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The world is changing rapidly, and it is vital that Queensland’s education system keep pace with these changes to give our children every opportunity. Thus the Government has released a package of reform: Queensland the Smart State – Education and Training Reforms for the Future (which consolidated progress made through Education 2020; Skilling Queensland 2001-04 and Breaking the Unemployment Cycle). The package has three main components – (a) a significant investment in school information and communication technologies (b) trials of a full time preparatory year for children before entering Year 1 (c) an examination of the option of raising the school leaving age from 15 to 17. Currently about 10% of children aged between 15 and 17 are not in school, training or work (Beattie P. ‘Smarter reforms’, Courier Mail. 5/3/02)
The government's claims about making Queensland a Smart State had seemed trite until it announced a proposal for better schooling (ie to make children spend extra time at school, to increase computer stocks and lift school leaving ages from 15-17). The Teachers Union supported the proposal - but cast doubts on the government's willingness to find the additional funding. The Opposition questioned whether this might simply be used to hide fundamental problems with the education system. However the government is committed to spending more per student on schools than other states after years of lagging behind. Queensland has to invest in high quality education ('Funding better schools', Courier Mail, editorial, 6/3/02)
Recent education reforms in Queensland were presented as a 'social justice initiative'. However the proposals are unlikely to do much for social justice. For example, alienated children and those damaged by abuse need interventions that were not included (Preston N. 'Social justice gets its chance', Courier Mail, 11/3/02)
The government's education reform plan involves (a) full time preparatory schooling for one year before year 1 (b) increasing IT and communications in schools and (c) raising school leaving ages. Queensland's P&C Association has many questions about this, particularly (a) concern from parents in remote areas about putting children of 4 onto buses and not seeing them for 9 hours (b) the disruption from students who don't want to remain at school. International experience shows that early education regimes improves thinking skills. (Fynes-Clinton M 'A class above', Courier Mail, 9/3/02).
The plans for school reform, Destination 2010, have been criticized by stakeholders (eg some performance targets were seen as confusing, unsuitable and unachievable (b) computer to student rations would be hard to reach (c) the goal of attracting more men to teaching would be thwarted by goal of increasing women in top bands (d) workplace bullying amongst staff needs attention) (Flynes-Clinton M 'Schools blueprint under fire', Courier Mail, 7/3/02)
A proposal for a preparatory year could arrest the flow of students from the state to the private education system. Last year was the first time state school numbers dropped because of students leaving for the private system which already offered a full-time preparatory year (Odgers R and Parnell S. 'Preparatory year to stem flow to private schools', Courier Mail, 6/3/02 - quoting Queensland Teachers Union)
The goals of the new preparatory year would not involve rote learning, but acquiring basic skills such as sitting and listening (Yallamas L 'No chanting the new mantra', Courier Mail, 6/3/02)
Expanding use of IT is useful, but the most critical issue is the level of expertise that teachers have in using IT. There should be positive impacts from the additional early year of education. Increasing school leaving ages tends elsewhere to increase employability, quality of life, contribution to civic and economic life. But clear pathways from school to work that might have existed two decades ago are unavailable. The real issue is not the quantity of time at school, but its quality. There is also a need to consolidate on innovations in improving school to work pathways. The main advantage of the reforms may be raising such issues for public debate (Luke A and Lingard B 'Educate for the future', Courier Mail, 6/3/02)
University of Queensland School of Education Head described education reforms as a ‘nail in the coffin’ of anti-intellectual Queensland. Premier conceded that Queensland was behind all other states which already had a compulsory pre-school year. (Franklin M and Fynes-Clinton M ‘Education overhaul’, Courier Mail. 5/3/02)
Proposals to make it compulsory for students to stay at school until age 17 appears to be due to the massive problem of 10,000 15-17 year olds who are neither in school or able to find jobs. This proposal is bound to run into controversy – but the only major obstacle could be the cost for extra buildings and teachers (Fynes-Clinton M. ‘Smart at the beginning’, Courier Mail. 5/3/02)
The Queensland Government has now put some flesh on the bone of its Smart State program – by showing what it actually involves – which demonstrates more marketing skill than the federal opposition demonstrated with its Knowledge Nation agenda (Franklin M ‘Beattie’s way smarter’, Courier Mail. 5/3/02)
State opposition has argued that the cost of making school compulsory to age 17 could be very large in rural areas where schools often now merely take students to Year 10 level (Jones C. ‘Liberals wary of plan for extra school year’, Courier Mail. 5/3/02)
Civil libertarians questioned whether extra years of school should be made compulsory or encouraged (Fynes Clinton M and Odgers R ‘Civil liberties of students under threat’, Courier Mail. 5/3/02)
The relative decline in student enrolments in the state school system (see Odgers and Parnell article) may not simply be the result of problems in the quantity of education. For example:
The pessimism that the Teachers' Union expressed about whether funding would be provided to implement the proposal appears well founded, given Queensland's difficult financial predicament (see About Queensland's Budget).
It can also be noted that the current reform proposal makes only a tiny immediate commitment (eg extra information and communication technology spending is only $23m; a preparatory year will be implemented at only 50 trial sites: and raising the leaving age is only to be discussed).