Archive for the 'Education' Category


The Kumon method

My son has been attending the local Kumon centre for some months now.  It costs us $200Aus per month, money worth its value.  With our children we’ve always considered additional teaching materials over and above schooling and Kumon provides that opening. 

The Kumon method is proven.  Key facets are repetition and consistency.  Each day he receives a booklet, maths and english.  He is challenged to finish each within ten minutes and with near 100% accuracy.  At five years old, and with many months of daily practice, he is at a level where he can complete each booklet by himself.  Each page is at a level that he is comfortable with – kumon aims to provide material at an individual level free from the competitive edge of peers.  The challenge is gradual, a new word or number sequence here and there.  Most of the time he is repeating answers he has already learned and by doing so builds confidence. 

The best part for me is that it is structured.  Goals are set daily.  If I consider a learning method where I demand results and if I over-impose this method without positive engagement then the ultimate result is failure, because ultimately he disengages.  Because Kumon is repetitious and within the scope of my childs capabilities it automatically attracts his will to achieve.  The Kumon method allows my son to take ownership not only in the results, but also progress.

Continue reading ‘The Kumon method’


An educational fund negotiated from land rights

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has proposed a new way of conducting land rights negotiations:

If the landowners [north-west of the Territory] are prepared to establish an educational trust fund, which benefits children across the region and allocate at least 90 per cent of the projected benefits into the fund, the Australian Government will match them dollar for dollar up to a maximum of $10 million.

I posted a comment about this policy in November last year, located here.

During its first year of governance if the new Federal government can demonstrate a policy paradigm shift in this direction then it will be an important achievement. 

The potential benefits include: 

  • It can reduce the need for dependance of governments.  Funds and trusts have the capacity to generate new wealth where the interest gained is put towards opportunity (as opposed to regular deducations from the taxation pool);
  • by reducing dependence of governments the policy can influence political capital.  Reducing dependence of government expenditure helps diffuse a sense of division that results from over-stretching affirmative action and positive discrimination programs.  The proposed fund is a result of land rights negotiations.  Australians are generally comfortable with the fact that indigenous peoples have distinct rights to land but there is division as to the application of government-sponsored policies that divide on the basis of race.  This policy helps placate that division.  Electors also want to see more positive outcomes resulting from land rights negotiations.

This policy binds the nominal left’s ideals of positive value of identity, the emphasis of education and the nominal right’s ideals of economic responsibility and contemporary notions of equality.


Advice from a retired school teacher

A friend ‘Kevin’ from Alice Springs is a retired school teacher and let me in on some secrets of the trade.

When I was teaching and if I was writing on the blackboard and there was trouble, I would turn around and say ‘right, I know who did it, so own up?  C’mon, own up now?  You would always know who did it because all the children would look at the naughty children.  Then you could focus on them and they’d own up.

The other week I went to a class with my grandchildren.  The teacher was amazed at how I got on with the kids and had everything worked out.  I told her I used to teach.  You see, there’s a trick to it.  You learn how everything works.  She was suprised that I had them all controlled and behaving.  You see!  If you meet a group of kids for the first time there will always be the ones who test you first.  They’re the ones who are most likely to be the main trouble makers.  So you know who to deal with first and you give them certain tasks so that they can get attention.  That’s all they need.

Another thing to do is to act swiftly amongst the good ones if they do the wrong thing.  If you do that the children who misbehave say to themselves ‘gee, if he got that punishment then imagine what the teacher would do to me?’, and then they behave.

I laughed and laughed.


Designing markets and investing in human capital

Progressive think-tank Per Capita have written a memo to the newly elected Prime Minister, located here

An excerpt reads:

Your government can build the Investing Society by focusing on the two big policy themes of market design and human capital investment. Designing markets and investing in people brings together the economic and social roles of government in a new fusion.

Market design is about setting the ‘rules of the game’ to get the right outcomes – in new markets like carbon, water and broadband, and in old markets where existing provision has failed, like infrastructure and housing. With good market design, governments harness market forces by setting incentives and accounting for risk.

Human capital is Australia’s most valuable asset and you have rightly made it the centrepiece of your education revolution. In addition to building human capital, your government should focus on protecting this precious asset: damaged human capital means opportunities lost and lives destroyed. Human capital investment not only makes economic sense, it’s morally right.

A focus of my blog concerns how this broad framework is applied to indigenous policy.

The first policy direction, designing markets, involves shaping the correct set of incentives through the prism of welfare reform.  But it also involves the design of markets that value the indigenous knowledge economy.  There appears to be no strategic approach to this second issue (an issue I include in the category located here).  As a result, reform is confined to shaping the perverse incentives without adding positive incentives.   

The second policy direction, investment in human capital, involves ensuring full participation of indigenous school-aged students in a merit-based education system.  There are generations of indigenous people who are locked out of a substantial bloc of employable options.

An important point, though, is that a strategic design of the indigenous knowledge economy enables a connect between indigenous (exclusive) human capital and employable options.  In this sense indigenous (exclusive) human capital is local indigenous knowledge where there is a significant gap in human capital that would otherwise result from a merit-based education.


The utility of knowledge

The United Nations University (UNU) Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) Centre of Traditional Knowledge is an exciting step for Charles Darwin University.  (Information about the launch can be found here). 

The UNI-IAS has already initiated a number of pilot projects in areas such as climate change, water, international policy making, biological resources and marine management. 

Valuing traditional knowledge for the purpose of education is important for several reasons:

  • it creates employment opportunities that match the skills and knowledge of indigenous peoples (in a socio-economic environment where there is a significant structural deficiency between labour supply and demand);
  • it re-enforces the positive value of indigenous identity and strengthens the inter-dependance between social networks and the sharing of knowledge;
  • it leads to possible break-throughs in key areas such as the application of biological knowledge to better health outcomes and other areas such as land resource management as a response to climate change.

In considering these positive efforts, a principal failure in indigenous affairs is the lack of value of indigenous knowledge and facilitation across a range of critical policy facets: health, justice, education, et cetera. 

Continued over the fold.

Continue reading ‘The utility of knowledge’


Linking land rights frameworks to education

The Australian reports the launch of an endowment fund by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council to the value of $30m that will fund 200 education scholarships in perpetuity.  Described by Chairwoman Bev Manton as ‘our education revolution’, the money comes from a statutory fund established in 1983, diverting 7.5% of land tax accumulated over the course of 15 years.  After that period, the funds were invested and ballooned over a period of around 10 years from $281m to $700m. 

There are a number of important points to make in terms of demonstrating sound policy:

  • The education opportunities are the result of land rights.  Whilst not applying to specific land, the funds are the result of a land tax applied across the State.  It is an example of a right to land derived from Indigenous status that leads to a direct social outcome, and not passive welfarism.  This link should be built on in terms of linking other aspects of land rights frameworks. 
  • The fund will expand the administrative capacity of the Land Council, enabling greater connection to practical outcomes in education.  In part, this is a market-based solution to a significant social problem.  Land Councils have strong links with people on the ground and this will further solidify these links as well as extend the functions of Land Councils to devolving greater responsibility. 
  • It is the result of a long-term commitment on the part of Governments stretching back decades.  Politician’s are often criticised for not planning in the long term, or for making decisions that might not receive an immediate and practical political benefit.  This is quite the opposite.  
  • The long-term commitment used a method where money was invested and once it reached a significant amount the total was able to be used to provide scholarships in perpuity.  It is a model using principles of social entrepreneuralism.

Henderson and Territory education

The NT Minister for Education, Paul Henderson, was interviewed on Stateline recently (trasncript here).

His estimate, using Government figures, is that around 2000 school-aged young people in the Territory are not enrolled and are not attending school.  The NT Education Union estimates 7000.   

Economic and regional development is nominally organised around concepts of infrastructure, business investment, employment, et cetera.  The NT truancy rate represents the greatest medium and long-term economic and social challenge of any jurisdiction in Australia.   And it is not just active engagement in education that is the issue, but engagement on a merit-based level. 

If some years down the track we can look back at the present focus in indigenous affairs and say that one element has been a resounding success, and if it is in the area of addressing truancy and enabling merit-based education engagement, then the future will be a positive turn-around for many people and their families.

July 2018
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