With schools about to start in a couple of weeks it’s a good time for parents to brush up on education fads and gobbledegook.

These blokes wrote the new education phrase-guide…

Every profession and job has its clichés and jargon words.  Canberra politicians talk about ‘at this point in time’, ‘ moving forward’ and ‘having a big agenda’.  In business, consultants talk about ‘synergy’, ‘triple bottom line’ and ‘leverage best practice’.

Primary schools and teachers also have their own special way of talking that often makes it impossible for parents to work out whether their kids are learning or not and whether the school is the best place for their child. Following are some examples of education jargon that you need to understand in order to work out what’s going on with your child’s education.

1: developmental, collaborative and non-judgemental assessment – in the past children where graded A to E (where E meant fail) or 1 to 10 (where 4 also meant fail) but, not any more.  Failing children is now considered bad for their self-esteem and assessment is non-judgemental.  Often words like ‘consolidating’ or ‘deferred success’ are used and parents are told it is wrong to compare kids against others in the class to see who is the best.

2: developmental learning – in the past children were expected to master what was being taught before they moved on to the next year level, not any more. New-age teachers argue that learning is developmental and by this they mean that students learn in their own way and at their own speed. As a result, concerned parents are told not to worry if their child is falling behind other students and that he or she will soon catch up in their own time.

3: facilitators and guides by the side – teachers used to be called teachers, not any more. Based on the idea that children can control their own learning and that it is wrong for teachers to stand at the front of the classroom and tell them what to do, in primary schools, they act as co-learners and guides by the side.

4: knowledge navigators and digital natives – children used to be called pupils or students but now, especially because of the impact of new technologies like computers and the internet, they are described as digital natives and spend lots of time researching on the net or using software programs.

5: open classrooms – instead of having one room and one teacher there are now open spaces where kids from different year levels mix together, sitting on floors, walking around and it’s hard to work out where the teacher is and who’s in control.

6: Personalised and child-centred learning – instead of teachers teaching to the whole of the class or groups of children they are now told that children can control and direct their own learning. Children do their own research projects based on what they find entertaining or relevant.

7: whole language - advocates of whole language argue that learning to read is as easy and natural as learning to speak and that children should ‘look and guess’ and be ‘immersed in a rich language environment’. Ignored is the more traditional phonics and phonemic awareness approach where children learn how to read by sounding out letters and dividing words into their letter/sound combinations. Boys are especially disadvantaged by whole language and many are described as dyslexic when the real problem is that they have never been properly taught how to read.

The problem with education jargon, in addition to confusing parents and making it hard to work out what’s going on, is that many of the fads lead to lower standards and make it harder for teachers to be effective.

In top performing countries in international tests like Finland, Singapore and Japan, compared to primary schools in Australia, there are still teachers and students, open classrooms are rare, teachers are in control, children are regularly tested and told when they have failed and there is more whole class teaching.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.

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    • acotrel says:

      05:08am | 24/01/13

      The issues never change !  What has all this got to do with ‘state aid’ ?

    • acotrel says:

      05:12am | 24/01/13

      ‘Every profession and job has its clichés and jargon words.  Canberra politicians talk about ‘at this point in time’, ‘ moving forward’ and ‘having a big agenda’.  In business, consultants talk about ‘synergy’, ‘triple bottom line’ and ‘leverage best practice’.’

      Deprecation of a few good ideas there Kevin !

    • Fiddler says:

      07:08am | 24/01/13

      One thing I am often curious about is if teachers support these new ideas and guidelines?

      In some ways I think the open classroom idea will improve participation. Certainly the thirteen years of sitting behind a desk listening and occasionally answering questions I experienced is ludicrous and does little to develop kids beyond being able to recite facts.

    • acotrel says:

      07:37am | 24/01/13

      Where do you think the new ideas and guidelines come from ? Kevin seems to think they come from atheist do-gooders outside the teaching profession.

    • Fiddler says:

      09:40am | 24/01/13

      well a lot of them seem to come from paid up “experts”

    • KH says:

      07:19am | 24/01/13

      I really fear for the future, because in the real world, if you have a job and you get told to do something, generally you do it, or lose the job.  Only do what interests you?!!  In your own time?!!  No wonder gen Y and beyond often have trouble coping with deadlines and being told to something they think isn’t interesting enough for them.  I’ve lost count of the ones who come here and leave 2 months later because they couldn’t pick and choose what tasks they wanted to do, and people won’t give them the management position they think they deserve.  There is nothing wrong with failing someone who does crap work - its good to fail if you don’t put in the work - its a lesson kids need to learn.  They also need to learn about deadlines, or doing stuff they don’t like.  WTF is ‘deferred success’?  Who comes up with this garbage?  This country is falling behind more and more every day.

    • acotrel says:

      08:50am | 24/01/13

      If you have a genuine interest and need for information. learning is easy.  Forced earning by rote, things which are completely irelevant, is tantamount to mental cruelty. The biggest disincentive ever.

    • MaryM says:

      09:16am | 24/01/13

      Mental cruelty?? I’ve never heard the teaching of primary-school-level reading, writing, mathematics, etc, described in those terms before. Probably because most people are smart enough not to utter such codswallop. They rightly consider this type of elemental education an essential skill in navigating modern life.

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:22am | 24/01/13

      If this is the way we’re educating children then we might as well just lay down and die.

      I think I might start retraining so that I can move to China. They seem to know how to get it right and seem to be on the right track.

    • ZSRenn says:

      08:26am | 24/01/13

      Spot on Tubesteak.

      I wonder what ever happened to the old adage “Children like boundaries.” They do! It’s that simple and it is a very important lesson in life.

      School starts in China at 7:00 AM and Finishes at 9:00 PM. There is a 2 1/2 hour lunch, where the meal is eaten, some sport and then lock down for a nap! (Most live on campus). If they fail then they are required to do holiday camps. One thing I find interesting is the better students also do the holiday camps by choice. 

      The level of Math achieved by the time they leave High School is off the chart compared to Australia.  All learn Mandarin and English. In most cases the Mandarin is the second language and English the Third.

      All are required to pass a physical examination including a body mass index.

      They form long lasting relationships with their classmates and my 40 something wife gets together with her classmates at least every year and if someone is in a position where they can help us with a problem they do.

      Intimate relationships are frowned on as these can distract from study although some High Schools will now allow year 11 and 12 students to form a relationship but no physical contact is allowed.

      The end result is these children leave High School and nearly all move on to some college or university studies They know they are going to be the leaders of the new China that is coming, want to be prepared and for the most part enjoy the experience with Art, Music, IT and plenty of sport thrown into the mix

      In Australia we have this PC crap. 

      God help us!

    • acotrel says:

      08:32am | 24/01/13

      “spare the rod, spoil the child’ ?

    • acotrel says:

      08:36am | 24/01/13

      ‘I wonder what ever happened to the old adage “Children like boundaries.”
      It wasa replaced by ‘authoritarianism stifles creativity’ - I just love Chinese art, and the motor vehicles they design.

    • Tubesteak says:

      10:17am | 24/01/13

      Yes, that was the type of stuff I was talking about. Also, the devotion to achieving perfect results and nothing less is acceptable. That is how societies progress: from the accumulation of individual efforts and achievements.

      Definitely spare the rod and spoil the child. Children need to be told what to do and told how to behave appropriately. This prepares them for life and being productive members of society.
      I wouldn’t go criticising Chinese cars too much. Have a look what Top Gear said about them: they might be crap now but compared to 10 years ago they are light years ahead. We all used to criticise the Japanese but now Japanese cars are almost as good as German cars.
      As for art: who cares. Art is what you care about when you get home from work and before you go to bed. It’s what you watch or read to kill time.

      Check out the suircide rate among youths in the Nordic countries. You’ll find they have consistently been among the highest in the world.

    • ZSRenn says:

      10:35am | 24/01/13

      @ Austin 3:16 True the reported 22 deaths / 100,000 deaths is a little more than twice the rate of Australia but as your link points out most of these deaths occur for the 15 to 34 year old age group as is also true for Australia. 

      We should in Australia also be concerned that males attribute for 3 out of 4 of these deaths and also need to look at why the rate for Aboriginal and Torres straight islanderswhich is 91 deaths / 100,000 people over a combined 10 year period. Nearly twice the rate of Non-Indigenous people and the same as China’s

      http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3309.0Media Release12010?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3309.0&issue=2010#=&view;=

      Care should be taken when reporting suicide deaths in the media. Please refer to the Mindframe website for further guidance.

      If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Lifeline (13 11 14), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) or Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years) (1800 551 800)


    • Justme says:

      08:07am | 24/01/13

      After a few years n the wilderness it seems that phonics are back (at my kids’ school anyway). Mine missed out on phonics at school, but sneaky me, I taught them phonics at home. Now they both read at 3-4 years above their expected age level and well above many of their peers who had no exposure to phonics at school or at home.

    • acotrel says:

      08:45am | 24/01/13

      I never taught my kids phonics.  I played all their board games and cards and chess with them and they had to learn to read the rules and count to make sure I wasn’t cheating. They are all over 35 years of age these days, ans still play those games whenever they get together.  I am still the monopoly champion.

    • Justme says:

      09:18am | 24/01/13

      Dear me acotrel. Just because I didn’t mention those things doesn’t mean wo don’t have or do them. They were given school readers and flash cards to learn for homework and while helping with those, I taught them to read the books and cards using phonics, not using the “figure out the whole word” method advocated by the school at the time.

      Btw Monopoly sucks. Pictionary and Cluedo rock at our house.

    • Colin says:

      09:35am | 24/01/13

      Pfft! Those examples are nothing!

      MY children all learned to read before they were even BORN; they were doing differential calculus before they learned how to breastfeed; they wrote and had published their first academic papers by the time they were two-year-old, and they have all just been made the youngest ever university professors in the history of the worl, all at five-years of age.

      At this rate - as their intelligence continues to expand exponentially - they will have solved all of the world’s problems in two weeks, all of the universes riddles in two-years, and have left their mundane worldly bodies behind to become Rulers of the Universe before their tenth birthdays…

      See, now, isn’t bragging just sooo pointless? grin

    • ZSRenn says:

      10:13am | 24/01/13

      @ Colin. I find negativity as more pointless. Well done Justme I like good parents that give their children the best opportunity in life.  I wish I had had that opportunity but sadly the Family Law court is a bitch!

    • Justme says:

      10:20am | 24/01/13

      Wasn’t bragging. Just stating that removing phonics was a silly idea ( and given that it has now been reinstated it seems that I am correct in thinking that).

    • Colin says:

      10:34am | 24/01/13

      @ ZSRenn

      “@ Colin. I find negativity as more pointless.”

      But…hang on…if you find my comment to be ‘pointless’ isn’t, then, your comment negative to my comment..?

      And, even if it isn’t, are you then saying that my reductio ad absurdum was unwarranted in this case and that you support bragging..?

    • ZSRenn says:

      11:04am | 24/01/13

      I’m here to discuss current affairs Colin not to denigrate other contributors. Even if Justme is bragging, which they say they are not, discuss the topic not the person. Even though I don’t agree with old mate, acotrel on most subjects I don’t like it when people put him down either. 

      It is obvious from some contributions, to most forums, that the ability to debate is also lost from Australian education and the English curriculum. It was my favorite at school and many decades later I still enjoy the past time which can clearly be seen.

      I am not fond, myself of Phonic’s in second language education as I feel it is like teaching the student a fourth language but as I do know most of us learn differently.  The lucky ones learn from auditory stimuli and others from visual. I am one of the unlucky ones as I have to write everything down to learn which is time consuming and slow.

      I can’t see how the the system, described in the story, allows any of these skills to develop.

    • NSS says:

      02:35pm | 24/01/13

      It is true that phonics/phonetics are making a comeback in many schools. In some instances the technique is used adjunct to language immersion , especially for kids with for whom immersion-style learning does not sufficiently increase literacy. Personally, I think adjusting styles for individual kids is a great way to teach, although it certainly makes the teacher’s job more complicated.

      Maybe, therefore, they deserve a tad more respect than they seem to garner on this board? Teachers seem to be one step above pond scum in the minds of many.

    • dibatag says:

      08:32am | 24/01/13

      in a recent disscussion whith a resident of the units i live in she pronounced the word harassment as harrisment when i pointed out her error i was informed that i was wrong , she had studied english at uni so she should know , so what hope have you got

    • JimBob says:

      12:08pm | 24/01/13

      Actually, she is right - that is the correct pronunciation. It has only changed over time due to the Americans mispronouncing it. Look it up. So I guess that university education actually does stand for something. I bet she would also know how to use correct capitalisation, too - unlike yourself.

    • Jeremy says:

      11:10am | 24/01/13

      Whilst certainly berating a child for being an idiot might not be helpful, and people definitely have methods by which they are more able to absorb information, it seems a lot of this new thinking comes from teachers needing not to be blamed for falling standards. Well, if you can become a teacher with one of the lowest UAIs for any profession after a 1-2 year degree, no wonder so many of them have no idea what the hell they’re doing.

    • xar says:

      01:42pm | 24/01/13

      wow that was a very skewed and selective look at education ideas and theory. heaven forbid you give an accurate picture of the Finnish education system and how it differs from ours(they test much less and are critical of our NAPLAN system), or bother to explore the problems encountered by some of those countries in spite of and indeed because of their push to “test well” (lack of creativity being a prominent one that employers are bemoaning). Why didn’t you just say you don’t like teachers very much and leave it at that?

    • Lorraine says:

      04:06pm | 24/01/13

      It is about time we woke up to the fact that our children are no longer being educated. They are being prepared for the work force in much the same way as was done during the Industrial Revolution.
      The most important lessons are how to say “Yes sir, No sr, Three bags full sir”.
      And if you think that education is about work prospects then the job has already been done on you.


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