Bright students to take a hit in government cut-backs

Centre for Excellence students (pictured left to right): Jessie Cutts, Dylan Moffat and Willis Lee, and straight A student Lucy Blom.

 

COMMENT by ANNA MIERS

 

Specialist subjects will be taught mostly online instead face to face by teachers of the Centralian Senior College, and its Centre for Excellence, of which the school and its students are hugely proud, will also take a hit from the NT Government austerity program.

 

It has been portrayed as the “death of our education system” by public school teachers and students who protested outside the office of Chief Minister Adam Giles last month.

 

Now with year twelve subject selections coming out, the effect of the NT Government’s bid to remove “unnecessary” teachers and support staff is evident.

 

On September 27, Education Minister Peter Chandler sought to justify the policies in a media release: “NAPLAN test results showed the NT had the lowest scores in the country.”

 

However, the statement did not take into account that the Northern Territory has the highest indigenous population, in percentage terms, of anywhere in the country.

 

The release blamed social media for “increasing challenges in engaging students,” and claimed that by increasing funding and staff in primary schools, students will become better engaged and remain that way. In fact social media influences are not highly apparent until high school.

 

In July this year, Chief Minister Adam Giles refused the Gonski initiative, which promotes “more individual attention in the classroom … extra specialist teachers in areas such as literacy and numeracy … greater support for children with disabilities or special needs … additional training and classroom support for teachers”.

 

Mr Giles said “we will not sign up to a broken formula that would hurt so many Territory students”.

 

However the education reforms, removing a total of 35 teachers across the Territory, appear contradictory to this statement and will lead to the ultimate degradation of public school education.

 

As a result of these reforms, Alice Springs’ only public high school to cater for years 10 through 12 – Centralian Senior School – will possibly lose upwards of 10 teaching and support staff by the end of this year, none of whom will be replaced for 2014.

 

Subject selection choices for year 12 are reduced. Some Stage 1 and Stage 2 (year 11 and 12) courses are to be combined, and high level subjects such specialist maths, physics and chemistry will most likely be taught through the Northern Territory Open Education Centre.

 

NTOEC is a distance learning program focused on online work, which allows students just one hour per week of face to face teacher contact. It has never been used before by many students and there will be no time for students to adjust to this type of learning prior to year 12.

 

Willis Lee (pictured) is a Centre for Excellence student, who will be doing Specialist Maths, Maths Studies, Chemisty, Physics and Philosophy in year twelve.

 

Three of these subjects will be taught through NTOEC. Willis said he was “apprehensive of the results I will receive as I’ve had bad experiences with the NTOEC program last semester, in which I received an E grade.”

 

Willis is usually an A grade student. Centralian Senior College students Jessie Cutts and Lucy Blom also expressed their concerns, as some of their year twelve subjects (Philosophy, Modern History and possibly Legal Studies if it is offered) will be combined classes with both Stage 1 and Stage 2 students.

 

Such limited options are in no way the fault of the school, but a failure for the NT Government to allow for students to have proper access to the full range of subjects.

 

Many students who are unable to do their chosen subject, or are aware that participation through NTOEC will lead to a sub-standard result, will be forced to move to another school. In Alice Springs this means a private school. What happens to those who cannot financially afford this?

 

Alice Springs has the most to lose by the education reforms put in place by the NT Government. We have just one public middle school (years 7 through 9) and one public senior school (years 10 through 12).

 

Darwin, by contrast, has multiple public high schools. That means the effects of reform will be less drastically felt there than in a town with just one choice in terms of public school education.

 

In 2012, Centralian Senior College established the Centre for Excellence program, designed to help promote and encourage high achieving and academic students.

 

As one of just five in the Northern Territory (and the only Centre for Excellence outside of Darwin), this is something the school is immensely proud of.

 

However, what purpose does such a program serve if the NT Government refuses to supply the in-school staff needed to adequately teach high level subjects?

 

The NT Government plans to invest in primary school education, whilst failing to adequately evaluate or compensate for the impact this direction will have upon high school education, especially in Alice Springs.

 

Investment in primary schools is important, but there are multiple public primary schools in Alice Springs, and only one high school.

 

Achievement in primary school education should not come at the detriment of a competent high school education. The staff at both Centralian Middle School (years 7 to 9) and Centralian Senior School (years 10 to 12) are doing their best to offer the same range of choices as highly populated states, or private schools.

 

However, this is impossible without the support of the Northern Territory Government, and at the moment, this support is missing as Government officials turn a blind eye to the larger picture that is an accessible, high standard of education for all Territorians.

 

A demonstration in protest of Government cuts will be happening on Thursday (Oct 17) outside the Alice Springs Courthouse.

 

The Alice Springs News Online has asked the government to comment.

 

[The writer is a Year 11 student at the Centralian Senior College.]

 

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6 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Bush Teacher
    Posted October 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Michael, yes it is true that we need to grudgingly accept that here in the NT we must pay for an education that is (with luck) as good as that available elsewhere for free.
    But this does not mean that we should simply accept a further downgrading of public education as inevitable or necessary.

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  2. Michael
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Funding education is certainly essential for our country’s future, but unfortunately the current NTG has been elected into a position of great debt, prompting cuts all over the board.
    Schools in the NT are already over-funded compared to schools in other parts of Australia and so many would have suffered under the Federal Labor Government’s Gonski reforms, as ‘over-funded’ schools would not be provided with support.
    While this sounds good in principle, the over-funding is a result of the high percentages of Aboriginal students in these schools and so of course extra resources are required as many of these pupils are learning English as a second language. Increased funding will be needed in these schools over the coming years, but this wouldn’t have happened under the Gonski reforms.
    Of course it is disappointing that our public high schools are suffering, but the reality in most cases is that private school education is better than public school education, as private schools have their own funding and aren’t influenced by changing governments.
    Ideally we would all like to see public schools providing the best quality education, but that is not reality as private schools rely on their higher education standards to draw students to their schools, which of course is the major source of income for private schools.
    People just need to accept that public schools, particularly in the NT, are incapable of providing the highest standards of education, as sad as this fact may be.

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  3. Cardfightback Director
    Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    There are cuts and cuts. Nothing wrong with cutting waste and bureaucracy. However education is an important thing. What will become of Australia if we are the dumb country. Nothing smart at all in cutting teachers or education facilities. I give a cardfightback about the NT education system.

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  4. Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I do not see Online Education as the “death of our education system”. NT Education saves money to provide better results by actively promoting online as central to education of students.
    Read: http://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers/?cid=13144914
    Educators on-site remain needed to assist students, to ensure reliable access to online so can educate themselves. They also can assist in co-ordinating times for online conferences.
    Educators online can be available to provide support for any subjects. Or to provide better online courses.
    Online with some support students can teach themselves a surprising variety of things, how to budget, history, geography, science, English or other languages.
    Online access offers considerable savings with greater access to Specialist Educators in almost every field.
    Online Education opens students, whether in town, rural community or prison, to further their education whether to satisfy Centrelink, Education Level Certification, Employers, or just to learn something.
    Some Education still requires blocks of practical, to demonstrate particular knowledge. These are available as students achieving required theory standards, by which time they likely feel encouraged to turn up and complete the program for certification.
    The challenge for NT Education is to ensure all students have access to the internet, and, that NT Education ensures the courses required are provided online.

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  5. Ryan Andrews
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s high time we started focussing not just on students who can afford private schooling.
    I personally know several young people who will be at a severe disadvantage due to the cuts being made on public education.
    Instead of putting money into primary and transitionary schools, why not give older students more of an opportunity to explore the fields they’re interested in?
    Having teachers available for specialist subjects in high school is crucial, especially when the online courses are as inadequate as they appear to be. I hope to see changes for the better in the near future.

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  6. Tom Landers
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I can’t believe Willis got an ‘E’ in anything! Poor bugger.

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