Archives for category: education

The annual  (Australia’s education system is f*cked) hand wringing began early this summer with the news that Australia had fallen in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) rankings.  The *absolute shame*that even Kazakhstan had out performed Australia brought the usual calls for more funding (um…there is this little law of diminishing returns) even though said funding had increased by 50% since 2003.

Since 2011, TIMSS shows Australia plunging from:

  • 18th to 28th on Year 4 mathematics
  • 12th to 17th for Year 8 maths
  • 12th to 17th for Year 8 science

The TIMSS results perhaps were not a surprise to the education profession or anything new. (Let’s face it, it is a cut and paste summer story).  In 2015 the idea had been floated that perhaps maths and science should be compulsory in the final years of high schools.  (And Australia should address the other two elephants in the room 1. The foundation for further science education is not laid properly in primary school and 2. Australia may need to import STEM teachers).

That maths and science has long been neglected in the education system was not revelation.  The competition we saw as we flicked through the Woolworths catalogue was.


What? We recall the days when stationery competitions required a degree of skill.  Colouring-in perhaps? But scrawling your name with a particular branded pen becomes execution of a dying art???  The promoters helpful provide ‘facts’ about handwriting to fill any concern parent with fear. (Marketing 101).

 ‘63% of parents believe handwriting will be lost in 20 years time’ – Bright Futures are Written by Hand study, commissioned by BIC Australia, undertaken by Quantum Market Research. November 2015
• Almost Half of our adult population in Australia admit to having problems with literacy – Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia, 2011-2012
• 15% of children handwrite less than once a week – Bright Futures are Written by Hand study, commissioned by BIC Australia, undertaken by Quantum Market Research. November 2015
• Experts recommend at least 15 minutes of handwriting a day for students – Hanover Research (2012). The Importance of Teaching Handwriting in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Hanover Research. Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting

But it begs the question what are children been taught at school?  Doesn’t appear to be the basics of reading , writing and arithmetic. Science and Maths are not judging by the continued slide down international rankings. Swimming? That seems to have been jettisoned.  Literacy? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.  Handwriting would appear to be an extra-curricular activity now.

Happy New Year! Don’t you love the smell of crayons? The endless colours (apparently Crayola has 133 colours). On special in January as the Back to School Sales commence and the endless articles about an education system in crisis appear in the media.

Shock, horror! The study that seems to have captured the public imagination is Brian Moon’s 2014 enquiry published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education.  The  study concluded ‘Many undergraduate students appear to have literacy problems so fundamental that remediation in the late stages of their degree program cannot hope to overcome a lifetime of poor literacy performance. It seems that problem can only be addressed in future by setting and applying appropriate admission standards and intervening much sooner in the students’ academic careers.’

Really?  Is this such a surprise?  It has long been known that the decision made in the 1970s to omit grammar from the curriculum had a devastating impact but perhaps more disturbing were the revelations concerning the limited vocabulary exhibited by the subjects.  Sixty five percent failed to score above 50% in the spelling test administered :

Easier         Harder
argument amateur
beginning conscience
coronary exaggerate
definite hypocrisy
maintenance miscellaneous
principal/principle parallel
resistant rhythm
sentence supersede

The second task was a test of vocabulary and morphological knowledge, including the ability to state word meanings and to identify word elements such as roots and affixes.

General vocabulary Professional vocabulary
agrarian cognition
candid draconian
hyperbole heterogeneous
orthodox homogeneous
peninsula pedagogy
malign profession
sanguine variance

(Yep, didn’t need a study to know that the results on the -ological would be dismal as this is not taught at school ).

And if you are curious about some of the definitions proffered check it out here.

Unless there is a significant cultural change whereby a staunch anti-intellectualism is no longer fervently embraced then in twenty years time there still will be a collective gasp of horror from the chattering classes when such a study is replicated.

Moon, B. (2014). The Literacy Skills of Secondary Teaching Undergraduates: Results of Diagnostic Testing and a Discussion of Findings. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(12)