An investigation into the topic of failing schools

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According to a range of sources across the school curriculum and wider community, there is growing concern that many students are not meeting acceptable standards of numeracy and literacy. The reasons often given include lack of funding, curriculum trends, socioeconomic status and teacher quality. This essay will expand on these reasons and endeavour to provide possible answers as to why our schools could be failing. (Into could be added to & improved) (What is education?)

Employers expect that prospective employees will possess basic literacy and numeracy skills at the conclusion of compulsory schooling. This is what is known as vocational education or vocational learning. Vocational Learning is general learning that has a vocational perspective. There are elements included such as career education, general employability skills, and community and work based learning. The main aim of vocational learning is to prepare students, youth and adults for future employment. The Australasian Curriculum Assessment And Certification Authorities (ACACA) believe that all students should experience vocational learning every year throughout their formal schooling lives. They believe it enables students to adapt to the changes that are going to be a constant feature of their lives. It enhances students' transition to a broad range of post-school options and pathways. It engages students in work-related learning built on strategic partnerships between schools, business, industry and the wider community.

Around the world, renewed emphasis has been placed on governments and employers on literacy and numeracy skills. For all people to enhance their employability, job satisfaction, level of remuneration and community participation.

Australian industry needs competent, skilled workers with the flexibility to adapt to the changing workplace.

A lack of consistent standards may result in additional costs for employers for education and training. Achieving basic standards for language, literacy and numeracy is a (ACCI believes that this is a) clear priority in the skills debate in times in pressure on labour supply.

Skills Tasmania provides additional Vocational Education Training (VET) in skills and knowledge needed in the workplace for many industries. Often these skills are gained through a training organization at the workplace. Trainees and senior secondary students undertaking VET programs can gain accreditation and have their skills recognized.

On March 5th 2010 The Victorian Employer's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) conducted a poll of many Australian employers. They asked employees what they thought of the literacy and numeracy levels in recent school leavers employed by their business. The results for literacy were substandard/overwhelming with (over three quarters) 76% of employers choosing a rating of poor and 18% deciding they had acceptable levels. That left very little for the good and excellent categories at 4 and 2 percent respectively. The poll's results for numeracy were only marginally better, 54% of employers reporting poor numeracy levels and a fair 34% at acceptable levels. During this poll, they decided to ask employers about the proposed Australian K-10 national curriculum. Results were inconclusive, 50% of respondents unsure whether this curriculum would lead improved student performance in numeracy and literacy.

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Family wealth, marital status, parental occupation, and school location are all factors which contribute to the success of a student. However not all situations are ideal. We know not all families are wealthy. Many families struggle to provide the basic necessities. More and more children come from broken homes where often there is only one parent to provide emotional stability and a carefree environment in which they can flourish and learn.

The Tasmanian Department of Education (2005) states that students with parents of a higher socioeconomic status mostly achieved higher average scores than those whose parents were of a lower income or on social benefits. The Tasmanian Department of Education further maintains that "To date most services have failed to adapt to the changing needs of families and children… All too often services focus on only one aspect of a child, perhaps a presenting health concern or developmental delay, and fail to take into account the broader social and environmental factors that influence this"

Of particular concern is a vulnerable group of students in need of attention.

• Indigenous children and young people

• Families living in poverty

• Children of parents with mental illness or substance abuse

• Children in out of home care

• Abused children

• Children of cultural and linguistic minorities

• Children in situations of domestic violence

• Children with disabilities

• Children in families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness

There is evidence that some families in particular circumstances frequently struggle, and that outcomes for these groups are particularly poor, often with an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage. Intervention with such groups is therefore especially important.

Schools must not fail to give support to these students and encourage parents to be involved in their learning.

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In evaluating these concerns attention needs to be focused on the role of schools. They have an obligation to produce literate and numerate citizens (Jones, 2010). Keep students safe from harm of any nature, provide a suitable learning environment

However in recent years the education system in Australia has been undermined by ever decreasing budgets and a variety of trends. Inadequate funding of teachers has impacted upon resources, materials, staff remuneration and training opportunities. The much criticised student-centred approach to the curriculum has come under scrutiny; in particular it's effect on boy's education. Some re-labelled teachers as facilitators, and skills were given a higher regard than actual content. For example, developing the skill of enquiry could be developed by investigating a local community rather than an ancient civilisation. Classics were replaced by comics and fostering children's self esteem was so important that no one was allowed to fail. Another tendency was the whole language movement, popular since the 1970's. This movement stated that children could learn literacy simply by being immersed in it. Very little phonics, grammar or spelling was formally taught.

The rote learning system which learns facts, dates and poetry by repetition of information was also frowned upon for years, despite research suggesting that children need rote facts laid down in their brains before they can tackle higher level problem solving. (reference) Lack of formal testing to rate student's progress and the success of methods has been another stumbling block to improving literacy and numeracy in Australia. (You need to explain this idea) Finally, and of most concern has been the questions raised by politicians, parents and the media regarding the quality of our educators.

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Many of the values upheld by parents and employers in mainstream society are actively discouraged in the socialistic, politically correct atmosphere of the classroom. Kevin Donnelly (2004) calls this a form of culture wars. This term came to the attention of the media in the 1980's when the political left wanted to take control of what was taught in education. He argued that socialist radicals cared more about creating a politically correct curriculum than learning for learning's sake. Hence we have seen the demise of traditional subjects such as history and Shakespearean literature in favour of new subjects called Inquiry and I Think. The student's self esteem and opinions are paramount to the content. A politically correct approach to the curriculum in recent years has led to books such as Little Black Sambo being banned because of racist overtones. Christmas and Anzac Day celebrations have been curtailed in many regions so as not to upset minorities such as Muslims and the Exclusive Brethren. European settlement of Australia being described as an 'invasion'. No area is safe from PC whether it be gender, class, sex ,race and the environment.

Political correctness - left-wing teachers argue that education must be used to challenge the status quo and as an instrument to indoctrinate students into what is politically correct in areas like the environment, multiculturalism, gender, the class war and peace studies. Examples include: European settlement being described as an 'invasion', children's stories like Little Black Sambo being banned and some schools refusing to celebrate Christmas as it might offend non-Christian religious groups. A PC approach to education is against competitive examinations, formal teaching and traditional subjects like literature, geo-graphy and history.

Culture wars - the term came to prominence during the 1980s and 1990s on American campuses when the left sought to take control of what was taught. Instead of learning for its own sake, radicals argue that education is about overthrowing the status quo and bringing about a more left-wing and politically correct society. Traditional approaches to literature, requiring students to read with discrimination such classics as Shakespeare's Macbeth or King Lear, are condemned as 'eurocentric, bourgeois and patriarchal'. In history classes, students are told that Western civilisation has contributed little, if anything, to the betterment of the world.

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Whether students choose public or private schools they attach greatest importance in the quality of teachers. They wanted a safe and secure environment and a wide range of subject availability. While they sort a wide range of top quality facilities they also valued the schools academic reputation. A majority of parents who chose private schools cited the importance of traditional values including an emphasis on religious and moral values. Parents of children from government schools said they were often restricted for financial reasons. While there core values were similar they were more concerned with the government providing equal opportunities for all students. It appears that the main reason students are transferring to private schools is that parents consider the strong emphasis on traditional values, with regard to discipline, religious/ moral values, smaller class sizes, the traditions of the particular school and just as importantly, the expectations that uniforms would be worn.

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With this presented evidence, it is clear that many schools could change 'things' for the better. But what are things that could be done to save these schools from 'failing' children in schools?

Kevin Donnelly (2004) believes that we need to adapt a strong discipline based approach to school subjects.

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In conclusion, there is a widely held belief that schools are not educating students to a standard that is needed in today's modern society. Whilst the main concerns rightly centre upon the falling standards of literacy and numeracy, other concerns include underfunding, teacher incompetence and bias, curriculum fads and lack of competency tests. Employers have a right to expect literate, numerate school leavers who will make competent employees. (ACII, 2007) Implementing one or more of the proposed solutions in this essay could help alleviate these failings. (Failing regardless of choice whether public or private)

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