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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