In recent weeks, a lot of commentary has been directed toward shortfalls in student accomplishment. Australian students are regularly compared with their Asian peers. More money and material resources are directed toward our education than in Asia. Yet, our results are inferior to those earned by Asian students. The gap between Australian and overseas results continues to widen.

There are two issues that need to be considered when undertaking comparative study of this nature.

History needs to repeat

Until the late 1970s teachers were trained in how to teach maths, spelling, english, science, social education and so on. Teaching methods for every subject had to be passed before teachers graduated. This was by far and away the most important aspect of training. That is no longer the case. While content is covered, the way teachers go about teaching that subject matter, is generally left to what they glean from practice teaching periods.

While teachers on practice get an idea of how subjects are taught in their training schools, subject awareness and method is given less treatment than used to be the case.

Student Attitude

Asian students have a real thirst for learning. They are eager to attend school, always remaining focused and concentrated. They diligently complete all aspects of lesson requirements and pay close attention to their teachers. They realise that learning can be challenging, but succeed because of inner motivation. Parents and family members are fully supportive of their efforts.

There is a great deal of focus on rote learning and doing what teachers say. Students are inclined towards learning and achieve outcomes that are more significant than those of their Australian peers.

Within our educational systems, teachers are urged to ‘motivate’ children so they ‘want’ to learn. The desire to achieve has to come from within, as it does for our Asian counterparts. It cannot be instilled from without. That is an important part of attitude that often seems to be lacking in the Australian context. Overseas students are eager to attend school. Lateness and absence blemish many of our own school attendance records.

A parallel issue is that of classroom behaviour. Although not talked about openly, the behaviour of many students at both primary and secondary levels leaves a lot to be desired. Teachers spend as much, if not more time, on providing for classroom management and discipline as they do in teaching. This destroys instructional time and is not fair on those who are keen to learn.

These are issues that need to be corrected if our students are ever to attain the levels achieved by their Asian counterparts.

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