Opportunity Class Test Time

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

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

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?

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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The Different Reasons Men And Women Become Teachers

There is a pretty interesting article on SMH The Different Reasons Men And Women Become Teachers which I read yesterday. I did a quick summarization of the article with the import point as following

While the “intrinsic” value of teaching and the ability to teach are the top reasons both men and women go into the profession, a new study has found that men are also very likely to go into teaching because they are interested in a particular subject.

This is the third biggest reason male teachers enter the profession, while shaping children’s future and making a social contribution are the third largest motivators for female teachers, according to the survey of more than 1000 teachers.

Other motivators for both male and female teachers include prior teaching and learning experiences and job security.

About 59 per cent of male teachers and 64 per cent of female teachers see teaching as a lifelong career, the study found.

More than 22 per cent of men see classroom teaching as a step towards leadership roles in schools, 6.8 per cent see it as a temporary career until they move into another field and 5.1 per cent see it as a fallback career.

About 17.6 per cent of female teachers see it as a step towards leadership roles, 5.5 per cent see it as a step towards a different role in a related field and 4.2 per cent see it as a fallback career.

Only one in four teachers across the country are male and the proportion of men in the profession has been steadily falling since 1984.

I think one of the most important things to investigate and remediate is why we have such an imbalance between the number of male and female teachers. Taking steps in remediating the issue, this will help in addressing the issue of shortage in teachers in some areas, particularly in the science subjects were traditionally dominated by male.

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Student Data Privacy In Australia

There is an article on SMH The privacy of our school students is up for grabs, this is actually a very interesting one and deserve more attention from us. I dabble in this field a little bit and understand there are almost limitless applications plus ways to use the data. This issue is not just limited to this, everything we use on a day to day base has this exact same issue, such as Facebook, Google and Apple just to mention a few, it is without a doubt they all collect a vast amount of data regarding us. Even if it is supposed to be anonymous, in reality when you have enough data it is straightforward to identify someone without too much issue.

There is unlimited potential with the data collected, collated and analysed from our students. However as have been amply identified previous, proper safeguard needs to be put in to ensure the data is used properly and only for the purpose described. One of the issues is that the decision makers in our society often are older which is the norm and have a lack of understanding of the potential benefits and pitfalls that new technologies will bring.

Technological advances have enabled large amounts of data to be gathered, collated and analysed from more sources more quickly. The National Schools Interoperability Program endorsed by state and education ministers, and developed under them, along with input from the ed-technology providers, seeks to ensure the standardisation of all software and data across all Australian schools and schooling systems.

Data systems require high levels of technical and statistical expertise. These functions appear to be outsourced to commercial entities and edu-businesses.

This matter needs to be at the forefront of policy debates in education. In our view, legislative protection is necessary. In Japan, for example, privacy legislation has been passed that ensures data can only be used for the explicit purposes for which it was collected. This prohibits the matching of multiple data sources to create algorithms to frame school systems, their policies and the practices of schools. There are also strict procedures for the wiping of data, when it is in the hands of edu-businesses. Such a legislative approach needs to be considered in Australia.

The authors of this article got it spot on, there needs to be legislative protection put into place for the safety and use of these data. It is just way too important not to take this approach.

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Parents Shopping For “Good” Public Schools For Their Children

As usual, I was just reading the news and this article Shopping for ‘good’ public schools in NSW reinforcing equity gap: research on news.com.au got me interested. I took a few parts and you can read them if you do not want to wade through the original article.

The most sought-after public high schools and their strict catchments are creating a worsening cycle of segregation, effectively locking out poor students and giving wealthy families almost exclusive access to their “better” local schools, research reveals.

The paper found there was a “rather straightforward link between the affluence of a community and the desirability of a community’s school”.

The proposed the solution is

The paper suggests that schools should make at least 10 per cent of places available to students from outside the schools’ immediate catchment areas.

Dr Rowe said: “As part of this, we need to implement blind selection processes for a proportion of places available in a school, rather than competitive access based on testing, academic or sporting merit”.

While I do not dispute the fact that schools in the more affluent area are more desirable. This is a chicken and egg scenario where because the area is more affluent and desirable to live which attracted more affluent families this, in turn, leads to more desirable local public school due better resourced, educated and similarly minded parents. The link and reference to the article that parents are in fact shopping for peers rather than shopping schools are very true indeed. You can put this same bunch of parents with their children to any public school and they will excel. If the parents are shopping for schools will likely mean they will pay attention and invest in more resource in their children’s education. Given 10 percent spots to out of catchment will do exactly nothing to address the issue as applications are likely parents who are seeking quality education for their children and willing to invest time plus money into it.

Also, enrolment in NSW is fairly reasonable, you do not have to own and live in the catchment to be able to be accepted. You could simply be renting in the catchment and still guaranteed a position. I do know many parents specifically rent in the catchment of top ranking public schools to guarantee the enrolment for their children. Access to top ranked public schools are less to do with the affluence of the family but more of the willingness and drive of the parents to do so. Public education is Australia is still affordable to all families and what you get out of it is depend on what you willing to invest in terms of money and effort.

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Update For Upgrade For Artarmon Public School

I was in the neighbouring area on the weekend, so paid a quick visit and to have a look at how is the upgrade going. By the look of things the upgrade is going up pretty quickly and looks good, look like it will be completed on schedule by the look of it. This is very good for Artarmon Public School because it is one of the most congested schools in the North Shore area. I took a couple of photos and they are as following.


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