Disappointing that this report has received so little coverage - a little from the mainstream media and almost none from the blogosphere
In this blog I'll just address the issue of the crisis in maths education in many Australian schools, what the report describes as "the long tail of underachievement". Even though the Senate committee are somewhat unclear about solutions (in part because they sit on the fence when it comes to the maths and curriculum wars) all the data is there which identifies serious problems in Australian maths education
Not many will read the whole report but if you just read sections 3.44 (page 58) to 3.62 (page 64) that will provide you with a good overview of the maths education crisis. I'll just provide a few dots points below to highlight the main points in summary:
- the quality of aspiring teachers (in maths) is in decline, especially at primary school level
- inadequate treatment of mathematics content during teacher training, giving new teachers neither confidence nor enthusiasm to teach mathematics
- the consequence being that too many children are unprepared at the end of primary school to learn algebra, without which they cannot study mathematics at a higher level in Years 11 and 12
- early tests of numeracy conducted by education faculties showed that a very large proportion of students (this refers to students studying to become teachers) cannot do grade 5 maths because they never learned a lot of maths at school
- People who can do maths do not choose to become primary teachers - they will do something like commerce
(1) Curriculum - whether to pursue a "deep learning" approach advocated by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers or whether to pursue an approach with more emphasis on basics and skill routines (Assoc. Professor Wayne Read, James Cook University)
(2) Technology - has the introduction of calculators, including graphics calculators, liberated maths from memorising and mechanical chores or have they contributed to the crisis of lack of basic understandings? This part was interesting:
In 2006 Victoria reintroduced a technology-free exam for part of the harder Year 12 subjects. It was claimed that teachers welcomed it with open arms because it meant that the students once again had to start thinking about what they were doing and be able to do things with pen and paper as well. (p. 61)There is a war on; the committee tends towards a conservative solution without really committing to either side of the expert conflict. What they say is that the curriculum debate is a secondary issue, the main issue is to improve teacher quality.
I'd be interested in discussing this Senate report and the curriculum war issues in more detail.
curriculum reform will not improve education without quality teachers