While the University of Melbourne's recent study on selective schools suggests there may be only a few marks' advantage for selective school students over what they would have scored in a regular school, let's now spare a thought for the myriad of graduates who lose a university placement due to the dreaded half mark. Marks do matter and moreover they should matter to every student. The difference between regular high schools and the selective school is not just a few marks; it is the culture of learning that underpins them.The two big cohorts from which selective school students hail from is no surprise. Immigrant children from Asian or Middle Eastern backgrounds are often encouraged and coached by their parents, who know what real life looks like without a first-world education.
They unapologetically declare that after finding peace and freedom in Australia, all they want is an education for their children. To this end they reap exactly what they sow and deserve every success they create for their family and our community at large.Another large group of selective schooling recipients comes from higher socio-economic backgrounds.
These students, who are typically raised by at least one universityeducated parent, are exposed to every advantage: from a wider vocabulary, more books, music, the arts and the extra academic extension they can pay for.In the end, the selective school culture upholds the value placed on education by the parents of the students they produce. Parents expect the teachers to be specialists in their fields and to go above and beyond a usual 8am to 4pm teaching day. They expect respectful behaviour from all students who are prepared to put in the hard yards.
And this is exactly what they get.If every school had teachers as academically capable, experienced and as committed to a culture of learning as selective schools we would all be better off.
And in support for the toughest teachers who spend more of their day in crowd control than actually educating, every single parent has to get on board. Too many parents still congratulate their children on average, half-hearted work. Others refuse to take responsibly for their child's behaviour when they continually interrupt the learning of their classmates. For this generation of children who will enter a job market alongside robots and technologies yet to be invented, a strong work ethic will be essential.In every school, parents need to question why their child is not performing to their personal best.
Parents have the right to pressure administration to raise the collective bar and move the nonperforming staff on.Schools need parents to insist on a respect for academic achievement and the teachers who facilitate it.
While students continue to muck about, standards will continue to fall. It is no surprise that in a community with such low expectations, teachers lose the incentive to do their best work.The selective school community knows that the "near enough is good enough" attitude to education is outdated. Until we raise our expectations we will get exactly what we settle for.
From: Age, Melbourne by Cynthia Fenton19 Jul 2018
Cynthia Fenton is a writer and humanities and performing arts teacher.