Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Recent reports into the state of Tasmania’s education system has revealed what many of us have long suspected - that Tasmania is the worst performing State when it comes to educational outcomes in Australia. Our students have the lowest standards in maths, English, science, history (“Sose”). Teachers report that Tasmanian students lack motivation, self-discipline, and a work ethic. All of this despite literally millions of dollars being spent to solve these problems.

I am the father of 4 Tasmanian students at each level of our Educational system (Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary). My wife is a registered teacher with a Masters degree in education and has recently completed her Graduate Certificate in Teaching English. Together, we run one of Australia’s most prestigious Distance Education Colleges. We know something about education. I am deeply concerned about the state of our State’s education system.
We’ve just participated in hosting a foreign language European student. At a recent meeting of the other exchange students in our city, they were all asked to share what they found “easiest” about living in Tasmania. Each of them, without exception (students from Asia and Europe), said, “School!” They all said that they found our school system to be at least two years behind their schools back home! 
Thus, anecdotally and according to the latest data, Tasmanian schools are not performing well. The answer is not more money - despite the Gonski Report’s findings. The answer is not going to be quick. The answer is not going to be popular. Whenever an answer is not quick or popular and there are politiciansinvolved, the answer will almost certainly failed to be delivered. Added to this is the involvement of the non-government sector and even the non-education sector, which will almost guarantee that the solution will never be implemented.
Education expert, Parker J. Palmer, says that every classroom is a ‘paradox’. By ‘paradox’ he means opposite. Is a classroom mainly for learning orteaching? The paradoxical answer is: both. Then consider this, students get graded and assessed but teachers do not. Why is only one aspect of classroom activity assessed? In a recent public address by University of Tasmania Economics Professor, Jonathan West, he acknowledged this as a glaring problem in the Tasmanian education system. But he also said that he did not know how this could be solved. Since, if a teacher’s assessment was conducted by their students it would almost certainly resort to being a ‘popularity contest’. There are, of course, two very simple means for resolving this. 
Some academies already have regular peer review. This is a great place to start. It takes courageous leadership to implement though. It naturally raises other issues such as remuneration incentives. But this is a secondary issue compared with improving students’ educational outcomes. The second means of reviewing teacher performance is for the parents of students to give formal reviews. After all, every parent must accept the primary responsibility for their children’s education and in this light regard teachers not as educating their children - but as assisting them in educating their children.
And this is actually the key to solving Tasmania’s education crisis.Tasmania’s education temperature must be set in Tasmanian homes. The objection to this simple cure will be pointing out that many of our homes are broken, dysfunctional, and unqualified. But the claim is an exaggerated objection. To be sure, there are too many broken/dysfunctional/unqualified homes in Tasmania - but ‘many’ should not be confused with ‘most’. While it is problem, it is not representative of the vast majority of Tasmanian homes. Yet, this objection actually confirms the solution I am proposing. That is, by saying that there are many parents who can not engage in the children’s education, you are tacitly admitting that this is foundational to the cause of the problem and therefore foundational to its cure. 
Parents need to help their children to - 
+ Learn how to learn
+ Think logically (understand the philosophical principles of logic)
+ Work (appreciate the connection between effort and reward)
If we in Tasmania could foster this cure, our educational outcomes will be dramatically affected.
Andrew Corbett

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