An international education expert is calling for a major rethink of Australia's education policy that will keep more kids in school.
Professor Stephen Ball will call for Australian education policy to steer away from grading students based on their academic achievements, when he speaks at an event organised by the University of Newcastle Central Coast campus on Monday 23 May 2011.
"When a student is labelled as 'underperforming' it is easy for them to become disenfranchised and disinterested in their education, which continues the cycle of underachievement beyond schooling and into their careers,” Professor Ball said.
“The current focus of Australia's education policy on performance leads to the systematic neglect of students who are performing below average. The curriculum caters to achievers and is too fast-paced for many students who are then left behind.”
Professor Ball said league tables like the Australian Government's Myschool website and National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test cemented a focus on success, rather than the needs of the individual.
“There needs to be a shift away from the idea that a student's lack of motivation or attention is the problem. Education policy that is performance-oriented is the problem and leads to an underperforming education sector.”
Professor Ball's research compared the education experience of Scandinavian students (who are not divided into groups based on their academic performance) to experiences in Australia, America and the United Kingdom.
“There is a strong link between the more equitable systems in Nordic countries to higher student retention rates,” Professor Ball said.
In Sweden, children are not given numerical marks until they are at least 15 years old, and 95 per cent of students remain at school until at least 19 years of age. More than 70 per cent of Nordic students matriculate to tertiary education. This compares to about 78 per cent of Australian students completing secondary education and more than 30 per cent matriculating to tertiary education.
Professor Ball is a lead researcher at the University of London Institute of Education. He will speak at the Towards a Smarter Central Coast event to be held at the Mingara Recreation Club, Mingara Drive, Tumbi Umbi, from 1pm to 4pm on Monday 23 May 2011. The event is part of the 2011 Central Coast Innovation Festival.
For interviews with Professor Ball or more information about the Towards a Smarter Central Coast event contact University of Newcastle Media and PR Officer Leonie Brann on 02 4921 6856 or 0448 898 813.