Retention Not Valid Measure; Solution to Investigate Historically High Standards Won't Happen Any Time Soon

Gympie Times, The Qld., December 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

Retention Not Valid Measure; Solution to Investigate Historically High Standards Won't Happen Any Time Soon


I DON'T often agree with Tony Abbott, however when it comes to his views about keeping students at school beyond Grade 10, we largely sing off the same hymn sheet.

If anything I believe that our senior educational system passed the point of being C[pounds sterling]glorified occupational therapyC[yen] a long time ago.

In Queensland this is a leftover of the leading schools program where schools competed to distinguish themselves by offering unusual products like Schools of Excellence in rugby league or country music.

No doubt such subjects are in themselves worthy of a place dedicated to intense education in their finer points, but whether that place is a state high school is a matter that never seems to have been subjected to any genuine debate.

Equally, we seem to have ignored whether, in our mad rush to retain students beyond Grade 10 on the premise they should be either earning or learning, we have disadvantaged the academic students by the pres-ence of vocational education students many of whom are only at school because they have no other choice.

One must equally wonder whether the vocational education student would not be better off in something similar to the old technical college arrangement whereby they were taught by craftsmen in the trades they wish to pursue rather than by generalist teachers who learned manual arts as teaching subjects.

General teachers sometimes struggle in an attempt to educate students who may be maladapted to the current system but better suited to experiential learning.

I am not an educational elitist. There are certain trades where the qualifications to become a master craftsman are effectively indistinguishable from the base requirements of related professions.

The distinction between a highly qualified electrician and an electrical engineer becomes fuzzier every year.

Similarly a large degree of crossover exists between a builder who does renovation work, a construction draughts-man and a low-level architect.

Some of the builders seem to demonstrate more commonsense in their designs than do architects but that may simply be a practical man's prejudices coming to the fore.

I am not setting out to bag school-based app-renticeships or to denigrate the concept of Schools of Excellence.

I question the location of these specialist practical educational institutions and whether we should be drawing more distinctions between the purely practical and the purely academic.

Notwithstanding the rare exceptions, who excel at everything, it's still fair to say that academically inclined students need to be dragged kicking and screaming into a physical education class and that you get a lot better response if they don't find themselves compared to the jocks from the manual arts section.

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Retention Not Valid Measure; Solution to Investigate Historically High Standards Won't Happen Any Time Soon
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