2015 was a big year in education. The Educator takes a look at some of the highlights.
The year began with some eye-opening statistics about the gender divide in Australian education, with an OECD study revealing just 39% of secondary principals were female, giving Australia the lowest ratio of women principals to men out of all OECD countries.
However, NSW Teachers Federation’s Relieving Women’s Coordinator Anna Uren told The Educator that the issue is more complicated than it first appears.
“The gender imbalance is not as simple as saying that discrimination occurs at the point of employment of principals,” Uren said.
“There is a range of factors contributing to the situation. For example, there are barriers which exist along a teacher’s career path, which can affect women in a particular way.”
Another OECD report, the Teaching and Learning International Study, was released in February, and found that 66% of secondary teachers work in schools where their principals report that more than 10% of the students come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
To put that in perspective, this figure was just 16% in Norway.
Towards the middle of the year, a range of events centred on spruiking the use of educational technologies swept the nation.
In May, Microsoft’s #WeSpeakCode conference kicked off at the University of Technology in Sydney where the future PM, Malcolm Turnbull, urged greater innovation in the nation’s education system.
“We need to expose more students to coding so they are inspired to create, build and develop new technologies rather than just being passive users of it,” said Turnbull.
The EduTech conference held in Brisbane in June provided a fascinating glimpse of some of education’s most cutting edge learning and teaching tools, as well as discussions around how to target devices to specific learning needs of students rather than simply adopt them.
New Minister, new challenges
In September, Simon Birmingham, former Assistant Minister for Education and Training, took the role of Federal Education Minister after a sudden change of power in Canberra which elevated Malcolm Turnbull to the Prime Minister’s office.
Later in the year, the issue of student radicalisation took centre stage following the fatal shooting of NSW Police accountant, Curtis Cheng in Parramatta by school student, Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad.
In response, NSW Premier Mike Baird announced a $47m counter-radicalisation plan for the state’s schools. The plan involves specialist teams being sent to the state’s schools and footy stars becoming advocates against violent extremism.
In early December, the 2015 NAPLAN report revealed stable student achievement – relative to 2008 and 2014, with some improvements nationally and in each state and territory for some year levels and some domains. ACARA CEO, Robert Randall, said the ACT, NSW, and Victoria continued to be top performers in most domains.
“The high performing jurisdictions have maintained their relatively higher achievement levels in most domains,” he said.
Principal health and well-being
The 2015 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety & Well-being Survey Report, released on December 3, called for a national conversation to address escalating stress and offensive behaviour facing our principals.
The report found that 41% of principals have experienced threats of violence and 36% experienced some form of bullying. Parents were the worst offenders making up 42% of reported bullying and 41% of threats towards principals.
More than 70,000 NSW high school students received their HSC results this morning, sent out to anxious students by text, email or online.
Once again, girls were the big winners, topping 70% of subjects. Seven in ten of the top performing students were girls with many topping the state in languages, history and English.
However, when it came to which school system topped this year’s HSC courses, the result was much narrower.
Of the state’s 116 HSC courses, public schools came out on top with 42 students taking the highest marks, compared to 39 from private and Catholic schools.