Let’s Talk: What was education like when you were going to school?

It’s the debate that’s worth $3 billion. For the past three years, state and federal governments have been fighting it

It’s the debate that’s worth $3 billion. For the past three years, state and federal governments have been fighting it out over future of Australia’s schools. Does more funding equal better performance?

Education minister Simon Birmingham says the performance is not good enough at a time when there are record levels of funding being put into schools, which has grown by around 23 per cent over the last three years.

The situation has now come to a head after the Federal Government withdrew its support for the final two years of the Gonski Funding Agreement.

Gonski was supposed to redirect funding to the schools ‘most in need’ with the highest number of disadvantaged and poorly educated children.

However, Malcolm Turnbull confirmed in the 2016 Budget the Government would provide $3 billion less in funding than was negotiated by the states with Gillard Government in 2012.

The state’s political leaders have been left aghast.

“Anyone who argues money doesn’t matter in schools is wrong,” New South Wales education minister Adrian Piccoli says.

However, Birmingham says funding the full six years of Gonski is “unsustainable” and that those record levels of funding over the last few years have not generated improved results from our schools.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its major education ‘report card’ that compared the school systems and higher education in 35 advanced economies.

Education at a Glance highlights Australia’s world-class education system, but it also confirms what Simon Birmingham has been saying.

A close look at the report shows there has been a 14 per cent increase in spending per student over the last 10 years, yet Australia’s performance in national and international assessments have not improved. In some cases, the performance has gone backward.

The report also highlights that Australian teachers have bigger classes (an average of 24 in Australia when the OECD average is 21) and more teaching hours (11:9) than the OECD average.

Questions are now being raised about whether or not every child will get a ‘fair’ education.

In these days of open-plan, computer-equipped classrooms where there is a wide variety of subjects in which to study, gender equality and restrictions on discipline, it can be hard for a student today to understand what getting an education was like in the ’50s, ’60s’ and ’70s.

What do you think about the way children today are being taught compared to when you were in school? Share your thoughts with us.

  1. Marlee  

    Primary school in the 1950’s was fraught with angst. The boys were strapped by the teacher and some of those male teachers would almost come off their feet with the strength they put into those straps on the hands. Girls were not strapped, but I did have a teacher hit me over the head with a book and I was Dux of the class, so what was she on about. Perhaps she needed a man in her life – frustrated old hag! The classes were crowded with about 30 kids in the class, but I was a smart student, so it didn’t worry me. Must have had a bad effect on the kids that were struggling though.
    Secondary school was a different ball game at a girl’s only school. Hats, gloves and blazers had to be worn outside the school grounds and we walked 3 miles to the bus stop. They did let us off the gloves and blazers in the heat, but we would have loved to go through town barefoot. Stupid rules, hair had to be off your collar, unless it was long and then it had to be plaited. Fingernails could not show over the tops of the fingers and of course no nail polish or makeup allowed. Sunscreen was not invented then and I think makeup would have saved our faces from the sun.

    • Robert Haile  

      When my parents forced me to move from Brisbane to the USA in high school in the twelfth grade, academically I was at a junior level for US college, not high school. I finished first in the USA later in my medical board exams. In the USA most national spelling bees, advanced science positions, and technological degrees are going to immigrants or first generation immigrant children based on old fashioned ideas of effort and discipline. Those values and parental support are more valuable than money in education.

  2. Of course, education was different in the 1950s when I went to school, it was a totally different world then and social ideas were built around different jobs, women staying home to raise children, “soft” jobs for females (nursing et al). I think the education system has vastly changed for the better – except in some aspects.

    The notion that children are not to be taught to write anymore is RIDICULOUS! Why can’t they learn to write in “running writing”? Why only print?

    Why are they not taught to spell in Australian English but are allowed to “text change” words and use Americanisms?

    Why are they taught complicated roundabout ways to do a simple maths exercise?

    Why are they all dropping with fear when exam time comes around? We were given tests every Friday and when exam time came, it was only one more test.

    Why are children and older students allowed to get away with sloppy work and “passed” even though their work is not up to standard? This happens with overseas uni students all the time.

    Yes, there are wonderful opportunities opening up all the time in education, but the fundamentals are being lost. That is not good enough.

  3. Darlene  

    You’ve only got to watch tv programme, ‘Hot Seat Millionaire’, to hear how children aren’t being ‘taught’ the curriculum which was in place in the ’50’s-’60’s.

    The ‘youngies’ are pretty hopeless at anything except ‘current music’ or ‘computer’ subjects.
    One didn’t know what a ‘cobbler’ did!
    Nobody seems to ‘use their brain’ to work out an answer.
    A Geography question involved three named Countries’ in Arabia, & one in Africa, Djibouti. Middle-aged woman couldn’t work out that the last wasn’t in Arabia! It doesn’t even SOUND Arabian, let alone the spelling being a dead giveaway!

    As for English Literature, Geography, or Science questions’, forget them! Hardly anybody can answer those subjects’. Such is the deplorable state of ‘education’, ’70’s onwards.

    The Australian Education System needs to get back to ‘basics’, which equipped us well for the working life ahead, then.
    Even using computers’, one still needs how to spell in this Country the correct way, as well as English sentence construction!

  4. Joy Anne Bourke  

    Well, Turnbull does not think it is worth the $3 billion. That is Turnbull’s decision and not the people of Australia. How come they can give themselves a increase in their pays of 3% for the next 3 years. That would pay for the Gonski funding.
    I went to school from 1955 and found that the right way is the 3 RRR. At least we can spell, know more about the history of Australia and the country farmers, also arithmetic we can give change without the till telling you how much. The young ones cannot even give change without that. I have struck many that have no idea and have had to tell them how much change. We know where milk, butter, cheese, meat came from. Most of the kids today have no idea thinking it comes from a bottle etc.

  5. Vince WEBSTER  

    YES I went to “Primary & Secondary ” schools in the 50′ & 60’s where the basics were “drummed into US the students to the curriculum standards & there was respect for the teacher at the front of the classroom . YES there were fights outside the classroom BUT they were PUNISHED with a “detention” or a “six of the best” from the cane ” which YES hurt But the student did NOT do it again. As for maths that was repetitiously drilled in “over & over until it was known CORRECTLY ,the same for “BASIC ” English . Look what happens NOW if the “teenagers’ are out in “realWorld ” and the “power ” goes down “many of them have NO idea how to do “BASIC arithmetic!!!!!
    So they just are NOT being taught correctly ALL the basics – NO the “Americanisms” of the computer should NOT be used until years 10or 1& teach the students RESPECT for the teachers & their parents

  6. Milena Petrovic  

    Many subjects have been dropped from the current school program including formal English grammar. Common usage condones.
    Music departments at certain universities have closed. It seems surprising and regrettable that educational budgets have been reduced to this extent.

  7. Frank  

    yep – when I was a small kid I had piano lesson from a convent nun who smashed my fingers with a rod every time I made a mistake – such hatred I couldn’t believe – I refused to go back to that one

    at high school we were regularly sent to get the cane – I saw one male teacher smash a kid through a fibro wall – I heard he threw another boy out a window – we didn’t talk back to that guy any more – so that certainly worked !

    apparently one time a teacher smacked a girl on her bare bottom, so some do-gooder in government told teachers they were not allowed to touch students – ever – so since then we’ve had feral students running riot – in fact physically attacking teachers – because they know teachers aren’t allowed to fight back – that sounds like a plan – not !

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