Jewell of Anstey


LOTE news is good news
May 14, 2011, 11:01 pm
Filed under: education, politics, Uncategorized, Victoria

Hallelujah

It is not often these days that I open the morning paper to welcome news. But this morning’s Sunday Age brought me something I am really happy about.
http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/vic-schools-to-teach-bilingual-curriculum-20110514-1enlu.html

The Victorian State Government is planning to move language teaching beyond being only a subject to being also a medium of education. Subjects other than the language itself – such as maths and science – could be taught in a LOTE.

This approach to language teaching is vastly superior. Language learning requires time and exposure. The amount it has been getting is just nowhere near enough.

There is a vast body of research and experience that shows that students continue to learn the content of other subjects (such as maths and science) even when they are learning them through a second language. And they can also learn the second language in the process.

It would also be nice to see the demoralised LOTE teaching workforce get a bit of a boost.

Good news.

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Maths and science teaching madness
November 5, 2010, 3:29 am
Filed under: education, politics, Victoria

The Victoria election campaign is throwing up various ideas for doing things differently. Today’s paper carried a Liberal Party proposal to make maths and science teaching in primary schools a task for specialists.

http://www.vic.liberal.org.au/News/MediaReleases/tabid/159/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/2412/MASSIVE-MATHS-AND-SCIENCE-BOOST-FOR-VIC-KIDS-UNDER-COALITION.aspx

This strikes me as an extraordinarily bad idea.

I have long been intrigued by the failure of maths and science teaching in secondary schools.  Many students are forced to continue studying maths by a system that insists it is important.  Only a few seem to enjoy it, and too many of them appear to mainly enjoy the relief of being capable of doing something others drop. Meanwhile, the content and method of teaching maths seems to make very little progress.

The situation for science seems to be even worse. The ranks of science teachers seem to include far too many who have no idea how to engage the attention of a class.  Students drop out in droves, mostly convinced that they ‘hate science’.

Do we have any reason to think we can improve on this situation in primary schools?

At the moment, primary teachers are generalists who cover all the core areas of the curriculum.  Specialists do languages, art, sport, music – areas where real subject-specific skill is needed.  But the generalist classroom teacher covers all literacy, culture, social sciences, sciences and maths.  What the generalist teacher specialises in is the craft of teaching.  Primary teachers are magnificent technicians of teaching.  Freed from the need to be experts in a content area, they can focus on knowing how to manage a class and how to engage each individual in a learning journey.

Knowing how to do maths and knowing how to teach maths are not the same thing.  Ditto for the sciences.  Primary teachers need to be people who love and respect children as committed learners with endless potential.

This policy seems to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how primary schools work.