Coaching and coaching aids…

04 Feb

MacbethCoaching in Chinatown resumed yesterday, a slowish start with just one of three potential coachees. However, it should pick up over the next week.

My copy of An Inconvenient Truth was an impulse buy, as what I really went into the bargain DVD shop for was “coaching aids” — DVDs related to English studies, and there I struck gold with three out of four vintage British Shakespeares from Umbrella Entertainment: King Lear (Thames 1974) with Patrick Magee; Romeo and Juliet (Thames 1976) — a men in tights production; Twelfth Night (Thames 1988) directed by Kenneth Branagh with Richard Briers brilliant as Malvolio and a very moody/hippy Feste. They are full text productions. The real treasure, however, I was unable as yet to get: a Macbeth directed by Trevor Nunn with Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench (right), reputed to be one of the best TV Shakespeares ever. Now if I can get that for $14.95 I’ll be happy.

Not since the great Ninglun/Rabbit Shakespeare Festival have I been so Barded out. The Romeo and Juliet is pretty good I should add, with a very young Juliet. Lear I have yet to see.

The English and ESL site had more visits (138) than this one (131) yesterday as well…

And here’s a turn-up for the books: state schools are pulling back some of the drift to the private sector: Schools full up:

PUBLIC schools are turning away students because they have run out of classroom space and do not want to fill their playgrounds with demountables. Changing demographics, a flow of students back into public schools and the State Government’s $710 million class-size reduction policy are all placing an extra strain on resources. Most affected are schools in the high-density eastern- and inner-city suburbs, where there is limited space to expand.

Bronte Public School has had to turn away pupils from outside its local area. “Demand is growing,” principal Pam Crawley said. “We are limited to [taking students from] within the area and siblings simply because we don’t have any more space,” Ms Crawley said.

She said an increasing number of people were eager to send their children to local public schools. “People value the fact their children are starting in their local school and getting a sense of community,” she said…

Miranda Devine is amazing today with a series of dubious logical jumps from education in India (“Even the poor now send their kids to private schools, which can charge as little as $1 to $3 a month in fees and are spreading rapidly in slums and villages across India.” Two-thirds of children in India’s three largest states attend private schools and their reading and maths scores are significantly higher than those of other students.) to Kevin Rudd’s statements thus far on education to partisanship on behalf of phonics in the teaching of reading:

While on the committee of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in 2005, I became aware of a powerful desire by the education establishment to push formal education down into the preschool years.

The thinking goes like this: if children are having trouble learning to read in primary school, it is not because the methods used to teach them are inadequate, it is because their families have not equipped them with what are called “pre-reading” skills – familiarity with books and the concept that the black stuff on the page has meaning.

While there is evidence that pre-reading skills are useful, especially for socially disadvantaged children, the evidence that intensive systematic phonics instruction is most effective in teaching most children to read is overwhelming.

Yet there are still entrenched pockets of influential resistance to phonics-based teaching, in universities and various teacher associations.

As the literacy inquiry found, fewer than 10 per cent of course time in university teacher education departments is spent teaching teachers how to teach reading.

But instead of fixing such problems, Rudd’s early-education plan runs the risk of shifting responsibility for reading failures in primary school to preschool. That’s no way to compete with India.

I am spiteful enough to point out that fewer than 10 per cent of course time is itself illiterate, though to be fair Miranda does usually write well — at least at the level of syntax and usage. (It should of course be “less”.) Phonics OR other methods is a great nonsense; it is a case, as any teacher knows, of phonics AND… See Have we lost our way? by Mem Fox, to whom Labor, much to its credit, actually listens. If ever you doubted that Miranda went into that National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in 2005 with her mind already made up, I think it’s fair to say she has outed herself there.

And India? Yes, amazing what is happening there, but, as Miranda herself mentions, one aspect of that success has been India had an enormous pool of highly educated English-speaking people who could perform the work at rock-bottom prices. Does she want that too? Pakistan also relies very heavily on private education because Government-run schools are a mess: they call these schools madrassas.

The recent report on secondary schooling from the ACER is better than what the media and Julie Bishop have made of it. I’ll return to that another day.

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5 responses to “Coaching and coaching aids…

  1. marcelproust

    February 4, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Sorry to rain on your parade, but the hard fact in the story (and hence what I would call its true gist) was that a number of popular schools in the eastern suburbs are full up in kindergarten. Tebbutt’s comment in the story about general return to public education, as opposed to a return to particular, successful (or fashionable) public schools, is basically election-eve spin.

    After all, as NSW Teachers Federation eastern suburbs and inner city representative Michelle Rosicky said, in a part of the story which you did not quote: “The problem is, in the eastern suburbs, if those parents can’t get their kids into Coogee, Clovelly and Bronte [public schools] they will send them to private schools.”

  2. marcelproust

    February 4, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Meanwhile, I took a look at Miranda’s spray. As ever, she is a goose, though that is probably too benign a characterisation.

    Statements about the pool of educated people in India of course refer to an absolute number of people: I expect the proportionate figures, given that India has a population of 1 billion (>3x USA; approximately 50x Australia) would be much more modest. The comparison with India is a bit like, in reverse, the claims made for the size of China’s economy: measured in absolute terms, it is No 4 (behind USA, Japan, Germany); per capita it is still I think 110 or thereabouts.

    Accordingly, Miranda’s cheap shot about questions of expenditure [“shaming Australian claims that lack of money is the sole cause of our higher-education woes” although I don’t think anyone is so simplisitic as to say that money is the sole cause, and it is sufficient that it is a very big cause] is just that.

    You have already addressed the peculiar advocacy of private schools which Miranda mounts. Truly, she is desperate. It would be laughable were it not true that she was appointed to any governmental review body, but then, look at the Howard appointees to the board of the ABC if you really want to weep.

    In fact, if you read Miranda carefully, what India did, according to Friedman, was to “mine the brains of its own people.” That is, a very small number of people were selected from the masses of people for a quality education.

    I think if Miranda were to advocate “mining” our population (and by implication consigning the balance to the slag heap) she might face a bit of resistance.

  3. ninglun

    February 4, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Comparisons between state education in India and state education in Australia are patently absurd.

  4. Adrian Phoon

    February 4, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Strange, I spent the afternoon trying to hunt down copies of filmed Shakespeares. Could you please tell me where I can find this bargain store (and if by any chance you also know anywhere that has a decent stock of the BBC Shakespeares)?

  5. ninglun

    February 4, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Freestyle Records, Adrian. I also suggest the big DVD/CD warehouse at Fox Studios, though I haven’t tried there yet. Hum in Oxford Street (or King St Newtown) is also a possibility. (If you find Macbeth let me know.) BBC Shakespeare? Maybe the ABC Shop or online…

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