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Category Archives: General Education

More Cheating In Our Schools

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More examine papers got stolen in a different school according to this article Exam security breach forces HSC trial exams at Sydney school to be re-sat on SMH. This thing just never dies and I am surprised given the importance of HSC and related examines, these are the first instance I heard in Australia in my “limited” lifespan.

In the latest theft, an unnamed high school in the Ryde area has contacted parents to tell them that the serious security breach, which is believed to involve test papers being photographed using a smartphone, has meant that some students will need to redo their HSC trial exams.

This is precisely what I said what could happen, with the advent of smart phones, everybody essentially got a spy camera in their pocket. Why take the papers, just photograph them and it will serve the same purpose without leaving the obvious evidence. With the how the modern society becomes even more competitive, I expect more not less of this type of things to happen.

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Good Schools Drives The Local Property Price

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I am sure this is not something new to most of your guys. Traditionally school is the top item for any parents when they consider purchasing properties. This phenomenon is mostly restricted to public schools as top schools tend to have very strictly restricted catchment or intake area. In the last few years, properties within the desirable school catchment compare to ones that are just out can command difference in price of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There was an article discussing this exact same thing about parents buying into the St Ives North Public School catchment to ensure a position for their children. This is happening all around Sydney and rest of Australia, not just this particular school. However investing properties just based on current school catchment is a rather risky business, schools can close, new schools can open and result in a change of existing catchment, catchment can shrink due to enrolment pressure etc.

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Cheating In Australian Schools

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In my personal experience cheating in Australian school is relatively rare when compared to some other countries. One of the reason is due to culturally and historically there is less emphasis on the importance of exams in someone’s academic and career progression. This a complex issue, so there is no one reason as to why one cheats and how prevalent it is. Most of the time it is done on the individual level and on fairly low-level stuff. So it is surprising that on the news that trial HSC Physics paper has been stolen from Sydney’s Scots College, consider that trial examinations will be a big percentage of school mark, this actually is a big deal. Not to mention there are other tests stored in the same cabinet as well and 400 plus other school uses the same test as well, so potentially they could all be compromised as well. It is trivial these days to just taking photos of all the papers which would only take minutes to complete.

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There is an interesting article Why fewer girls are studying economics on SMH by Jessica Irvine who wrote a lot of excellent stuff.

Since 1992, the number of year 12 students taking economics has declined by almost 70 per cent, from 40,000 to closer to 10,000.

Instead, students are taking up “business studies” with gusto. Why? According to the head of the Reserve Bank’s information department, Jacqui Dwyer: “Business studies is widely perceived as a more employable subject than economics, is less demanding for students to learn and is easier for educators to teach.”

While 25 years ago, high school economics classes were evenly split by gender, today there is just one female economics student for every two males. The decline in female economics enrolments is most pronounced in co-ed and non-selective schools.

I think the key takeaway should be students tend to gravitate to subjects that are easier to do and more rewarding in marks. The recent discussion with studying lower difficulties math will actually reward you with higher marks is a very good example of this problem. This can be addressed by properly scaling for the subjects in question. Would also be interesting to see what subjects are the all the girls studying now. This would shed further light on what exactly is happening.

Economics is very important to our modern society, however, if you are read up all the news and analysis, then apply your own thoughts to it, you likely do just as well on many economic topics as most of the economists. School particularly high school need to teach our children how to learn, which will impart a life long benefit. As my father had repeated over and over to me, the most important thing you learn in school is not this or that particular pieces of knowledge but is how to learn and acquire more knowledge by yourself. He turned out to be dead right in this particular case at least in my personal experience anyhow.

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NAPLAN And HSC

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2017 is the first year that in NSW, the government will require year 9 students to obtain at least a NAPLAN band 8 or higher in three areas – reading, writing and numeracy to qualify for their HSC. If they fail to achieve band 8 in all three areas, they will have to pass an online test in the following years in order to qualify for HSC.

This year close to 70 percent students in year 9 failed to hit the above mentioned score. So will have to sit in additional online tests if they want to qualify for HSC. Some interesting points, not all year 9 students will end up sitting for HSC three years later, I did a blog a while ago and I think HSC completion rate in NSW is something like 70 percent. We can likely to assume most of the student that reached the band 8 for all three area will be the ones that go on and complete their HSC. So in fact, if you subtract the 30 percent from the total in fact close to 60 percent of student that eventually complete their HSC do not have to sit for additional tests. So as you can numbers can be deceptive sometimes.

Another interesting thing is that NSW got a pretty decent bump in result this year and one of the possible main contributing facts possibly is due to this requirement. NAPLAN tests previously do not matter at all, so not surprising many students do not sit for it or try for it.

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Arson Attacks In Australian Schools

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There was a possible arson attack on Marsden High School in Sydney, see Police investigate whether Sydney school was targeted by arsonists in news.com.au.

POLICE are investigating a suspected arson attack in Sydney that has caused serious damage to a high school.

Emergency services extinguished the blaze after being called to Marsden High School on Winbourne Street at West Ryde just after 1am this morning, but not before it caused significant damage to a building.

The fire began in the science block and quickly spread to several other classrooms, Channel 7 reported. Fire crews rushed to the scene after receiving dozens of triple-0 calls from nearby residents who could see thick smoke pouring out the windows.

A crime scene has been established and forensic crews will examine the site later today. Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward.

Unfortunately, this is by far not a rare occurrence in Australia. The high school I attended got its school hall burned down previously and while I was there the toilet block burned down as well. Both occasions due to an arson attack and the guilty party were never caught in both instances. We had to deal with portaloos for most of the year, it was not very pleasant experience, to say the least.

One of the reasons that many NSW schools were completed blocked off with security fences is due to possible arson attacks. This cost a lot of money to put in and maintain which could be used for something else. Any of your guys had the similar experience as well?

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Opportunity Class Test Time

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Opportunity Classes (OC) in NSW is for primary students starting year 5 next, so the students wishing to attend those will sit for the examination in year 4 which this year happened on last Wednesday. In 2017 a tad under 11,849 students sat for this examination and with about 1740 place available. So about the ratio of one in six, in contrast the ratio of student sat for selective high school exams and ones being accepted is about one in three. It is actually harder to get into opportunity classes than selective high school. The interesting part is in my niece’s class about just over half of the students attended this examination and some of them do not actually intend to attend even if they got in.

At this stage I do not plan to have my children attempt this test, not just I think the current public school is very good already, picking up and dropping off two kids at different school plus schedules will be a total nightmare. Also changing school and leaving all your existing friends behind is a big thing, this should not be a decision to be taken lightly.

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Have Our Children Expose To More Things Rather Than Less

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There was an interesting article on SMH a few days ago that about a particular childcare in Newcastle is letting six children play with fire, knives, power tools etc under supervision. I am pretty old that I can use the phrase back in my days. When I was little, we played with everything including fire. We get told in principle what is acceptable and that is mostly it. Most of my generation turned out ok in the end. We are in a sense now days sheltering our children too much and always there when there is a set back in their lives and guide them through everything as much as possible. I do that myself as well, the over sheltering part that is.

As long as children are old enough to understand the consequence and properly supervised there is no issue in my view to let them go “Wild”. They have to learn many of these things and it is good to do when they are young. In the long run over sheltering and hand holding with our children actually may be counter productive. Despite everything we do,  our children will grow up one day and go into the world without us. They will taste success and failures, too much hand holding earlier in their life may not prepare them well later in their life to setbacks.

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We Should Not Be Using Tax Payer’s Money To Push Social Engineering Ideas Of Either Side Of Politics

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This article in SMH More than 40 per cent of NSW school students nominate ‘no religion’: new data which I read today got some interesting stats.

More than 40 per cent of the 795,000 students in NSW’s public schools do not list any religion on their enrolment form, according to new data that comes as parents and teachers push for an overhaul of the strict rules that leave students with “dead time” if they do not attend scripture.

All schools must set aside at least 30 minutes each week for special religious education (SRE) but the data, released under freedom of information laws, shows that in more than 50 per cent of schools, most students do not nominate a religion.

There is a reason why we do not mix government with religion, our often bloody history should have taught us well in this matter. Religion has its place in our lives and people can make their own choices, we should not be using tax payer’s money to push social engineering ideas of either side of politics.

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Selective Entry Test Becoming Pay To Win?

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The original article Selective Entry Test To Be Overhauled Amid Coaching Concerns is on SMH. There had been a lot of huffs and puff selective high schools in NSW and how coaching confers unfair advantages. The central idea is that selective high schools in NSW are becoming pay to win, this is not entirely true at all. Selective schools in NSW achieve a high level of academic performance, not due to it has more funding or better teachers. It is solely due to the congregation of talented students and accompanying “Tiger” parents. Putting the same set of students and their parents into another school it will do equally well. Selective secondary schools do not really confer real advantages other than the congregation of students of similar academic performance level and like minded parents as well.

We got the fairly unique system of public and private school in Australia, where students can be paying 30k plus per year and yet the school in question still receive significant Federal government funding. Do we consider this is a form of pay to win as well? There are plenty of different form of coaching happening in our life not the just academic side of things, music, sports etc are just some of it. The fact that some parents can afford to pay for private coaching lessons for music and sports, does that consider as pay to win as well?

Let’s consider different solutions to this issue, change the test format as suggest in the article

The government’s review will look at replacing the selective schools test with “computer-adaptive IQ tests that assess cognitive skills, student work portfolios” or “problem-solving tasks that rely more on higher-order and critical thinking skills”, Mr Scott said.

This alters the format of coaching, it still can be prepared, anybody says otherwise is just fooling himself.

Second is introduce interview based acceptance, this not only expensive process and also grossly unfair as well. An interview is a subjective approach in nature and should not be used to address perceived issue such as this. I personally do not support secondary or tertiary school entrance selection based on interview process except in rare circumstance. Score based examination is still the fairest way of approach issue like we need to try to improve the educational outcome of the students from lower social economic background rather than just tinker with solutions that paper over the symptoms and just ignore the cause.

The third is reserve some space for local students, this just papers over the issue and don’t really go to core why this phenomenon is happening. Some parents will just buy into the whatever catchment the “Desired” school in question and this becomes even bigger pay to win scenario.

Lastly, even if we abolished the selective schools altogether, the schools with students from high socio economic background will just do better. Thus we need to fix the fundamental cause of Australian school system that resulted in this issue, not just replace arguably more useful traditional test with the new style IQ ones that can be prepared as well. We need to fix the funding and examine why we in such a unique position in the world with so many students in the private system. If a bunch of first or secondary generation immigrations can succeed and educate themselves in Australia, why can we do that for a large proportion of our society? When we have answered this question, maybe we can better devise a solution to the issue that we are facing.

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