The furore following the announcement that Jenny Craig CEO Amy Smith would address a gathering of hundreds of girls' school teachers has once again brought the uncomfortable issue of corporate presence in schools to light.
The public response – that school groups should not be seen to endorse the dieting industry – is certainly warranted. But such corporate presence in education is really just the tip of the iceberg.
When I was very young, the father of the neighbor’s family – a young academic - suddenly disappeared. The young academic was working, I was later told, on original research upon which he had pinned the hopes for his career. Nearing the completion of his work, however, a professor he had been working with published the young academic’s original work under the professor’s own name.
There was a complaint but the professor prevailed. This was and often still is the case in such unequal power relationships.
This young academic’s one piece of career-making work stolen and not finding justice through the academic process, he ended his life. It was an extreme response, but one that illustrated the absolute seriousness of intellectual property. It also illustrated the intellectual dishonesty that pervaded academia.
The current debate in Timor-Leste about whether to use a ‘mother tongue’ or home language for the first years of education or whether to focus on building Tetum as a national language has raised a number of important points. These include whether local languages are, in the long term, viable and whether they could promote disunity, or whether children already disadvantaged by communication in a multiplicity of languages will learn better if they start in a language they are most familiar with.
The literature on learning does clearly indicate that children are more engaged and do have better educational outcomes if they at least begin their education in a language they are most familiar with. A second, national language can be taught as part of the school curriculum and, at a point at which students are sufficiently advanced, they can switch to the national language.
The caps are coming off and university administrations are nervous. Just what a demand driven system means for university recruitment, no-one really knows for sure. What I know for sure is that as well as ensuring recruitment targets are met, we need to be ready to ensure the success of the students we recruit, especially the ones who are from underprivileged backgrounds.
I think we should give them all schoalrships, bursaries, stipends and all the other versions of free money available. Lucky I don't rule the university world or we'd be spending a bit of money (and maybe keeping more students to completion...ahem).
We also need to assist those who aren't familiar with the discourses and norms of higher education to understand what is expected of them as university students and to learn to perform in ways that ensure their success. Easy to type, hard to do. But some research I led last year has some cool tips.
Edited extract of address to the Business Leader’s Luncheon in Warrnambool on Monday 26 September.
My topic today is, “Does a University town bring real benefits or is it all just spin?”
Many towns do not have a university. Those that do are often fiercely proud of what they have. All towns put up a fight at the merest rumour that the University will close or leave town.
So what is it all about? Is it just spin and fluff? Or is there more to it?
This post was published in ACEL's weekly online newsletter (22/08/20110
Working with regions is a step in the right direction The Grattan Institute report on Investing in regions is timely as both Federal and Victorian governments grapple with challenges of a ‘two speed’ or ‘patchwork’ economy and metropolitan transport and planning problems arising from rapid population growth. The report takes an unapologetic economic stance, and implicitly accepts that the benefits of agglomeration economics (economic growth) outweigh the costs. Its findings suggest that market forces should be left to ‘get on with it’. Social, civic and environmental returns are key components of liveability. They are the reason people are moving to coastal cities and ‘bolting’ regions. It is up to governments to make sure that economics does not drown these out. Common sense confirms Grattan’s main conclusion: that government spending will not produce the same return regardless of where it is spent.
Desperate times, they say, call for desperate measures. Proposing to cut $400 million from Australia's aid budget to Indonesia’s schools program looks pretty desperate. So one can only assume that having alienated damp Queensland voters and not just a few Victorians, Tony Abbott is trying to find a way out of opposing the one-off tax hole he has dug himself into.
Someone should tell him that the first rule of holes is, when you are in one, stop digging.
Abbott’s chopping of the Indonesian education program would be an abysmal policy decision, but for one saving grace: being in opposition means it won’t be enacted.
In a recent newspaper article (Long way to top 10, The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
I think I just made up a word – edu-politics – but maybe I didn’t . . . but it doesn’t seem to matter in the madness of the current election campaigns. ...