Time for some TAFE talk

Thank God for the ABC. It appears to be the only media that is concerned (except for Alan Jones) about the training of our young people and the destruction of TAFE when it put to air on Sunday, 23 October, the report “TAFE decline”. What is happening in the country is that TAFE is closing down colleges. At Newcastle TAFE they cut the shipbuilding trade course and students now have to go to Sydney. This is just the tip of the iceberg. What was alarming, there was not one voice from the NSW Labor Opposition in the report. I think the perfect spokesperson should have been Trish Doyle the member for Blue Mountains. She was first elected to Parliament in 2015 with a swing of 18.7 per cent. As a former teacher she is passionate about education and has first-hand experience on how education can better the lives of young people on the bottom rung of society. If the ALP wants to win the next state election it has to push TAFE, which it did not do last time, and Trish Doyle is the perfect person.

Tony Morrissey

No job for a robot

So robots are to mark the writing task for NAPLAN — the test that determines whether students are eligible for the HSC in NSW. (“Robot-grading a danger to learning”, Sydney Morning Herald, October 12). The marking criteria for NAPLAN has always been different to the HSC, where the marking criteria is holistic. In other words, the coherence, the overall argument is assessed as a whole in the HSC, not just whether there are complex words, a variety of sentence structure, punctuation etc. No one would object to robots marking the multiple-choice component, but the writing? Can you imagine the letters for the Herald being selected by a robot? Or authors’ manuscripts being assessed by robots before they reach a publisher? This is a reductive and cynical cost-cutting measure and should be regarded as such.

Sharelle Fellows

Computers should replace these decision makers

If computers are able to accurately assess writing in NAPLAN tests (and I don’t believe they can), doesn’t mean they should. Teachers who mark NAPLAN gain a valuable insight into how children interpret the world. This is knowledge that is then shared among educators, which helps them make better-informed choices about the direction of curriculum to better suit children’s needs. This knowledge cannot be gained by a “number”, as an evaluation of a student’s performance determined by a computer. If the people making the decisions to use computers to mark NAPLAN believe these computers are capable of making value judgments as to the quality of students’ writing and are capable of fine, nuanced interpretation, then these computers should be replacing these decision-makers, as perhaps they seem to be lacking in this ability.

Leo Sorbello
Sydney Secondary College
(Black Wattle Bay Campus)

Demise of public education

This month there have been some very strange job positions advertised for the Department of Education. I refer to:

  • Director, Educational Leadership, 45 roles available. $225,059 - $247,002
  • Principal, School Leadership, 15 positions. (No salary indicated)
  • Principal, Coach-Mentor, 12 positions. (No salary indicated).

The ads give the impression these positions will help the principal to improve excellence etc in the school by listening to three people who may or may not have ever been in a classroom as a teacher. That being said, for the enjoyment of your readers, now back to the real world as seen through our Conservative government in Canberra. “Teachers and doctors face productivity revolution” read the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 October. Teachers will be paid on results, which could mean dismissal for the teacher concerned if the results are not up to a standard. As we are all aware, teachers are lacking support for the problems attached to public schooling, as schools must accept all children regardless of the child’s physical or mental state. If this “productivity revolution” happens, I can see more teachers leaving the service and an increase in part-time teachers and even less classroom support.

Frank Tweedie