09 September, 2008

Education Revolution



An article in the Australian caught my attention today. Below are a few excerpts but click here for the full article.

"AUSTRALIA'S government spending on public education is the second lowest among developed nations, a new report has found. Russia, Slovakia, Mexico and Iceland all spend more money on public education institutions than Australia. Only Belgium spends less.

The report also shows experienced teachers in Australia are paid significantly less than the OECD average, but teach longer hours and more weeks than most OECD nations, Mr Gavrielatos said. In 2005, just 0.1 per cent of GDP was spent on pre-primary institutions, compared to the OECD average of 0.4 per cent, ranking Australia equal 24th out of 26 countries. Tertiary education expenditure was only 1.1 per cent of GDP, also less than the OECD average.

But Ms Gillard pointed out there was some good news, such as that eighty per cent of 25 to 34-year-old Australians have attained at least upper secondary level education, above the OECD average."

In working with the youth at my corps, I am confronted with the reality that if our kids are not receiving a quality education, their chances of breaking out of the poverty cycle are limited. An underfunded education system puts our young people at a disadvantage to reach their potentials.

As Gen discussed recently, the issue of truancy has been hot in the media lately with suggestions of suspending welfare payments in the event of repeated truancy. I think instead of cutting funding for families and placing already stretched NGO's under more strain to provide for these families, it might be worth flipping the coin and examining the other side: what are the causes of truancy and how can we develop a culture where kids want to come to school? There are so many good movies such as 'Coach Carter' and 'Freedom Writers' where passionate teachers brought out the best in their students, developing and teaching them a love of learning. The above article shows how underfunded our education system is and shows the lack of financial and material support that our teachers have, perhaps one reason that 'burn out' of teachers is so common in Australia (see here for more info) In the face of an education system that still sees only 73% of students finish high school (and more alarmingly only 32% of Indigenous students) what can we do about it?

At my corps on a Friday night, we run 'God and Pizza', a bible study based small group program where we read God's word and... eat pizza! Some of our kids who struggle with literacy get an opportunity to practice their reading skills, are encouraged, can make mistakes knowing that it is a safe place for them to do so, and are reading about a God who loves them. Just one example but we have found it effective. The challenge: be creative! To steal the government's catchcry, start an education revolution: that is, start something that restores the power of having an education back to it's rightful owner - our kids! Even better if while learning to read, they can learn about God.

Have a blessed week.
Sarah Brinkley.

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