Here’s why non-government schools work better

Here’s why non-government schools work better, by Kevin Donnelly.

In 2004, in Why Our Schools are Failing, I argued Australia’s competitive academic curriculum was being “attacked and undermined by a series of ideologically driven changes that have conspired to ­reduce standards and ­impose a politically correct, mediocre view of education on our schools”.

Three years later, in Dumbing Down, I repeated the claim, arguing that Australia’s cultural-left education establishment, instead of supporting high-risk examinations, teacher-directed lessons and meritocracy, was redefining the curriculum “as an instrument to bring about equity and ­social justice”.

Naturally the education bureaucracies and teachers unions disagreed without answering the criticism, accusing critics with orchestrating a “black media debate” and a “conservative backlash”.

Fast-forward to 2016 and it’s clear where the truth lies. Despite investing additional billions and implementing a raft of education reforms, Australia’s ranking in international tests is going backwards and too many students are leaving school illiterate, innumerate and culturally impoverished. …

Australia’s national curriculum, instead of acknowledging we are a Western liberal democracy and the significance of our ­Judeo-Christian heritage, em­braces cultural relativism and prioritises politically correct indi­genous, Asian and sustainability perspectives.

Instead of focusing on the ­basics, teachers are pressured to teach Marxist-inspired programs such as the LGBTI Safe Schools program where gender is fluid and limitless and Roz Ward, one of the founders, argues: “It will only be through a revitalised class struggle and revolutionary change that we can hope for the liberation of LGBTI people.”

So introduce vouchers. If each kid has a government voucher for about $10,000 that can be spent at any school, schools will compete and soon improve. Most of all, it stops them from propagandizing our kids in their mandatory education centers. Trump has just appointed an education secretary whose main claim to fame is that she has campaigned for vouchers for over a decade.

The reason Catholic and independent schools, on the whole, outperform government schools is not because of students’ socio-economic status, which has a relatively weak impact on outcomes, but because non-government schools have control over staffing, budgets, curriculum focus and classroom practice. …

Instead of adopting ineffective fads such as constructivism — where the emphasis is on inquiry-based discovery learning, teachers being guides by the side and content being secondary to process – it is vital to ensure that teacher training and classroom practice are evidence-based. …

In opposition, and when arguing in favour of explicit teaching and direct instruction, NSW academic John Sweller states that “there is no aspect of human cognitive architecture that suggests that inquiry-based learning should be superior to ­direct ­instructional guidance and much to suggest that it is likely to be ­inferior”.

American educationalist ED Hirsch and Sweller argue that children must be able to automatically recall what has been taught. Primary schoolchildren, in particular, need to memorise times ­tables, do mental arithmetic and learn to recite poems and ballads.

After citing several research studies, Hirsch concludes: “Varied and repeated practice leading to rapid recall and automaticity is necessary to higher-order problem-solving skills in both mathematics and the sciences.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil