Australian Education: A Half Term Report

We’ve recently had a few articles about education in Australia, most recently I compared Australian education standards with those of the UK and the USA.

Narrowing the field down slightly, today I’m going to look at the educational standards of one 6 year old little girl. My little girl.

teacherIn January she started her first proper year in school, although she did attend the previous year but only as a “preppy”. With Easter approaching fast at the end of this week, she is nearing her first term break. She actually needs it, she’s looking very tired.

You see, in the preppy year they have rest periods. Those are half an hour breaks when the children are encouraged to do nothing, just relax or even sleep. But now in year one, it’s all work, work, work! But how is Elizabeth doing?

We think swimmingly well. Now, it’s highly likely that our little girl is a genius, which she will have inherited from her father’s side. But if we work on the theory, just for a moment, that she isn’t a genius then we have to conclude that the teaching methods being used here are working extremely well.

Right now the syllabus is concentrating on reading and mathematics but Elizabeth is also learning about Australian culture as well as studying matters to do with health and well-being. There are also four activities that take her outside of the classroom, those being a visit to the library, PE, the computer lab and a trip to the music room.

But what I want to talk about today is how she is doing with her reading. I have no idea how they do it in England these days, long time since I last went to school. But both I and my wife can say with 100% certainty that, at age 6, neither of us were doing homework. For me, I don’t think homework kicked in until I was about 12, having started secondary school.

But during Elizabeth’s first week she came home full of pride and with a big smile on her face announcing “I’m allowed to do homework now”. Hmmm. I wonder how long before she realises that isn’t exactly a privilege.

“Readers” and Elizabeth’s notepads.

To get started with reading, each child has created their own text books. This seems like a strange thing to do at first glance, what’s wrong with a proper textbook? Do they do this to save money? I really don’t know, but these two books work.

I had hoped to post an image here, but the books are with teacher for marking. So I’ll talk you through it for now and add the images later.

The books:

One is a “sounds book” and the children were given photo copied sheets of paper with various combinations of letters like AI, OU, TH, EE, SS, NG, etc written on them. They then cut them out and glued them into their notepad. Instant textbook.

As they learn to pronounce the sounds they make movements; my daughter did a demonstration. With the NG sound, she looked like she was trying to lift some heavy weights above her head as she made the sound “NG”. As she made a “EE” sound she was scratching her cheeks, as I put it. Elizabeth corrected me. “No daddy, it’s a mouse playing with his whiskers”.

I hope you get the idea.

The next book is a “words book” and again the children were given photo copied sheets of paper containing common words; have, can, got, see, like, the, went, etc and again they cut out the words and stuck them into a notepad. Another instant textbook.

They call these sight words and Elizabeth has to learn them by rote, simple memorisation. Apparently, when she has finished learning them all, these words will account for around 30% of all words she is likely to read. So that’s the system.

It’s working!

There is a third book which Elizabeth does her homework in. This time, the photo copied questions are stuck into the notepad. Questions like…. “draw seven ducks.” “Fill in the missing numbers: 2 _ 6 _ 10 _ 14 _ 18.” “Colour in all the pictures of things that start with the letter “E”.

The “readers” are the books she brings home to read, all by herself, for her reading homework. If she gets really stuck on a word we can help, but the idea is for her to run the letter sounds through her head and work it out for herself. We’ve been hugely impressed with her progress.

Work hard play hard.

I am also very pleased to announce that Elizabeth still loves it at school. She was hugely excited the other day and woke up especially early, because it was sports day. She was going cross country running. Unlike how I remember it back in the UK, “cross country” at her school meant running around their own huge field.

School field

Providing the children got a note from their mums, they were allowed to have their hair sprayed in their team colours. Elizabeth’s hair was sprayed green…….

Green Haired Girl
……then the race was on……

cross country run

They're Off!

She came 10th out of about 50 girls, and that meant she secured a point for her team. She was chuffed with that.

And right now, as I speak, (write) her mum has gone into the school to assist with the making of Easter hats, in preparation of the Easter Parade taking place tomorrow.

Last week they had a uniform free day for charity. You can wear what you want in exchange for a gold coin donation. So that’s one or two dollars. They do this sort of thing quite often. Elizabeth wore a new dress and her friend, when she saw her, ran up and said “Oh, Elizabeth, you look lovely. I saw that dress in the shops the other day and I really wanted it for myself.”

Wadhappened? They’re only six!

So far, the children have never been given homework to do over the weekend. But with the long break almost upon us, the other day Mrs BobinOz said to Elizabeth “Perhaps I’ll ask your teacher if we can bring some readers home for you to look at over the weekend”.

“No mummy, no!” Elizabeth replied. “Please, please, please! Don’t make me do extra readers.”

So that’s how long it took.

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