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Category: Education (Page 4 of 4)

Martin Bryant Not A Muslim

One of my close friends is a muslim and a teacher. She is a delightful and interesting woman with a bright smile. I speak with her three or four times a week.

She is Indonesian, and teaches Indonesian language and culture.

As part of her programme she talks about the religious culture of Indonesia. She tells the students she is a Muslim, and explains something of her faith. I have no problem with any of that.

A couple of days ago she was distressed and angry after school. I asked her what had happened. She told me she had been telling the students Islam was a religion of peace. They laughed at her.

That was rude. And to be fair, she is not always treated well, by staff or students. But I almost laughed too.

This is the monthly jihad report for April 2009 from Religion of Peace:

 Jihad Attacks: 158
 Countries: 15
 Religions: 5
 Dead Bodies: 715
 Critically Injured: 1135

Her response to the class resulted in further laughter.

She started by telling the class that the way people thought about Islam was because of distortions by the media.

Christians killed people just as much, she said. Martin Bryant, for example, killed all those people at Port Arthur. And then to illustrate how morally lax Christianity was, she pointed out that here in Australia lots of men have sex with one another.

She assumes that everyone in Australia, or every white person, is a Christian. She has been here long enough to know better.

But more alarming is the blindness, even in this intelligent and largely westernised woman, to the horrors perpetrated in the name of Islam

Where to begin?

Numeracy Test Answers And Explanations

The questions at the end of the article on NAPLAN testing (a few posts below) were selected from those close to the end of the paper. They are among the harder questions

Question One.

Each person gets two votes. So there will be twice as many votes as people. Add up the number of votes shown by each bar in the graph to get a total number of votes. Divide that total by two. There are twenty-six votes, so there are thirteen people in the club.

Question Two.

I had to stop and think about this one. There are two unknown factors of 96. One factor divided by the other = six. So (at least) one of the two factors is divisible by six.

The next step, unless you are very brainy, is to write down the six times table: 1×6=6,2×6=12, 3×6=18, 4×6=24. We can stop there, because 4×24=96. So we know 4 and 24 are the two mystery factors.

We can check by remembering that the problem tells us their product is 96, and that one divided by the other is 6. 24 x 4 = 96. 24 divided by 4 is 6.

Question 3.

Total weight lifted = 26kgs. The bar weighs 4kgs. So the total amount of weights to be added to the bar is 22kgs. Divide this by two to get the amount to put on each side = 11kgs.

Of the weights shown, what combination will make 11kgs? Three 2kg weights, and one 5kg weight. So to show the total number of weights used, you would shade six 2kg weights, and two 5kg weights.

These questions are not easy – but why should they be? Most of the questions, like problems one and three in my examples, involve  commonplace, real life applications of maths skills.

I won’t wish students and teachers good luck. Too much everyday success or failure is blamed on luck or the lack of it.

With good teaching and conscientious study, you don’t need good luck.

National Literacy And Numeracy Testing

Teachers are preparing their year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students for the National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy tests which will take place around Australia from the 12th to the 19th of May.

This national testing scheme was introduced last year. The idea is that it gives students, teachers and parents an objective way to compare their school’s, and individual children’s, level of knowledge and skill with others around the country. This makes it easier to identify particular schools and children who need more support.

It may also help in identifying teachers who are underperforming, so naturally the AEU (Australian Education Union) doesn’t like it.

One of the criticisms was that the tests were unrealistically hard.

I was able obtain copies of last year’s tests. There was some spelling in the literacy tests, but the greatest emphasis seemed to be on students’ ability to interpret a variety of common texts: recipes, a newspaper cutting, a short story.

The literacy tests seemed fair for their year level. They required an ability to think about the meaning of ordinary texts, and to apply that knowledge. Generally single word answers were required, and these were either right or wrong – making the test easy to mark, and providing a straightforward objective result.

This is exactly what parents want. They want clear, objective information that shows what their child has learned, and how his or her performance compares with that of other students in their own community and nationally.

The numeracy tests were also good in terms of design, and questions were appropriate for the year level they were testing.

I have run a number of quiz nights for various organisations over the years. In each bracket of ten questions I will put a couple which any dimwit should be able to answer. Then there will be five or six which you might confidently expect someone in a group of six or eight adults to know.  Then there will be two or three which will test even an intelligent and well-read person

The NAPLAN tests seemed to be organised in much the same way. At each year level there were some questions which any student with half a brain should have been able to answer. Most of the other questions were solvable with a bit of thought by an average student. And a few were required some deeper knowledge or thought.

I have copied three (out of 45) questions below from the year five (11 year olds) numeracy test. I’ll post answers and explanations a little later. Enjoy!

NAPLAN Numeracy Problem 1

NAPLAN Numeracy Problem 1


NAPLAN Numeracy Problem 2

NAPLAN Numeracy Problem 2


NAPLAN Numeracy Problem 3

NAPLAN Numeracy Problem 3

Education Tax Refund

I only heard of this today. Australian parents and caregivers can get back up to 50% of the cost of eligible education expenses for primary and secondary schooling. The link is worth following if you live in Australia and have children at school.

Eligible expenses includes computers and related equipment, computer repairs, internet costs, etc.

It might do my business some good, so I’m not going to complain.

But that money given back to some means more money taken from others. Or reduced government spending elsewhere.

OK, so that’s not likely. You’re right. It’s going to come out of your pocket.

Bad Behaviour in the Class Disrupts Learning – Well Done Sherlock!

Via John Ray’s Education Watch, this article from The Age about the damage caused by bad behaviour at school.

My wife is a teacher, as are many of my friends. Disruptive behaviour is endemic in Australian schools. Not the slightly cheeky, have a bit of fun at the teacher’s expense stuff that I remember, but outright bullying, and violent or abusive behaviour that means schools are not safe places for either students or staff.

There are many reasons for this decline in behaviour. One is poor behaviour by staff. You’ll see posters about bullying and class rules everywhere. But teachers often do not model safe, considerate behaviour. Teachers who are new or do not fit the mould are frequently isolated, denied access to resources, not given information about meetings or events, etc. Students see this behaviour from staff, so they assume it is all right, no matter what the posters say.

It’s more than just bullying of staff by staff of course. I have known teachers who get drunk on the weekends, get into fights, commit acts of vandalism, use drugs, and then turn up on Monday expecting their students to respect their authority and do what they are told.

Good teachers do model good behaviour, and try to make a difference by setting rules about acceptable behaviour and encouraging students to follow them. But they are frequently undermined by senior staff who are either lazy, or more concerned about their careers or placating parents than making classrooms places where real learning can take place.

Then there are ‘counselors’ who insist students should not have to face the consequences of their behaviour because they come from a ‘troubled background.’ Instead students who are disruptive, even violent, are pampered, given ‘supportive’ one on one attention, taken for treats, etc. Nonsense of course. Whatever your background or feelings, you are still responsible for how you act. Rewarding bad behaviour does even more to discourage the good students.

Students who by any standard should be suspended or expelled are not, because ‘We have a responsibility for them, and they have nowhere else to go.’ Yes, but schools also have an equal or even greater responsibility to the majority of students who want to listen, participate and learn. What about their rights, and the rights of teachers – the right to be able to learn and to teach in a safe environment? Those who are violent or abusive, even if it is true that ‘they have nowhere else to go’ can solve the problem any time they like simply by changing their behaviour. Conscientious students do not have that choice. They are stuck with the problem till someone fixes it.

It is absolutely true, as The Age article notes, that an unfair burden is placed on teachers, who are expected no longer just to teach (actually, I’m sure good teachers always expected to do more than just teach)  but to ‘solve society’s problems,’ including diet, manners, self-esteem, etc.

If parents have not been willing or able to instil some sense of the value of learning, to teach good manners and respect for others, and to set and maintain fair boundaries for behaviour, then by the time a child gets to school it is probably too late. Children who won’t take responsibility or are angry, or see no point in being at school, frequently have parents who won’t take responsibility, or are angry, or see no point in education. So they are unlikely to be supportive of school or teacher efforts to get the child to do what they don’t value themselves, and will sometimes be actively hostile.

Good teachers will try to help. But constantly badly behaved children in a class take up a vastly disproportionate amount of a teacher’s time, which means less time for the good students, the ones who want to learn. Also, and obviously, the more time a teacher has to spend correcting and controlling bad behaviour, the less time there is to spend on teaching and learning, and the more difficult it is for a teacher to build a positive relationship with the class as a whole. And then, equally obviously, noisy, argumentative, rude or violent students create an environment which is not conducive to learning, either because other students (and often the teacher as well) do not feel safe, or simply because of constant noise and interruptions.

So yes, enough is enough.

Teachers and other staff are right to expect and demand that parents take more responsibility, both for teaching values and manners, and for correcting bad behaviour when it does occur. But the fact that many parents have not done so and won’t do so is at least partly the fault of teacher organisations, which have trodden over parents’ rights and concerns.

School documents may say parents are the primary teachers, and that the school works in partnership with them, but the reality is often very different. Parent concerns about curriculum are treated as a joke, and schools have insisted, often against strong resistance from parents, that they have a ‘duty’ to teach sex education, morals, politics, and ‘childrens rights’ – frequently in ways that parents find offensive or counter to their own values. So it is a bit rich for teacher organisations, which by their actions have told parents they are incompetent and should stay out, now to start blaming parents for not taking more responsibility.

I have often seen the signs at hospitals that say something like “We are obliged to provide a safe environment for patients and staff. Abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.”

If the same kind of zero tolerance policy were put in place at schools, if education departments took seriously their responsibility to provide a safe work environment for staff, and a safe learning environment for students, our schools would be very different.

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