Editorial

Article excerpt

This second issue for the year again singles out some very pertinent issues in contemporary education in Australia. Gray, Hunter and Schwab dedicate their article to providing an overview of the state of education and indigenous people in the Australian education system. The authors note that there have been slight improvements in indigenous educational outcomes over the period 1986 to 1996, but that such improvements do not indicate substantial gains. In particular, they single out the lack of improvement relative to the non-indigenous population both in terms of the proportion of the population with post-secondary qualifications, as well as the proportion of indigenous teenagers staying on at school. Their general conclusion is that there remains a severe degree of disadvantage with regard to the indigenous population, especially at the post-secondary level. It is a very sobering result which indicates that we do not seem to have come very far in terms of providing equal provisions for indigenous students.

Although one cannot draw a direct causal link between the disadvantage of indigenous groups in education and the problems of providing professional standards for teaching, there may well be a connection which is worth examining. Louden suggests in his article that Australian professional standards for teaching ought to be brief, transparent, specialised, contextualised and ought to focus on teaching and learning, combined with strong assessments. He arrives at these proposals because the first wave of standards development was heavily influenced by competency-based standards, and dominated by large state government school systems whereas the new wave, under way since 1999, was derived from the American National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and thus only of limited value in an Australian education context. Competency-based training has also come under the critical purview of Comford who argues that this approach in vocational education has not delivered what it promised. Having been introduced without the prior evaluation of pilot programs, this policy initiative turns out to have been hasty and in the end ineffective, according to Cornford. One of the problems was that the Australian National Training Authority seemed to have been most reluctant to evaluate the policy, a vacuum taken up by independent evaluators. These evaluations documented, inter alia, that competency-based training had not increased skill levels, and that this kind of training was not adopted widely in business and industry.

Turning his attention to the issue of political activism and civic education in Australian secondary schools, Saha investigated the impact of school variables on students' political knowledge and their political activity. …