Directed funding adds up to more maths teachers

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Andrew DysonCredit: .

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There were nine countries clearly above Australia in the recent PISA results (″⁣Nearly half of 15-year-olds fail to meet benchmarks″⁣, 6/12). Australia was in the middle of 13 countries that were not significantly different. When this group is counted as one, then Australia is indeed in the top 10. As are 12 other countries. PISA does tell us that some countries are doing much better than Australia and some not nearly as well. It also tells us that our mathematical performance is declining. It tells us that the performance of girls and disadvantaged groups has deteriorated. The decline in mathematical performance of Australian students in international tests has a long history. So has the declining supply, and mathematical knowledge, of our teachers. It’s not hard to join the dots. Education Minister Jason Clare says the results reinforce the need to fix education funding gaps. Directing funding to get qualified mathematics teachers into schools would go a long way to addressing the inequality of opportunity that results in such concerning PISA data.
Jan Thomas, Parkville

The admin burden on teachers must be reduced
It is disappointing and frustrating to constantly hear we must improve teacher quality. I have worked with many teachers over a long period and found teachers to be highly skilled and doing an excellent job of helping students learn. We do need to improve the quality of teaching, which means providing better support structures for teachers. Teachers also need time to plan and prepare lessons better tailored to student needs. When I started teaching, about an hour a week was spent on administration and the rest of my time at and after work was spent teaching, researching and developing great learning materials. That time has been taken away from today’s teachers through increased and often useless administration tasks. If the administrative burden were reduced, it would allow teachers the time to use their considerable skills to plan and prepare more effective lessons for their students. Robyn Smythe, Sunbury

The school library must not be neglected
Results of students reading skills are years behind when compared to students in other countries around the world. Is this any surprise? No. In the past several years school libraries have been downgraded, starved of funds, even closed. The safe and stimulating environment of the school library is no longer in many schools. Educators appear to have forgotten that reading is the basis of everything students learn, from maths and science to physical education and trade subjects. Most importantly, encouraging the reading of novels introduces students to the much wider world they need to understand in all its facets, to live and connect with the world around them. No doubt the circle will turn full circle and schools will once again build library collections and allocate an area for a library, and demand trained teacher librarians again, but so many valuable collections and skilled educators will have been lost in the meantime and can never be replaced.
Annie Young, Junortoun


Checks and balances
Your correspondent (Letters, 8/12) asks ″⁣what is the point in being in government if you can’t appoint the best people to get the job done″⁣? Surely the point is that you don’t know you have the best person if you don’t have a process that is open to the person you think is best and others to apply for the job and a transparent and robust assessment process to check there are no others better than the one you think is best. Especially as it is public money that will be paying the successful candidate.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn

Call it a gift
Your correspondent (Letters, 8/12) asks, “When will his generation break free from the shackles of Boomers?” The answer is soon. The oldest of us are now in our late seventies. Over the next 10 years all this unprecedented wealth will be transferred to you and your parents. The best part? You won’t have to work for it, like we did.
And where we’re going, your peers’ “growing contempt” won’t bother us a bit. Enjoy.
Sue Bracy,
Mount Eliza

Some of us paid our fees
Free university education was introduced in January 1973, following the election of Gough Whitlam in December 1972. Baby Boomers not only paid fees, we did so for 12 months before the start of the academic year. There was no HECS scheme to delay fee payment.
Mike Slater, Mentone

Wisdom of the ages
Good on your correspondent for having the courage to state their feelings and I encourage them to keep doing this, but please understand, not all Boomers are at fault. When I was 20, I thought I knew everything, but now in my 80s, I realise I knew very little then and I am still learning today.
I’m not a Boomer – I’m part of the Silent Generation that grew up during WWII. I think I speak for many of my generation when I say that we have had the best life and are quietly glad that we are not young people today – in fact, wouldn’t change it for a minute. Successive generations after WWII have made a mess of this world dominated by the one word – greed.
Keep thinking, keep writing, but most importantly, enter into dialogues with my generation as well as the Boomers. We still have a lot to offer to keen young people and we know that we can still learn despite our age and tired brains.
John Cummings, Anglesea

Taxing times
I am desperately trying to do my income tax using the ATO online ″⁣service″⁣. My return is very simple and would take less than five minutes if the ATO had useful and working procedures in place. Instead, I have wasted almost seven hours of my life and am no closer to filing my return as I was when I started.
I have used the online chat, but on two separate matters, I have been advised that I must ring the ATO. I did and was told the ATO was experiencing peak calls and to ring back. Then the call was ended. This happened four times. When I did speak to a human, she said the best time to call was early in the morning or after six. The office closes at six, which I only discovered when I waited until 6pm to place the call. It would be funny if it weren’t so annoying.
Claire Cooper, Maldon

Public v private
In all the post-review talk of ways to restrain the cost of the NDIS, why has there been no discussion of whether relying on private provision of services rather than public provision may possibly have been a mistake?
Robert Henning, Clifton Hill

Without fear or favour
No public service should be other than independent. Britain has long had this, and the senior civil servants who advise the ministers, including the prime minister, are each free to express their professional opinion without fear of dismissal. This is how it should be.
Anthony Whitmarsh, Bulleen

Managing money
Your correspondent’s view (Letters, 8/12) that the “unfortunate” $200 million loss by Australia Post is justified by stating that it is a public service and not a profit-making enterprise cannot go unchallenged. If government departments don’t meet their budget obligations and therefore incur losses, they need to be held accountable. Mismanagement of taxpayers’ money is a serious business.
Mandy Morgan, Malvern

Labor rethink?
Bill Shorten lost the federal election for two basic reasons: his policies were seen as too radical and he was too unpopular.
However, in the past 18 months Shorten has taken on the robo-debt fiasco and is now dealing with the NDIS, which is a mammoth task. With the latter he is showing he is not frightened to tackle issues that are difficult if it is to survive. While Anthony Albanese seems a nice person, as a Labor voter I feel he is no match for Peter Dutton.
The referendum showed that Dutton’s negative strategy annihilated Albanese’s positive one. Albanese seems to lack vision to lay out an agenda. While not suggesting Labor switch to Shorten, if it doesn’t change leaders it will be a one-term government.
Mary Ryan, Black Rock

Give a little respect
Your correspondent is on the right track (Letters, 8/12). Students accorded exactly the same respect as teachers and all other adults in the school, learn respect through experiencing it in all situations. This method was successful in a progressive school where I taught in the 1970s. Respect is not a subject on the curriculum. It is taught by experience.
Elizabeth Sprigg, Glen Iris

The other housing crisis
Amid our housing crisis, spare a thought for fellow wildlife whose homes continue to be chopped down for human ″⁣development″⁣. From greater gliders to swift parrots to chimpanzees (“Rio’s rainforest mine a step closer” The Age, 7/12), endangered species have a housing crisis too.
Amy Hiller, Kew

Come clean on Loop
Annika Smethurst in “A culture that is oddly the norm” (8/12) describes the creeping politicisation of the public service’s importance to the public as “ultimately it means there are fewer checks and balances on the way public funds (our money) is spent″⁣.
Neither the previous government with Jacinta Allan as the Suburban Rail Loop minister, nor this government with her as the premier, have ever explained where the shortfall in funding of the rail loop will come from. One-third was to be funded by the state government, one-third by the federal government and one-third from ″⁣value capture″⁣. There is a significant shortfall in federal funding and many experts have cast doubt as to whether value capture will raise the necessary funds.
Deborah Glass and her findings in her recent report mention a culture of secrecy in Daniel Andrews’ government. For Jacinta Allan to essentially reject the Ombudsman’s report is extremely disappointing. The funding of the SRL is shrouded in secrecy.
Victorians have a right to know where the money will come from before any more contracts are signed. We’re talking a significant amount of money here, a generation’s worth of spending.
Yvonne Bowyer, Surrey Hills

Supporting actors
I am Jewish. I am all for the extirpation of Hamas. I also have absolutely no problem in actors showing visible signs of supporting the Palestinians, such as wearing a keffiyeh. Why shouldn’t they do that?
Michael Helman, St Kilda East

A display for all
Congratulations to Melbourne City Council for the delightful Christmas display at the Town Hall. All beautifully done and the singing reindeer are a delight.
Your correspondent (Letters, 4/12) questioned the expense in creating the display and felt the money could be better spent on providing housing for the homeless. This display will bring joy to all who see it, including the homeless.
Housing is a separate issue – and an important one that must be addressed – but the relatively small expense in creating a Christmas display for everyone to enjoy should not be denied.
Nola Cordell,
Hoppers Crossing


How can Jacinta Allan know there is no fear of speaking out in the Victorian public service if everyone is too frightened to tell her?
Ian Robinson, Cowes

If Jacinta Allan hasn’t witnessed any culture of fear in the Victorian public service, she must have had her eyes wide shut.
Peter Venn, East Bentleigh

Please can we cancel the Suburban Rail Loop project now, and spend the $120 billion on something worthwhile that has a good business case and bipartisan support.
Andrew McNicoll, Kew

Would someone please kill off the myth that Boomers received free university education? I attended Melbourne University from 1969 to 1971 and had to pay tertiary fees.
Peter Campbell, Newport

Constant population growth will eventually eat up all emission reduction gains (Letters, 8/12).
Malcolm Cameron, Camberwell

I’d like to hear more news about what the Albanese government is doing rather than what Peter Dutton thinks about what the government is doing.
Margaret Ludowyk, Brunswick

As usual whenever there is the prospect of workers getting a better deal, big business and the Liberal Party cry foul, and threaten the spectre of job losses and increased costs to the public.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

Dear real estate agents, please stop using magnetic calendars to spruik your business. They are useless and simply not worth the unrecyclable plastic they’re printed on.
Madelene Rich, Seaford

We could honour Peta with a new Murphy’s Law – a ban on gambling advertising, full stop.
Greg Curtin, Nunawading

Can the public relations trainers please find a new line. ″⁣We take all these complaints seriously″⁣ has become very boring and meaningless.
Rob Hocart, Tyabb

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