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Volume 7, No. 6 Articles
Title Authors Pages
Editorial: The SACE debate
Keeves, J.P. 791-794
This special issue of the International Education Journal has been prepared for publication by the Flinders University Institute of International Education and the South Australian Institute of Educational Research to draw attention to the radical changes being introduced in South Australia at the terminal secondary school level. These changes follow on from earlier similar changes that were introduced for the first 10 years of public education in the state of South Australia at a time when efforts were being made towards a common curriculum across Australia together with a common system of education. These highly specific changes to schooling in South Australia are being made with little public debate and little soundly based research evidence on the effectiveness of the public schooling provided within the state. Moreover, these changes occur at a time when there is increasing movement between the Australian states, particularly towards Queensland and Western Australia, and increasing attempts are being made to attract students from countries in Asia to complete their schooling and university education within South Australia. The effects of globalisation and movement of people between countries are clearly having a marked impact on education in South Australia, with the establishment of a small campus of at least one university from the United States in Adelaide and the establishment of commercially based secondary schools to cater for overseas students. Furthermore, the International Baccalaureate programs at all levels are flourishing in South Australia with greater per capita involvement within the state than anywhere else in the world. It is commonly stated that South Australia has an education system that is both innovative and of high quality, but these statements are made with little supporting evidence to back such claims that is soundly based, or that would be accepted outside the state arising from examination of educational outcomes across the states and territories of Australia, or across the developed countries of the world. Indeed, it is our concern that educational research in South Australia is generally both low in quality and quantity and has been throughout the period of approximately 75 years when the South Australia Institute of Educational Research was founded. Under these circumstances we consider that it is timely for both Institutes involved in the preparation of this issue of the International Education Journal to draw attention in a scholarly way, with a belief in open and informed debate on such issues, to the serious lack of an international perspective as well as a research perspective, in the substantial changes being made to public education within the state of South Australia. C oncern for Principles in Debate In the preparation of the published report “Success for All”, the Review Panel advocated seven principles that they contended were the foundations for the proposed reform to senior secondary education in the state of South Australia and for the development of a new approach for the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE). The new SACE needs to be: * responsive to the needs of individual students and groups of students; * credible in terms of the rigour of the learning process, the standards and methods used to assess students’ learning achievements, and in terms of the reliability of what the certificate says graduates know and can do; * inclusive of all students, all cultures and all study pathways so that success for all is the prevailing dominant culture; * worthwhile in terms of the benefits perceived by students; * futures oriented so that students have the skills and attributes they need to survive in a globally competitive world, and also to help shape it; * connected to learning that precedes the current SACE years (particularly Year 10), to work and study destinations beyond the senior secondary years, to students’ lives, and to the wider, global community; * supportive of quality learning and teaching for all students. (Success for All: SACE Review at a glance, 2006, p. 8) These principles are admirable and we have no reason to challenge them. However, the open stating of them is in marked contrast to a report that does not consider: * the different groups of students involved and, in particular, the needs of able students; * the portability of the certificate across Australia and other developed and developing countries; * the alternative pathways being followed by students both in South Australia and in other countries who work for the South Australian Certificate of Education; * the worth of intellectual challenge, independent effort, both cognitive and practical skills, and strong value systems based on universally accepted values; * the need to think outside the narrow confines of a state of only one and a half million people at the present time; * the serious shortcomings of a curriculum developed within the public education system in South Australia for the teaching and learning of students during the first ten years of schooling, and the connections that need to be made to clearly identified pathways for entry into adult life; and * the findings of research into cognitive acceleration and in the field of neuroscience that is changing the learning and teaching of students at all levels of secondary schooling. Moreover, it can be argued that the report of the Review Panel is ideologically biased with a particular agenda and is written in terms that largely ignore the seven principles listed above. The image of one certificate for all, in which all achieve success, fails to consider that dual functions of a qualification at the end of 12 years of schooling of both certification and selection. Moreover, the image of one certificate implies that there is only one pathway for all students to follow at the end of secondary education. We would argue that there are several different pathways that need to be identified and considered, namely: (a) to university with or without a brief gap, (b) to programs involving the development of high level skills in the field of technology and ICT, (c) to apprenticeship and training programs for the development of a wide range of skills, (d) to work in the labour force involving specific levels of skill. In addition, it must be expected that no pathway terminates at the end of a single further stage, but leads on to a lifelong program of recurring education and learning to live and work effectively in a changing world. Each of these pathways has both common and unique requirements. One qualification or even the two alternative qualifications that used to operate in South Australia are no longer appropriate for the four or more alternative or shared pathways of the future. What is important is the guidance required to encourage young people to commence moving along an initial pathway, but with considerable freedom to move in and out of different paths as their interests, commitments and abilities require. Concerning this Issue of the International Education Journal There is no need to summarise or present information about the Ministerial Review of Senior Secondary Education in South Australia or about the Final Report of the Review Panel, Success for All, since the full Report and an Overview are readily available on the SACE Review website at All that need be said is that efforts are being made to implement the findings of the Review Panel, with little if any debate and with no apparent opposition from the universities or other parties who are stakeholders. However, the words of the Prime Minister, the Honourable John Howard, when launching the Australia Research Alliance for Children and Youth in 2002 are of considerable interest. One of the things you find in government is that no amount of goodwill is enough, no amount of good policy direction is enough, unless you have accurate information at your disposal. And the use of taxpayer resources to achieve particular goals can be very frustrating if in fact the database on which these policies are based and the objectives pursued are inadequate, or worse inaccurate. (Trewin citing Howard, 2006) The announcement that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is proposing to conduct a testing program to assess the abilities of undergraduate students in a program of reform to enhance the quality of higher education in countries that are members of OECD is a major development in the transition from schooling to higher education. This proposal is likely to be hotly debated at both school and university levels. Moreover, this proposal draws attention to the need for an international and Australia wide perspective on the many aspects of the widespread debate that will inevitably emerge. It is the purpose of this issue to provide a meaningful data base from which the Report of the Review Panel Success for All can be viewed and debated before the recommended policies are implemented. The lead article is a paper prepared by Geoff N. Masters the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research that is titled: The Case for an Australian Certificate of Education. This paper is followed by a commentary by John P. Keeves (Chair of Flinders University Institute of International Education) and David D. Curtis (ACER, School of Education, University of Adelaide), titled: Research and National Debate on Australian Schooling. There are four papers that are critiques of the Report of the Review Panel Success for All: 1. The SACE Review Panel’s Final Report: Significant flaws in the statistical analyses of available education data by Kelvin D. Gregory, School of Education, Flinders University, 2. Tailoring Educational Research to a Desired Goal: The SACE Review Panel’s Report on Community Views by Kelvin D. Gregory, School of Education, Flinders University, 3. The Heart of the New SACE by J. Anthony Gibbons, Flinders University Institute of International Education, 4. A View from Outside the Confines of South Australia by John P. Keeves, Chair, Flinders University Institute of International Education These papers were presented at the FUIIE and SAIER Spring Seminar Series on the Research Issues on the Future of Post-Compulsory Secondary Education in South Australia on Tuesday 29 August and Tuesday 5 September 2006 (see Appendix 1 for publicity statement). Since Professor Masters was ill and unable to attend on Tuesday 29 August, his paper was read by Dr Ted Sandercock, Chairperson of SAIER. The Editor
The case for an Australian Certificate of Education
Masters, G. 795-800
The Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training on May 2005 commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research to investigate and report on models and implementation arrangements for an Australian Certificate of Education. There are ten different certificates currently available across the six states and two territories of Australia that provide a senior secondary school qualification. The first recommendation made by the Review is for national agreement on what should be taught in each school system. The second recommendation is for students across Australia to be assessed against the same standards. This requires the development of natural so-called 'achievement achievement standards' in each subject assessed. A third recommendation is that students are required to demonstrate acceptable levels of achievement of a few key capabilities. A final recommendation is that further work needs to be done to explore how employability skills may be assessed in a consistent way as part of the Australian Certificate of Education. In conclusion, it is emphasised that there is need for a 'common currency' or common language for reporting all senior secondary subject results. There is also a need for national debate on what Australia senior secondary school students should be learning during their final years of secondary schooling, regardless of where they live. Australian Certificate of Education, achievement standards, key capabilities, employability skills, senior secondary schooling
Research and national debate on Australian schooling
Keeves, J.P. and Curtis, D.D. 801-813
This paper is a response to the paper prepared by Masters that is titled 'The case for an Australian Certificate of Education'. It argues that a national debate is needed urgently on the many issues that have arisen in Australian education. These issues include not only the curriculum provided for students at the final stages of secondary schooling, and the certification of attainment of educational outcomes on completion of 12 years of schooling, but also the curriculum of schools across Australia, particularly at the lower and middle secondary school levels. In addition, there are related issues associated with participation in higher education and the completion of a first degree at an Australian university. All too often, decisions are made at all levels of education on ideological grounds and without consideration of the body of research findings that are available to guide the making of decisions and the monitoring of development and change. This paper draws on readily available research to show the similarities and differences between the state education systems to argue a case for informed debate that draws on the large body of evidence that is available. Retention rates, participation rates, educational research, research-based evidence, school curriculum, senior secondary schooling, secondary school curriculum
The SACE Review panel's final report: Significant flaws in the analysis of statistical data
Gregory, K. 814-833
The South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) is a credential and formal qualification within the Australian Qualifications Framework. A recent review of the SACE outlined a number of recommendations for significant changes to this certificate. These recommendations were the result of a process that began with the review panel "scrutinizing carefully [existing SACE structures for] continuing validity and effectiveness". This paper critiques the "careful examination" of statistical trends and patterns used to build the case for reform. Central to these trends and patterns are measures of retention, socio-economic status and student achievement, all of which are problematic. This paper also challenges the appropriateness of the statistical techniques used in the review. The paper concludes by arguing that making significant policy changes based upon such limited and flawed analyses is problematic. Educational research, curriculum, education policy, post-compulsory education
A critique of the SACE Review panel's report on community views
Gregory, K. 834-848
The South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE), introduced in 1992-93, is a credential and formal qualification within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). SACE was recently subjected to a review that led to a series of significant recommendations. These recommendations came out of a process that began with the Review Panel scrutinising existing SACE structures for continuing validity and effectiveness. This paper critically examines claims made by the Review Panel of a resounding confirmation of the need for reform. Since the panel's claims are built upon qualitative data (community submissions), they are critiqued using widely-accepted standards for qualitative research. In particular, this paper examines the panel's evidence regarding "academic creep", the dominance of the academic pathway, and issues regarding the Tertiary Entrance Rank. The findings suggest that the panel's case for reform may apply more to government schools than to the SACE itself. This paper concludes that the case for reform is poorly developed and largely supported by research lacking transparency and unsuited to making generalisations. Qualitative research, curriculum, education policy, post-compulsory education
The heart of the new SACE
Gibbons, J.A. 849-863
The SACE Review proposes that a set of knowledge, skills and dispositions called capabilities should form the core of the new SACE. As the Review emphasises, there must be widespread, systematic research and discussion on the range and nature of the capabilities. The SACE Review suggests five capabilities as a basis for discussion. This paper is offered as a contribution to that discussion through an analysis of the knowledge, skills and dispositions to which the Review refers. The paper identifies and analyses a presupposition of all the capabilities, the capacity to reflect, and argues the importance of the development of that capacity for the developing human being. Capabilities, knowledge, dispositions, reflection, hard core
A view from outside the confines of South Australia
Keeves, J.P. 864-869
The SACE Review report, Success for All, completely ignores two important issues, namely, (a) the portability of the certificate, and (b) the nature of secondary schooling in a future that is set in a global world. The Review saw the South Australian education system operating in a context that was limited to the geographical and cultural boundaries of the state. This paper discusses both of these issues that appear to require the resolution of conflicting and incompatible problems. In conclusion the paper considers the changing nature of schooling and the role of alternative education in both schools and programs and rejects the continuance of comprehensive schooling at the upper secondary school level within a bureaucratic education system. The paper argues that different types of schools should be gradually established through the self-management and self-governance of schools by the communities served and the choices made by the students who attend the schools and their parents, and who support them while they are engaged in upper secondary education. Certification, selection, alternative schools, future of schooling, self-governance
RESEARCH ISSUES ON THE FUTURE OF POST-COMPULSORY SECONDARY EDUCATION IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA The South Australian Institute for Education Research (SAIER) and the Flinders University Institute for International Education (FUIIE) will conduct two seminars focusing on post-compulsory secondary education in South Australia. The series is designed to promote discussion and debate around South Australian post-compulsory secondary education, with a special emphasis on the roles of research and credentialing systems (specifically SACE and ACE). Each seminar will include presentations by leaders in educational curriculum and research.

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