Does more time in the classroom make students/teachers better?

imageOver the last two days, there have been a couple of interesting articles in the The Australian newspaper, which are worth a read. I’m sharing them here, because they give a useful insight into some of the issues being debated in education in Australia – which ICT could help with.

More time in class does not a student make

This article, written by Julie Hare, The Australian’s Higher Education Editor, looks at the current generation of students going into universities, and asks ‘Are we over-educated?’. It throws in a few statistics, like:

  • In 1901, 0.07% of the population went to university
  • The government target for 2025 is that 40% of students will get a bachelor’s degree
  • 20% of graduates could be considered to be over-educated for the job they hold*.

There are two really noteworthy quotes in the article. The first, from Phil Lewis, director for the Centre for Labour Market Research at the University of Canberra, says the primary reason for the shift to demand for higher-level skills is that the structure of the economy has fundamentally changed since the 80s:

  We now have very much a service-based economy. Manufacturing and agriculture and demand for manual labour has waned, while demand for service-based skills, such as interpersonal skills, creativity and teamwork, has increased dramatically  

And Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology at Britain’s University of Kent , is quoted as saying:

  I don’t think we are overeducated, we just force kids to spend far too much of their life in organisations that masquerade as education institutions  

Read the full article “More time in class does not a student make” here

Challenge of focusing education reform

A day later, John Hattie’s article, talks about the fundamental challenge for Australian education – that although Australian ranks highly in the world student achievement tables, it has been slipping down over the last decade, and the major drop is among those students who are above average. In the article he argues for ‘earned autonomy’, with successful schools being given greater autonomy. He highlights that Australia has one of the lowest between-school variabilities in the world, but that overshadows the bigger issue of within-school variability, which is largely driven by the impact of teachers. And Australian teachers spend almost twice as long in front of students as many other Top 10 countries (1,100 hours compared to 600).

He talks about the need to change assessment, to use it to help a student learn more, by knowing where they are and can go next, rather than at the end, to work out what they learnt (but not being able to use that for the next stage in the journey). He finishes with a clear call:

  It’s all about the teachers – and we have an excellent cohort in Australia. Let’s esteem them, resource them, and help them “know their impact” on every student in our schools.  

Read the full article “Challenge of focusing education reform” here


* The actual quote in the article, from Kostas Mavromaras at Flinder University, goes on to say “including the 100,000 people with degrees who work in sales”. Which is astonishing presumption – that if you work in sales you are over-qualified if you have a degree. Bit of a shock for a bunch of colleagues sitting around me today!