Changing ACT education #1

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ACT Minister for Education and Training Andrew Barr writes:

The most important job for any government is making sure young people get the best possible start in life, this means ensuring every student gets the best possible education.

It means having the best facilities. It means having the best teachers in our classrooms.

The ACT’s education system is the best in Australia and our students perform well in national testing.

However, the world continues to change and we need to ensure our education system changes with it – that we prepare students for life in the 21st century.

This ACT Labor Government has invested more than any other since self government in education, currently more than half a billion dollars. While much of this has been in bricks and mortar, much has also been invested in human capital – that of our students, that of our teachers.

We’ve continued to invest in ICT – ensuring teachers and students have access to tools that are the basis of literacy in the 21st century, supporting the roll-out of the virtual learning environment.

This system will give students added and remote access to features such as podcast lessons, homework requirements and video conferencing for language practice.

Through the parent portal it will also give parents and carers a convenient and effective way to further help their son or daughter to succeed at school.

We’ve invested in pastoral care coordinators – to help students through the challenges that can arise – to ensure as far as possible they do not derail their studies.

These are all massive investments in the people in our schools.

We’ve placed an extra 70 teachers into our classrooms to further reduce student to teacher ratios, already amongst the lowest in the country. We’ve hired literacy and numeracy coordinators – to help our teachers better help those kids struggling with reading, writing and maths.

We’re establishing new Accomplished Teacher and Leading Teacher classifications. These classifications will pave the way for career paths which encourage our top teachers to stay in the classroom.

We’re investing to free-up teachers – so they can spend less time on red tape and more time either in the classroom or preparing for the next day’s lessons.

We are giving principals more say over how they run their school – more say and clearer accountability. That’s why we are moving away from ‘staffing points’ to introduce ‘real world’ single-line budgeting in ACT schools.

And beyond this we are fully engaging in the national education reforms being driven by Federal Labor.

Because of the work we’ve already done in developing our curriculum framework – Every Chance to learn – we’re well placed to start rolling out the Australian Curriculum next year.

There’s a lot going on in ACT public schools – there’s been a lot of change – and some people have found this change hard.

However, the change has been worth it.

Our students do outperform their counterparts in Australia and we have seen – for the first time in a decade – enrolments at ACT public schools growing again.

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  1. There needs to be a greater focus on technology in the classroom from an earlier age. Beyond just knowing how to interact with a computer, students need to learn how to manipulate computers – be able to program a computer, write a script, etc. And with that needs to be a focus on"learning how to learn" – being able to figure stuff out down the road as technology changes. Since tech changes so fast, people need to be able to learn how to teach themselves to keep up. Too often "learning how to learn" is a skill acquired on the students own time, or late in schooling, if at all.

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