Victoria ignites another ATAR argument

Minister demands a minimum ATAR for new teachers in state schools

plus Uni Sydney leads for graduate employment status

all the new Academy of Humanities fellows

and the Chief Scientist calls for maths prereqs in science and engineering (again)

More drinking and thinking

A learned reader reports South Australian scoffing at CMM being impressed by the “raising the bar” events in Sydney and Melbourne, where academics talk about their work to drinkers and thinkers. It seems there has long been a science in the pub programme in Adelaide featuring university researchers. The next event is on  Friday week. The venue is said to run to quality malts but Adelaide being Adelaide CMM suspects the wine list will be longer than a Christopher Pyne complaint.

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In case you missed it the first two times

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel is as persistent as he is charming, especially when he wants something and one thing he does want is maths as a prerequisite for relevant university degrees. Yesterday at an engineering conference he mentioned that making advanced maths a prerequisite to an engineering degree would make him happy. In May he set out a seven point programme for science which included advanced maths being required for engineering, maths and science degrees (CMM May 27). And in April he called on deans of engineering to bring back maths as a pre-req, without actually sticking his bib in; “it’s a dinner speech, so instead of challenging you to reinstate mathematics as a prerequisite for enrolment in your engineering degrees, my challenge to you is to spread the engineering way,” the Chief Scientist said (CMM April 11). CMM suspects we have not heard the last of this.

In the ATAR (some) trust

The higher the better: Here we go again, another ATAR argument with Victorian education minister James Merlino setting a minimum score of 70 for teaching graduates to work in the state’s schools. He agrees that academic rank is not the only thing that makes a good teacher, but an ATAR of 70 is what he specifies. This is smart politics, it lets the state government bang on about standards while not spending any money. But it has sod all to do with education. For a start there are all those teaching graduates who did not use an ATAR to enter university and surely it is what they can do when they finish a degree that matters, not the academic rank some of them started with. Christopher Pyne got this when he created the national literacy and numeracy tests education grads must pass before qualifying as teachers (CMM June 29 2015). The recent tests found 90 per cent of graduates were in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy (CMM August 6). But if Mr Merlino really wants teachers who will do great jobs is the state’s schools why does he not demand evidence that they know how to teach. All the subject knowledge in the world is useless if a teacher lacks the emotional literacy to connect with kids.

The establishment responds: Yesterday Deakin U dean of education Brenda Cherednichenko welcomed Minister Merlino’s commitment to quality in teaching but pointed out the irrelevance of an emphasis on the ATAR, given “less than” 25 per cent of education students enter via it and it “is just one factor in determining if someone will be a great teacher.” The minister’s response was also a blow to teacher education in the regions, she said. This surely includes, Deakin Warrnambool, which is struggling to survive for want of demand. Professor Cherednichenko added that to lift teacher quality the profession should be better paid and have access to superior in-service and that there should be more teachers from diverse backgrounds.

Good-o, but there was one factor Professor Cherednichenko, a former president of the Australian Council of Deans of Education, did not emphasise, improved degrees. As the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, appointed by Chris Pynereported in 2015, “Not all initial teacher education programs are equipping graduates with the content knowledge, evidence-based teaching strategies and skills they need to respond to different student learning needs. … Initial teacher education providers are not rigorously or consistently assessing the classroom readiness of their pre-service teachers.” When he received the TEMAG report on February 13 2015 Mr Pyne  said that if teacher education faculties did not accept new accreditation standards, courses would have to close – there is more to lifting quality in teacher education than increasing the ATARs.

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Ambitions for IT

Athman Bouguettaya is the new head of the University of Sydney’s school of IT. Professor Bouguettaya says he wants to make Sydney’s the best IT research school in the country and “produce graduates who will unleash a wave of unprecedented innovations in industry.” Good luck with both. In terms of research the university was on a par with other Group of Eight universities in the Excellence for Research in Australia exercises to date, except ANU which leads them all. As for graduating amazing innovators, the school is a bit behind UTS, UNSW and Macquarie on QILT’s  measure of learning resources and way back for student support.

Apps of the day

New to CMM are Erica Southgate and Shamus Smith’s (both University of Newcastle) Sentence Hero and Apostrophe Power. Both are free to download grammar games from the Digital Identity, Curation and Education project at UniNewcastle. They are up for an award at the Reimagine Education Awards in Philadelphia on December 5-6.

Adieu entities

Jogvan Klein is giving up his RMIT job of associate director of global mobility and entities (no less) and moving to the university’s Vietnam operation where he will be director, international.

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Bunch of bids

Seven bids are shortlisted for the 16th Cooperative Research Centre funding round. They are: Future Water CRC, CRC for Honey Bee Products, Innovation for Mental Wealth CRC, Cyber Security CRC, iMove CRC (intelligent transport systems) Food Agility CRC and CRC for High Performance Soils. As to how many get up, who knows. Tony Peacock from the CRC Association points out the funding pot covers both CRCs and the new CRCProjects programme (which funds short-term teams focused on specific industry issues) and there are 62 project bids.

The shape of rankings to come

Simon Birmingham says graduates look to degrees to generate good jobs and he wants to encourage this (CMM October 13), which maybe why the University of Sydney is so pleased that it rates fourth in the world on the new QS Global Employability Ranking, following Stanford, MIT and China’s Tsinghua U. At = 11 the University of Melbourne is the other Australian institution in the top 20.

The other locals listed are; ANU (32), Monash (=42), UoQ (51-60), QUT (61-70), UWA (71-80), UniAdelaide (101-150), Macquarie U (151-200), UniWollongong 151-200, Curtin U (151-200) with Swinburne and Griffith (between 200-300).

The ranking is based on employer perceptions, academic reputation and so forth and as such has nothing to do with what universities do to help their students prepare for employment and the jobs they get. But it is the shape of things to come – CMM suspects it will not be long before Australian universities are assessed on the quality of work preparation courses.

Riordan resigns

Long-time TAFE Directors Australia CEO Martin Riordan will leave in March. Mr Riordan’s announced departure follows a comprehensive change in TDA’s leadership with Mary Farone (Holmesglen) becoming chair, Jodi Schmidt (Queensland TAFE) deputy chair and Warren Tapp (Queensland TAFE chair) head of TDA’s new chair council (CMM October 11).

Academy honours

The Australian Academy of the Humanities elected fellows for 2016 are announced. They are: Alastair Blanshard, classics (University of Queensland). Eric Csapo, classics (University of Sydney). Harriet Edquist, architectural history (RMIT). Ken Gelder, English and theatre studies (University of Melbourne). Helen Groth, English (UNSW). Sandra Hale interpreting and translation (UNSW). Ariel Heryanto, Indonesian cultural politics (ANU). John Macarthur, architectural history (University of Queensland). Marc Oxenham medical anthropology in the ancient Asia-Pacific (ANU). Alastair Pennycook, linguistics, (UTS). Mary Roberts, art history (University of Sydney). Mina Roces, Philippines history, (UNSW). Nicholas Smith, philosophical logic (University of Sydney). Wanning Sun, China’s media and diaspora (UTS). Christina Twomey, Australian history (Monash University). Honorary fellows are, documentary maker John Hughes, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, Australian National Library and novelist Tim Winton.

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au