Teachers’ union has failed in its duty of care
AS THE great homeschooling debacle unfolds, it is worth harking back to a cry for help made earlier this year by the Master Builders Association.
It came from the association's executive director Brian Seidler, who said over half the young people attempting building apprenticeships were failing to complete the course because they lacked basic mathematical skills and were unable to solve simple problems.
Put bluntly, a lot of Australian students are having trouble counting up to 20 without removing their shoes.
Against this background, here's a question that students at home might care to ponder: Why is it that in a crisis, when everyone needs to play their part, teachers threaten to go on strike and their union strongarms the government into telling parents to keep their children at home?
Could it be because the union calls the shots, and when it said it wanted children kept at home - instead of considering its duty to cater for and protect the educational needs of our students - the Government rolled over?
Rather than homeschooling, our kids should be spending longer hours in the classroom, given that the latest Program for International Student Assessment results confirm a long-term downward trend in their reading, mathematics and science skills.
By 2018, Australian 15-year-olds had slipped more than a full year behind the performance achieved by this same age group in maths in 2003, a year behind in reading, compared with those in 2000, and a year behind in science, compared with those in 2006.
Singapore is the highest-scoring country in all areas, with its students three years ahead of their Australian counterparts in mathematics as are those in Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.
Way back in 1995, Australian kids outperformed those in Britain and the US.
Needless to say, students in these countries have now left ours in their wake, so it's not something that has happened overnight.
The image that so starkly portrayed the way the system has lost its direction was that which showed teachers leaving their classrooms and marching with students, some of whom were supposed to be sitting for a mathematics exam, to protest climate change. There is no record of teachers doing this in Singapore, Shanghai or Beijing.
In Queensland, the Queensland Teachers Union is affiliated with the Queensland Council of Unions - a major source of funds for the State Labor Government.
Education Minister Grace Grace happens to be a one-time general secretary of the QCU.
A new teachers' body, the Teachers Professional Association of Queensland, has begun recruiting members and is promising a ban on donations to any political party.
This has led the QTU to declare that it does not donate funds to any political party, saying that "to suggest otherwise is misleading".
This is misleading - according to its 2017 accounts, it gave $286,000 to the Queensland Council of Unions in that year.
The union also resists any move to introduce a system that rewards teacher merit and has campaigned to have state-funded independent schools - which allow headmasters greater autonomy in how the schools are run - abolished.
The State Government came close to bowing to this pressure, but fearful of an electoral backlash from the enraged parents of the 120,000 students who attend these schools, retreated.
The actions of the QTU show that rather than being committed to improving our education system, it has become part of the problem.
Originally published as Teachers' union has failed in its duty of care