Education Talking Points | 14/07/2017

In today’s talking points: Portfolio-based alternative to HSC exams and ATAR score; More funding needed to meet wifi and computer demands in schools; Australia looking to China to improve STEM education; Student and staff traffic between China and Australia continues to grow.

A portfolio-based alternative to HSC exams and ATAR score?

Thanks to the introduction of an alternative curriculum, students from three low-performing Sydney high schools may soon be able to get into university without having to sit HSC exams or get an ATAR. The Big Picture program, involving project-based learning rather than taking traditional subjects via internships and portfolio projects, is currently offered at 34 schools across Australia, with most schools in regional areas of NSW and Western Australia.

A number of school and university leaders have championed a portfolio-based program that is being offered as an alternative to HSC subjects at Liverpool Boys High School, St John’s Park High School and Sydney Secondary College Balmain Campus as a way to help disadvantaged students do better in high school and at university.

These developments reflect a larger trend of moving away from pure-ATAR based university admissions, and according to a spokesman for Big Picture, the company is currently in talks with eight other universities, including some based in Sydney.

Read more at: SMH 

Report: more funding needed to meet wifi and computer demands in schools

According to a new Auditor General’s report, Students at NSW public schools are struggling with out-of-date computers and slow wireless networks due to the absence of a comprehensive program with sufficient funding.

The report argues that any teachers are not provided with computers to use outside the classroom for lesson planning, and also warns that the department is “not sufficiently monitoring the digital literacy of NSW students, which has declined in national tests”.

Furthermore, the Technology for Learning program that has delivered computers, devices and servers since 2004, has not had its annual funding of $35.3 million increased since 2004, despite a 3.6 per cent increase in the student population in this time, and an overall greater emphasis on using information and communications technology (ICT) in the classroom in policy and practice.

Read more at: SMH 

Australia looking to China to improve STEM education

Australian education experts are looking to China on how to improve the mathematics and science curriculum in Australia. Increasingly, Australian students are dropping out of science and mathematics units. This is concerning as the occupations in these areas are rapidly growing. As China is known for having one of the most effective STEM education, Department of Premier and Cabinet Secretary, Chris Eccles, and his delegation recently met with early learning and teaching experts in Jiangsu to discuss how to improve education around science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

In order to improve STEM education in Australia, the Education Department is set to visit the bilingual Nanjing No 1 Kindergarten, where the kindergarten has agreed to host Victorian teachers on exchange to learn the Chinese approaches to STEM education at both secondary and tertiary level. There is also a focus on early intervention where students are performing poorly in STEM subjects, emphasised by Australian Council of Education Research director of assessment and psychometric research, Michael Timms.

In this way, Victoria is aiming to see a 25% increase in the number of year 9 students obtaining the highest level of achievement in maths and another 33% increase in science.

Read more at: The Australian

Internet education: cradle of future Chinese startups

Experts of the internet education industry look positively on having more Chinese startups join the arena. Yu Minhong, founder of the New Oriental Education and Technology Group, a private education provider, believes that the education industry will not be dominated by one single player, unlike other subsectors of the internet-related economy like e-commerce or the search area. Huang Huiwen, operating partner and CMO of Sinovation Ventures, sees companies that could help Chinese students score high in tests and help blue-collar and white-collar workers gain more skills as particularly promising in the education sector. She feels that the pursuit of good-quality education in China has spurred a boom in both private and international education.

Read more at: China Daily