Principals oppose dumping controversial subject

Principals oppose dumping controversial subject

The South Australian Association Of State School Organisations (SAASSO) recently asked the state’s parents and educators their thoughts on a number of ideas recently proposed to improve education quality and school safety in the state.

And yesterday, 1,100 respondents had their voices heard on a range of topics involving the provision of education, school safety issues and a controversial subject being taught in the state’s secondary schools.

According to the survey’s findings, only 14% support students having to use non-gender specific language at school; 62% want police sniffer dogs in schools; nearly 80% want new teachers on probation; less than one third think parents of bullies should be fined and most do not believe teachers should get a payrise for having one special needs child in their class.

However, perhaps the most significant finding was that 57% of respondents want the South Australian Certification of Education (SACE) research project scrapped – a move that has drawn support from a large number of principals.

The controversial SACE research project – a compulsory Year 12 (Stage 2) subject and account for 10 credits – allows students to undertake research on a topic of their choosing, and is designed to develop students’ independence, research and communication skills.

In June, SA Education Minister, John Gardner, announced a review into the stage 2 requirements of SACE to ensure the state had “the most outstanding and highly regarded SACE possible”.

“This is an important step towards ensuring that we are preparing our students for their futures, giving them the best possible opportunities to develop the skills needed to get jobs and, through a stronger focus on entrepreneurial education, to create jobs,” he said.

However, some educators say the changes restrict students’ subject choices and lowers enrolments in subjects including secondary languages.

The latest pushback by the state’s teachers and parents puts pressure on the state government to rethink the review’s terms of reference. However, in a statement yesterday, Gardner ruled out such a move.

The state’s peak association for secondary principals has also voiced its support for retaining the subject.

South Australian Secondary Principals Association (SASPA) president, Peter Mader, said the Research Project performs “a highly valued function” within the senior secondary curriculum. 

“Essentially it asks students to undertake a self-directed learning experience: one that enables them to investigate or research a topic of significance to them,” Mader told The Educator.

“Unlike most subjects that work within a discrete knowledge base, the Research Project is a process and skills-based subject.”

Mader said that by learning about the research process through the experience of doing substantial research, the Research Project assists in developing a range of transferable skills well-suited to tertiary education and/or the world of work. 

“At a time when our contemporary world is placing more and more emphasis on people’s capacity to ask the questions that matter and to solve the problems we need to solve, South Australia can ill-afford to dispense with the Research Project,” he said.

“That said, SASPA understands Minister Gardner’s interest in finding space in the senior secondary curriculum for Languages other than English (LOTE) and other under-represented subjects, and is keen to explore a range of creative solutions through the SACE Review being conducted during Term 3.”