largely implicit in a well-designed system. Nevertheless, politicians would be well-advised to make mention of them when discussing education outcomes. Further, they should explain how their SYSTEM DESIGN will facilitate them. I think people are ready for such a debate.

  3. invig says:

    But one wonders if the digital stuff is not overblown: after all, so long as kids have access to the net they’ll figure out how to use it in their own way, and certainly putting everything on software is preemptive, and may indeed be detrimental to the ‘soft skills’ just mentioned.

  4. Leon says:

    invig,

    The intangibility of “soft skills” is not just reflected in how difficult they are to measure. They’re also difficult to talk about generally, and difficult to enforce or put onto a curriculum.

    Soft skills advocacy is also often vague and fluffy. I’m all for parents being able to choose a Steiner or Montissori education for their children, and for “soft skills” time in “mainstream” education. But when the teachers’ union opposes national standards in the Rs on the grounds that “you can’t test for a sense of wonder” – well, that just seems like a cheap attitude towards the desires of parents to know how well their kids are doing.

    I guess the question of soft and hard skills isn’t just about balancing the two, but the desires of parents and children, the priorities of teachers, and the question of what sorts of skills schools are trying to deliver.

  5. Patrick says:

    She makes the point that children need many things, such as social skills, and not just the 3R’s.

    NO! NO! Do NOT start down this path. ‘Soft skills’ are important, indeed. They pale in comparison to being able to read and communicate competently. In fact they are worthless without it. If we have universally high achievement on the 3Rs, then, fine, we can worry about soft skills as a national priority.

    But in the present context, to the extent that there is any value in federal government involvement in primary education it is to support the 3Rs. Dare I say it, when it becomes appropriate for the federal government to worry about the soft skills in primary skill it will be time for the federal government to leave primary schools well alone.

    On the causative elements of that teacher’s approach, fine. Teach how you like. I certainly expect my childrens’ teachers to be supportive and inclusive. But if your students can’t read, you should have to explain or be sacked.

    I agree about the ‘remaining implicit’, I guess.

  6. invig says:

    Leon and Patrick,

    Never have I been agreed with so forthrightly
    ;)

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