July 1st place Stop the Rot

Stop the Rot


   Would it serve the interests of Australia if reduced expenditure for police, prisons, 

psychiatric care, ambulances, law courts and unemployment benefits were achieved? Would 

the prestige of Australia be increased if our nation were considered among the world’s most 

successful educators? What would it take to cease the practice of providing high school 

leaving certificates to students with the literacy and numeracy skills of Year 3 children? 

Would the more able students appreciate the benefits of completion of first year university 

English, English Literature or Mathematics while still in secondary school? At present, 

children who fail a few times start to believe that they are not smart enough to succeed. This 

results in giving up, failure to pay attention in class, and disruptive behaviour displays. Over 

years, these behaviours become ingrained as these students sit through high school, receive 

their leaving certificates and find that their lack of basic literacy and numeracy renders them 

virtually unemployable. Rather than allowing these people to waste opportunities for a better 

life, and become a drain on the public purse, a solution to the root cause of the problem 

would be a more efficient solution. At present we are merely wasting time and finances 

correcting or punishing people who started on a path of chronic failure back in primary 


   In primary schools, general subjects like History, Science, Art, Music and Sport could 

continue under the current model. English and Numeracy, however, should be conducted in 

groups of five to ten children. Rather than a system of seven years, these two essential 

subjects should be conducted in twenty-eight terms. At the conclusion of each term, pupils 

would have to pass a test in order to be promoted to the next level. The combination of very 

small classes, where all pupils have no choice but to pay attention, and the need to achieve 

certain outcomes for promotion, will ensure that all pupils experience success. No pupil 

willingly suffers the embarrassment of being back-coursed more than once. And when pupils 

enjoy the feeling of pride and achievement of getting top marks in class, they will be eager 

for more success.

   Along with incentivising less able pupils, provision should be made for those who can skip 

one or more terms. Once these pupils complete the twenty-eighth term, they could undertake 

the Year 8 English or Mathematics syllabus while still in primary school. This would result in 

the motivated students remaining one year level ahead of their age in one or two subjects 

until Year 12 where they could complete the first year of university English, English 

Literature or Mathematics. These slightly advanced results would improve employment 

prospects for those graduates pursuing a trade or other career which does not require 

university. Those who go on to university would enjoy a small reduction of fees and time to 

graduation, having completed one or two subjects prior to enrolment. Young people with 

intellectual disabilities should continue attending the general subjects which suit their needs 

along with the mainstream children. If their disabilities require more specialised support, 

English and Numeracy lessons meeting their needs should be available, in order to challenge 

them in a meaningful way.

   The syllabi for all twenty-eight terms of English and Numeracy should be printed on 

inexpensive newsprint and made available in newsagencies and in school offices. This would 

benefit children who experience long hospital stays or who are taken out of school for other 

reasons. Pupils who fall behind and find themselves back-coursed would have the option to 

make up a term of English or Numeracy in their own time on the weekends or over school 

holidays. Those who develop a passion for learning can use the syllabi for their own 

accelerated promotion through the terms. And adults who feel disadvantaged, having drifted 

unsuccessfully through their school years under the old system, could use the printed syllabi 

to catch up and enhance their job prospects or promotions. There would be no need to 

construct extra classrooms. Literacy and Numeracy groups are small enough to fit three or 

four in a pre-existing classroom. There would be no need to hire more teachers. Teachers and 

teachers’ aides could team teach two groups; swapping between their groups on alternate 

days. No one can deny that paying teachers and teachers’ aides is an inexpensive and efficient 

solution to a cohort of undereducated adults making themselves a burden on society. 

Provision of primary English and Numeracy in small groups requiring successful 

completion of each term would provide a budget-conscious solution to several of our most 

pressing social woes.

   The core values of primary education should be the provision of education and training 

that optimises each learner’s abilities and assists them to develop into well-rounded, resilient, 

considerate, adults who are ready to make a positive contribution to society.

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