Education Minister Simon Birmingham says he is “embarrassed for Australia” that our maths and science results have fallen behind countries such as Kazakhstan and Slovenia in the latest international rankings.
As he prepares to meet with state counterparts in a fortnight to discuss the future of schools funding, Senator Birmingham said the results do not justify more money.
And if you drive past the private schools in inner eastern Melbourne which are able to devote more space to sports fields than the total area for the new state secondary school in Richmond, you realise this is true for the independent system but not for public education.
Part of the 100m sprint track at Scotch in Melbourne
Senator Birmingham came up with a novel idea in suggesting that governments should focus on increasing the number of maths and science specialists in schools and rewarding high-performing teachers.
He also thinks that more testing is the answer. For every hour you spend testing a child, that’s an hour you don’t spend teaching them.
But his really great idea was that all students should also be required to study maths or science in year 12.
He is 100% wrong in this. The place for increasing resources for science and maths teaching is in the primary schools. If it is well taught in primary schools, there is a far greater chance of higher participation rates in the subjects in secondary schools.
Making studying maths and science in year 12 compulsory will be completely counter-productive.
What we should be doing in Australian schools is devoting resources to the children who
1) show talent in maths and science and who
2) want to study them.
There is no point in wasting resources on the unwilling and the unable.