How to improve education: just ask the teachers

Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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How to improve education: just ask the teachers

It was with despair that I read “Learning in peril as lack of teachers hit schools” (The Age, 3/2), which is similar to headlines over the past two years. I have been teaching for 20years and last year left the state school system to work in non-school-based education in the non-government sector.

If I had been made permanent in the state school system (rather than on yearly contracts) I would still be there as I love teaching. Instead the Education Department thinks making teachers spend every weekend of term four assessing students’ work, writing reports – and applying for jobs for the next year – is best practice.

This is after a year of working one day of every weekend and a few nights every week, attending endless meetings, giving all your energy to your students and getting home emotionally drained, and attending school camps where you are lucky to get four hours sleep per night. The reward for this is to realise at the end of the year that you have to apply for another job and there is a good chance a recent graduate will get it as they cost less to employ.

More pay, time in lieu for school camps, more preparation time during the school week and smaller classes will not retain teachers, or encourage them to return to the classroom. Treating them like valued staff rather than applying a “fast-food franchise” model of employment would be a great start. Ensuring state schools get significantly more government funding than private schools would also change things.
Rohan Wightman, McKenzie Hill

A focus on administration rather than the students

Well, I am not surprised there is a teacher shortage. I recently retired from secondary school teaching as many of my colleagues have also. I am sure some of us would have stayed longer and some would be happy to fill the current void if not for the excessive administrative burden. Precious time that could have been given to planning, teaching and supporting students and mentoring less experienced staff was eroded by a focus on performance reviews, excessive and lengthy meetings and the next “new initiative”, data analysis. Teachers once had a level of autonomy and respect, but sadly that has been dissipated. Currently I am working in a private tutoring college. The administrative load is done for me, my expertise is appreciated and valued, and I am able to focus on what I really enjoy – teaching young people.
Georgina Manger, Hawthorn East

Australia needs a bipartisan approach to education

Government education is managed by the states, but it is definitely nation building. Federal Education Minister Jason Clare’s contribution to the teacher shortage crisis is the latest in a long line of negligence over the past 20 years. The last federal politician I can remember who passionately stood up for the government school system was, ahem, Mark Latham.

Since Latham’s brutal election defeat by John Howard, Canberra politicians of all persuasions have been muted by the neo-liberal mantra of “choice” for families, an oft-repeated kick in the guts for the government system. Too many kicks in the guts for too long leads us to the current shortage. The chickens are coming home to roost. Schools need a bipartisan Canberra to stop playing football with education and to respect and recognise the importance of the profession.
Simon Williamson, West Footscray


Towards reconciliation

The divisive scenes around St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney for the funeral for the late Cardinal George Pell (The Age, 3/2) were inevitable. He was a divisive figure in life and a divisive figure in death. Hopefully, the Catholic Church in Australia will be spared another such a cardinal as it seeks to promote reconciliation and the wellbeing of the many people whose lives have been damaged by clerical sexual abuse by some of its religious leaders.
Robert Humphreys, Croydon Hills

Mary, the truly great one

True to form, Tony Abbott got his facts wrong in declaring that George Pell was “the greatest Catholic Australia has ever produced”. Abbott obviously forgot about Mary MacKillop, now Saint Mary of the Cross, who was born in Fitzroy in 1842. She founded the religious order of nuns, Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She was only a woman, but I think saints outrank cardinals.
Kerry McInerney, Mornington

Braving the Pell haters

The NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s non-attendance at the funeral mass of Cardinal George Pell in Sydney smacked of political cowardice. To Peter Dutton’s credit, his attendance showed that he would not be cowed by the Pell haters.
Dennis Walker, North Melbourne

United in our own tribes

Tony Abbott’s heartfelt speech for his fallen hero inside the cathedral contrasted with the anguished rainbow protesters outside. What did we learn? Who was right and who was wrong? No, we learnt only that we are a tribal people, we are either in or we are out. So endeth the lesson.
Paul Johnson, Clifton Hill

The truth about Pell

As the idolatry of George Pell continues, the families and survivors of the appalling abuse suffered on his watch can only think there are none so blind as those who will not see.
April Baragwanath, Geelong

Low base for comparison

Let’s put Tony Abbott’s description of George Pell as “the greatest man I’ve ever known” in perspective. Abbott spent most of his working life in the company of career politicians.
Nick Jans, Princes Hill

Case of racial profiling?

This week, after an enjoyable family reunion in Goa and an exhausting Air-India flight from Delhi, I arrived at Melbourne Airport. As an older woman of colour, perhaps I looked like such a person who flouts quarantine rules and hides contraband Indian food.

Even though I had signed an official declaration which should have allowed me to exit via the airport’s green lane, I was directed to a brightly lit room where I joined a line of tired travellers of colour. Soon a well-trained dog entered, circled us twice, sniffed our baggage and found nothing suspicious.

This has never happened before. Were we respected and trusted as Australians of Indian heritage and Indian tourists? As a researcher who explores white privilege, was I too sensitive or was this unconscious racial profiling with no explanations offered?
Michele Lobo, Hampton Park

Keep AUKUS pals happy

Penny Wong says the rule of law must be applied in the Julian Assange case (The Age, 2/2), signalling no diplomatic negotiations with the UK or US to free him. Would she say the same thing if he were a prisoner in Russia, or Iran, or Myanmar or even China? Yet each of these countries proclaim their justice system is fair and treats all according to the law. I suppose we don’t want to upset our AUKUS friends, do we.
Daniel Cole, Essendon

The battle to see Mary

I wish I could pop into Her Majesty’s Theatre to see Mary Poppins (The Age, 3/2) with my grandchildren. After hours on the website, I have given up. It feels like the 80s, when trying to get tickets to take my children to shows in Melbourne was frustrating. No computers and no mobiles then, just on the landline for ages. Living in a country town did not help as there were no local ticketing agents. Good luck to anyone who gets a ticket for Mary Poppins.
Pam Mount, Parkdale

The invisible illnesses

As a person with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), which imposes significant limits on my ability to work, socialise and enjoy life, I am used to the fact that medical science does not have a cure, yet. But having a disabled parking permit has been very helpful.

However, the criteria for this permit has changed, and I no longer qualify for it. Instead I am only entitled to a permit which increases the time allowed for parking. This is a significant and regressive change for those who have relied on the full permit. It is a perfect example of those making decisions having no idea what it is like to live with an “invisible illness” like ME/CFS.
Matthew Hamilton, Kew

Reluctance to pay out

“Somebody has to pay” (Business, 31/1) was very interesting. Insurance companies have accepted premiums for years, making a very tidy profit during the good times, but are somewhat reluctant to pay out. They employ businesses to go through your home with a fine-tooth comb and provide a reason for your claim to be rejected.

Somehow we are supposed to know building codes and intricacies of construction to realise that our home, which we think we have kept in good shape for years, is not up to speed.
Eleanor Prout, Ringwood East

Eternal double standard

For Jane and Joe Citizen, ignorance of the law is no excuse. However, when former Liberal human services minister Alan Tudge claims he was not told that robo-debt was illegal, that dictum does not seem to apply. Well, what’s new?
Robert van de Groenekan, Malmsbury

The broad statements

As a long-time politician, surely Peter Dutton understands that content in the Constitution cannot be changed without the passing of legislation proposing the change, and then the approval of the people through a referendum. Therefore, it is necessary for constitutional statements to be broad ones.

Including the operational detail of the Voice in the Constitution would lock processes in before they have been thoughtfully developed. Far better (once the referendum has been successful) to include the detail in well-considered separate legislation to allow the flexibility for adjustment, if required, to improve the effectiveness and cultural appropriateness of the way this body functions.
Linda Cusworth, Armstrong Creek

Going with the vibe

To all of the people out there who want more detail on the wording of the Voice, don’t they know it’s the “vibe” that counts.
Bill Proctor, Launching Place

Lack of transparency

Details about the massive donations from fossil fuel companies and related organisations to political parties (The Age, 2/2) makes depressing reading. But what is really depressing is how effective these donations are.

In the face of overwhelming evidence that new coal and gas projects will lead to more floods, fires and droughts, the federal government is allowing new fossil fuel projects to go ahead.

And their planned evolution of safeguard mechanism that will allow our biggest polluters to keep polluting via a questionable carbon-credit scheme sounds about as effective as a slap with a wet lettuce leaf. Evidence-based policy on big issues like climate will only be forthcoming when we have dramatic improvements on the transparency and integrity of our donations laws.
Matilda Bowra, Fitzroy North

Money very badly spent

Imagine the good Clive Palmer could have done with $117million instead of spending it on political donations to secure the election of one senator at the last election.
Garry Meller, Bentleigh

Balance the extremes

As unusual as it is, I can handle a 13-degree day in February. Though to make me happier, and in the interests of balance, could we somehow arrange a 35-degree day in June, perhaps?
Simon Flint, Wantirna


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

George Pell

If Pell is the greatest man Abbott has ever known, then it’s time for him to reassess the company he keeps.
Kerry Lewis, Williamstown

Archbishop Pell was not a martyr or a saint, but he was an arch careerist.
Mike Toomey, Rowville

John Howard and Tony Abbott: “Apellogists”.
Margaret Lothian, Middle Park

Abbott is wrong, Australia’s greatest Catholic is St Mary of the Cross (aka Mary MacKillop).
Ian Powell, Glen Waverley


Let’s do away with the anachronism of addressing MPs as “the honourable”. They rarely are. I’m looking at you, Mr Tudge.
Stephen Farrelly, Donvale

Bill Shorten’s push to use mygov as a personal data app for a “one-stop-shop” (1/2) smacks of the Australia Card reincarnated.
Anne Kruger, Rye

The “one-stop-shop” is exciting news for hackers and identity thieves.
Marina Dobbyn, Glen Waverley

The PM’s claim that the Voice will unite Australians is up there with Hawke’s promise that no child would live in poverty by 1990.
Martin Newington, Aspendale


It would be entirely appropriate for the face of Charles III to appear on our fiver as it plunges rapidly towards its fate as a historical relic.
Tony James, Battery Point

About time. Off with his head.
Philip West, Jan Juc

Qantas (Comment, 3/2). Quite A Non-Trustworthy Air Service.
Peter Cooke, Warrnambool

Why would public servants need TikTok on their work devices (2/2)? I know these can also be their personal phones … but really?
Chrissie Schubert, Windsor

Re artists’ remuneration. When I’m invited to donate my sculpture work or to work for nothing with the promise of “exposure”, my reply is that “people die of exposure”.
Michael Meszaros, Alphington

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