Degree factories undermining literacy and numeracy

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that universities have become corporatised degree factories and this is having a long-tail effect.

A recent media article (behind a paywall, so I won’t post the link) states that nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s aspiring teachers are failing to meet basic literacy and numeracy standards, a significant deterioration in four years. It would seem potential teaching graduates are finding this out at the end of their four year degree, which cannot be awarded until they pass these basic tests mandated by the Australian Government (see example at the end of this piece).

Pair this with the fact that the OECD’s most OECD recent rankings showed the reading literacy of Australia’s 15-year-olds has fallen from fourth in the world in 2003 to 16th. In that time, numeracy figures fell from 11th to 29th.

And then throw in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) evidence that some 44% of adult Australians (not including recent migrants) are functionally illiterate and innumerate.

My recent blog piece The Kids Are Not Alright highlighted the certainty that, under current social and economic polices, millions of Australians will never have full-time paid work in their lifetime, partly because they do not have the skills or experience (including literacy and numeracy) to fill the jobs of the future.

The Barangaroo Project in Sydney provides a shining light on the the type of thinking we are going to need in order to provide livelihoods and dignity for our current generation of young people and into the future. Let the debate begin.

The virus and the fragile state.

Photo: ABC News (Patrick Rocca)

For those followers outside Australia, we are a Federation of six States and ten Territories, two of which are part of mainland Australia (Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) and each State and mainland Territory has its own legislature.

I have lived in four of those States (Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia; I know, we’re an imaginative lot).

I was born in Victoria and lived there on and off for 29 years, hence my tragic association with the Melbourne Demons AFL club, which hasn’t added to its silverware collection since I was 13 years old. I’ve lived in South Australia (SA)  my current home  State, on and off for 32 years, with the remaining 8 years in three other States and Territories. To complicate matters, my English ancestors settled in SA in the 1860’s and remained there until the 1940’s. To locals, that is of no consequence; the bottom line is that we, unforgivably, left and there’s no coming back.

Fast forward to July 2020 and our hitherto heroic success with containing Covid-19 compared to other countries, assisted by an unprecedented peacetime National Cabinet arrangement between the Feds and the States and Territories in the national interest.

And then the State of Victoria went pear-shaped very quickly and is well into a second wave, driven by community transmission as a result of inadequate tracing, less than vigilant private security companies controlling quarantine centres (rumours of bonking and gambling with those in quarantine abound) and the early relaxing of social distancing measures to kickstart the hospitality industry.

To cut to the chase, Victoria is now a pariah State, with closed borders to every other jurisdiction, enforced by the police and military, and it is assumed that all Victorians are Typhoid Mary in disguise. The Prime Minister is going through the motions of national unity and universal brotherly and sisterly love but the average punter outside Victoria is furious that this may have set a national economic recovery back by at least six months.

None of this is helped by media and Government dog-whistling that this has emanated from Muslim communities in Melbourne. The State Health Minister announced that one of the triggers was the celebration of the end of Ramadan amongst the Sudanese community and then had to extract her foot from her mouth the next day when it was pointed out that 90% of the Sudanese community in Australia are Christians.

The current hysteria in a country where we have had something like 107 deaths from Covid-19 since the beginning of the outbreak (think about that number, my international friends) is alarmist and shameful in that it points to how easily national civility is punctured.

Statistically I have been counted as a resident of several States and Territories (and a subject of the bureaucratic nonsenses that entails) and as a citizen of Australia. None of these has ever trumped my allegiance to humanity, wherever it lives. That said, no-one is truer South Australian than me at the moment. 😉