Monday, November 19, 2012
British primary school teachers could face dismissal for refusing to promote homosexual marriage
Primary school teachers could face the sack for refusing to promote gay marriage once same-sex unions become law, a minister has signalled. Liz Truss, an education minister, refused to rule out the possibility that teachers, even in faith schools, could face disciplinary action for objecting on grounds of conscience.
Miss Truss said simply that it was impossible to know what the impact of the legislation would be at this stage. Her admission came in a letter to a fellow Conservative MP, David Burrowes, last month.
Mr Burrowes, a practising Christian, originally wrote to Maria Miller, the equalities minister, raising concerns about the impact on schools of the Coalition's plans to change the marriage laws.
It followed the publication of a legal opinion by Aidan O'Neill QC, a barrister in the same London chambers as Cherie Blair, commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage, which campaigns against same-sex unions.
Mr O'Neill, an expert on human rights, was asked to advise on the impact redefining marriage to include same-sex couples could have on schools, churches, hospitals, foster carers and public buildings.
Among his conclusions was that schools could be within their statutory rights to dismiss staff who wilfully fail to use stories or textbooks promoting same-sex weddings. Parents who object to gay marriage being taught to their children would also have no right to withdraw their child from lessons, he argued. And, in theory, the fact that a school was a faith school would make no difference, he added.
One scenario he looked at was what would happen if a primary school asked a Christian teacher to use a book called King & King, a story of a prince who marries a man, and produce a play based on the tale.
Mr O'Neill concluded: "If the teacher refused to obey the otherwise lawful instructions of her employers then this would constitute grounds for her dismissal from employment."
He said that the teacher would be unlikely to be able to use human rights law to challenge such a decision because the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had previously been "notably unwilling" to allow employers to use religion to request changes to their conditions of employment.
Mr Burrowes wrote to ministers seeking reassurances that the situation would not arise.
Replying on behalf of the Government, Miss Truss said that parents currently have a right to withdraw their children from sex education classes and that schools must apply "sensitivity" in deciding what materials to use, taking into account pupils' as well as their "religious and cultural background".
She added that it is ultimately up to heads to determine what teachers should teach and that staff with concerns should try to reach a "mutual understanding on the way forward."
However she underlined that teachers must act in an "un-discriminatory manner".
But she said it was impossible to know how the balance might change further if same-sex marriage becomes law and what the implications might be.
"As you are aware, legislation on equal civil marriage has yet to be announced by the Home Office, following a consultation exercise earlier this year," she wrote.
"I am, therefore, unable to advise on the specifics of any legislation and its future impacts at this time."
It comes despite the Coalition publishing a detailed "impact assessment" on the introduction of same-sex marriage which even included details of how immigration forms might have to be changed to replaces references to husbands or wives with "more neutral" terminology.
Mr Burrowes said the letter confirmed that gay marriage would be taught in schools and offered no reassurances to teachers who object on grounds of conscience.
"The reality is that these questions that are raised which have not been fully answered mean that they have not been rebutted," he said. "The fact that they have not been rebutted when we are so far down the line - the consultation will be coming out within the next weeks and no doubt the DfE has been consulted - now does raise more questions than answers.
"There is a big and serious question that gay marriage will undermine the liberty of conscience, that's a big question that will hang over the legislation."
Millions of pupils are being failed by 'cult of the average' in our schools says British business organization
A `cult of the average' in Britain's state education system is failing millions of bright children and lower achievers, business leaders warn today.
In a withering indictment, the CBI says that after 35 years of reforms and higher spending on schools than by many other nations the country is still facing `substantial' failure rates.
The business lobby group claims some schools have become little more than `exam factories' churning out average grades while failing to stretch both the brightest and lower attainers to the limit of their ability, leading to classroom disruption.
In a blueprint for reform, the CBI proposes radical changes. It says the raising of the school leaving age from 16 to 18 over the next few years means it is time to shift the focus of secondary education from GCSEs to A-levels, or vocational alternatives, at 18.
Instead of public exams, there should be assessments at ages 14 or 16 that check pupils' progress and help them decide what subjects or career paths to take. More pupils should be able to begin a technical education at 14.
The CBI's report, published as it meets for its annual conference in London, warns: `The education system fosters a cult of the average: too often failing to stretch the most able or support those that need most help.'
John Cridland, the CBI's director-general, said: `Today we have a system where a large minority of our young people fall behind and never catch up.
'It's not the fault of any individual concerned. It's not the fault of children, parents or teachers. It's a system failure. It's not acceptable any more than it's not acceptable that the top 10 per cent are not stretched enough.'
Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to scrap GCSEs and replace them with English Baccalaureate Certificates and reform A-levels and the national curriculum.
Online initiative to offer college courses for credit
An initiative announced Thursday by 10 U.S. colleges and universities, including Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Brandeis, promises to bring top-quality online courses to students from all over the country and even the world. But don't call it a MOOC.
"This is actually the polar opposite," said Jeremy Johnson, president of the initiative, called Semester Online. He's also co-founder of 2U, which for about four years has supported online master's degree programs for universities.
Unlike MOOCs (massive open online courses), which are free and open to anyone with an Internet connection, Semester Online classes will charge students to enroll, and class sizes will be limited to 15 to 20 students each. Also unlike MOOCs, students will be able to earn college credit right out of the gate.
Participating institutions see it as another opportunity to explore how technology can best expand and improve education. Earlier this week, the American Council on Education announced it would coordinate efforts to study the academic potential of MOOCs, which are largely unregulated, but have quickly emerged as an important development in higher education.
Semester Online offers a different model. Details are still being worked out, but faculty at participating schools will design and teach the courses, which will be open only to academically qualified students. Schools within the consortium would award credit for the courses, which would include real-time discussions.
Rogan Kersh, provost at Wake Forest University, one of the partner schools, said Semester Online enables universities to have more control as they experiment with the online environment.
"This landscape is both quickly shifting and murky at the same time," he said. "No school has a really clear picture of how they're going to use technology."
Kersh said Wake Forest is not ready to consider MOOCs because of its commitment to small classes and face-to-face interaction. Duke, another participating school, is also participating in MOOCs.
"We're experimenting," Duke Provost Peter Lange said. "We believe both educational models have merit, and we're interested in seeing how they both go."
Other participating schools include Emory, The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester and Washington University in St. Louis.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
I have been putting up a lot of posts about Britain lately. That is mainly because there seems to be real energy for educational reform in Britain at the moment. They seem to be proceeding in a generally constructive direction, though with a bit of zig-zagging -- JR.
Politicians are demonising independent schools, says top head
The leader of Britain's public schools has accused senior politicians of "demonising" independent education. In an outspoken attack, Dr Christopher Ray says there has been "wilful mischaracterisation" of fee-paying schools by political leaders, including "malicious" attempts to downplay the help they offer to poorer families and to state schools.
At the same time, he says, ministers over the years have failed to improve standards in state schools, leading increasing numbers of parents to seek to go private.
In an article for The Telegraph, Dr Ray, the chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, writes that British public schools are "the envy of the educational world, even though we are demonised by some here at home".
"The existence of incredibly successful independent schools is an irritant to many Labour politicians, a puzzle to Liberal Democrats and, it often seems, an embarrassment to the Prime Minister.
"We are often damned with the faintest of praise, knowing that they cannot afford either financially or politically to dismantle us, whatever sabre-rattling they employ."
David Cameron has appeared sensitive to accusations from political opponents that his "posh" or "privileged" education at Eton College leaves him out of touch with voters.
The few prominent Labour politicians who have sent their children to private schools have faced fierce criticism from within their own party.
The attack by Dr Ray, who is also the High Master of Manchester Grammar School, comes at a key time for the Coalition as ministers seek to persuade independent schools to sponsor new academies in their flagship education programme.
However, Dr Ray criticises academies and the claim by their supporters that they benefit from being independent of local education authority control.
He says their continued reliance on state funding means they are not truly independent and that the term has been "abused by those who would like to dupe us into thinking that red is blue".
He points out that an increasing number of academies are in chains run by powerful chief executives, and notes that the freedoms they now enjoy may be reined in by a future government - "What one secretary of state may give, another may take away."
He directly dismisses an appeal from Lord Adonis, the former Labour schools minister and one of the architects of the academies policy, who this month urged independent schools to get involved with the programme, warning that otherwise they risked failing in their charitable missions.
In his article, Dr Ray accuses Lord Adonis of "failing to understand the nature of the independent sector". "It is ludicrous to characterise us all as exclusive public schools, educating only the rich."
The dispute echoes the row between public schools and Tony Blair's government in 2006, when the Charities Bill forced head teachers to justify the "public benefit" their institutions were providing in order to retain charitable status, which allows them not to charge VAT on school fees.
In his party conference speech this year, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, made a point of highlighting his education at Haverstock comprehensive school in north London, claiming that his time there had taught him "how to get on with people from all backgrounds".
Mr Cameron did not mention Eton by name in his speech but simply said: "I went to a great school and I want every child to have a great education."
In a broad-ranging attack on standards in state schools, Dr Ray says that under Labour they "stubbornly resisted improvement" while a policy of "spend, spend, spend" had left only a "mess, mess, mess".
Grade inflation at GCSE and A-level, he argues, masked a decline in the performance of students relative to their international peers as recorded in tables released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
About half a million children now attend independent schools, accounting for around seven per cent of all pupils aged 11-16. They produce a fifth of all students at the country's top 10 universities.
A survey published earlier this month found that 57 per cent of families would send their children to an independent school if they could afford to, up from 51 per cent in 1997.
Supporters of private education have argued that it saves taxpayers £3 billion a year, the extra cost that would fall on the state system if it were required to educate all the pupils currently at independent schools.
Last year, independent schools supported almost 40,000 children on means-tested bursaries with an annual value of almost £300 million, while more than 1,000 fee-paying schools had partnership links to help state schools or local community groups.
Dr Ray has led Manchester Grammar, a boys school founded in the 16th century, since 2004. The school, whose alumni include Mike Atherton, the former England cricket captain; Ben Kingsley, the actor and Chris Addison, the comedian, provides 230 bursaries for children from poorer families, has links with three academies and partnerships with 10 state primaries.
Britain's compulsory reading test 'should be scrapped'
Bright children are being "failed" by the Coalition's controversial new reading test for six-year-olds, literacy experts warned today.
Pupils with fluent skills are being confused by the assessment that forces children to decode "nonsense" words using phonics, it was claimed. The UK Literacy Association warned that the test - compulsory in all English state schools - may label some good readers as failures and knock children's confidence. In a damning report, it was suggested that the checks were "costly, time-consuming and unnecessary".
The Department for Education has defended the test, which was introduced for the first time this year, insisting that it enabled teachers to identify pupils lagging behind in reading after at least a year of school. It is feared that any failure to improve reading skills at a young age can have hugely damaging effects on pupils throughout primary and secondary education.
But David Reedy, UKLA general secretary, called for the tests to be made voluntary. "This shouldn't be a compulsory test and we strongly recommend that the Government re-thinks this," he said.
"We know phonics is important, but for some children it is holding them back. It should be part and parcel of what teachers have to hand and they should be able to use it when they think it's necessary."
The check is taken by around 600,000 pupils at the end of their first year of formal schooling. Pupils are supposed to use phonics - a system which breaks words down into a series of sounds - to decode a list of 40 words. The list includes made-up words such as "voo", "terg", "bim", "thazz" and "spron" to ensure pupils are properly using the phonics system.
A study conducted by the UKLA analysed teachers' opinions of the test at 494 primary schools in England.
Many schools said the results of the check, which is used as an indicator of a child's reading skills, "did not reflect children's reading abilities as there is much more to reading than decoding".
Only around one in six of those questioned said that all of their pupils who were fluent readers achieved the required level to pass the phonics check, the study found. Almost three-quarters said that one or more of their good readers failed to meet the expected standard to pass.
UKLA's study found that teachers felt there were "far too many nonsense words". "These confused more fluent readers, who had been taught to read for meaning, and therefore tried hard to make sense of the 'alien words' they read," it said.
The study warned that the check focuses on decoding words without their meanings, which "goes against everything the children have been taught".
One teacher told researchers: "The test took longer for some able readers who read for meaning. I felt that words very close to real words were unfair - e.g. 'strom'." And another said: "Almost all children, regardless of ability said 'storm"'.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "The phonics check is based on an internationally proven method to improve children's reading. "Too many children are not reaching the expected levels of reading whilst at a young age, do not catch up, and then struggle in secondary school and beyond. "The pilot last year found that the test only takes a few minutes to complete, and that many children enjoyed it.
"Ensuring all children master the ability to decode and sound out new words is essential if they are to become confident readers. The phonics check will ensure that no child slips through the net still struggling with this basic skill."
1 in 5 boys at British primary schools have no male teachers while some could go through their entire education without one
Nearly one in five boys is being taught in a primary school without a single male teacher on the staff.
Official statistics compiled for the first time reveal how 360,485 boys aged four to 11 are attending schools which have only women teachers.
Of these, 61,060 are eligible for free school meals because of low household income.
The disclosure prompted claims that too many boys are having little or no contact with an adult male before they reach secondary school.
And since the number of male teachers is also low in many secondary schools, some could go through an entire education without being taught by a male teacher.
With women increasingly taking on the role of caretaker, in some schools 'there will be no male on the premises', according to experts.
The figures, which were placed in the House of Commons library, will add to fears that misbehaviour among disaffected boys is partly driven by a lack of male authority figures.
Lack of role models: Some boys could even go through their entire schooling including secondary without having a male teacher
Lack of role models: Some boys could even go through their entire schooling including secondary without having a male teacher
The data shows that 18 per cent of two million primary age boys in England are being taught in schools with no qualified male teacher on the staff.
But in some areas, particularly the south east and east of the country, the figure is significantly higher.
The Department for Education said campaigns to boost the number of male teachers in primary schools were beginning to bear fruit.
Officials said the number of accepted male applicants onto primary training courses was up 50 per cent in three years.
They said a more balanced workforce would better reflect society at large and help children to engage confidently with both sexes.
But they insisted the aim was not to achieve statistical equality but to recruit 'the best possible teachers'.
John Howson, a teacher recruitment expert and visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said that in some schools, all staff including the caretaker will be women, 'so there will be no male on the premises'
With men in secondary schools were over-represented in leadership roles, 'it is perfectly possible for boys to go through their education without a single classroom teacher who is male.'
'The changing nature of households is such that there are significant numbers of children who, even though they may spend a lot of their childhood in households with more standard relationships, will go through periods of time where there is no male role model around,' he added.
'School is the only other institution in society nowadays where they spend any additional amount of time.'
Some boys may grow up with a 'distorted' view of society, he warned.
'If you never get a chance to interact with one gender, then you are not getting a rounded education,' he said.
'We talk about female role models - why can't we have male role models in schools?'
He warned that past paedophile scandals have tended to have a knock-on effect on recruitment to teaching.
While education has been largely immune from the current furore which began with revelations about Jimmy Savile, there is a risk some may be put off, he warned.
'We have to make teaching an equal opportunities career which is attractive to both men and women,' he said.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: 'We want more men to consider primary teaching. Applications from men have already risen, with 50% more male primary trainees in 2011/2012.
'We're encouraging men to apply for training places by holding events where they can speak to teaching experts and other trainees. Up to 1,000 high quality male graduates will take part this year in a new school experience programme which will boost numbers further.'
Saturday, November 17, 2012
British regulator to 'root out' failing councils in new standards drive
(Most State schools in Britain are still run by local authorities)
Education inspectors are to launch a fresh crackdown on failing councils and chains of academy schools amid growing fears over a postcode lottery in standards.
Ofsted is drafting in a new wave of regional directors in January as part of a major drive to “iron out” chronic underperformance in some towns and cities. Under the plans, inspectors will identify local authorities with a persistently poor record of running schools.
The watchdog will also focus on chains of independent academies – run by third party sponsors with complete freedom from council control – amid fears their performance may be going unchecked.
Institutions with the lowest standards will be shopped to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who has the power to intervene if problems persist.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, said the English education system would continue to lag behind rivals in other countries until “the big regional variations are ironed out”. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said: “There are regional differences that need to be addressed if we are going to move towards a world-class system. “With this regional structure, we will hold local authorities, academy chains and diocesan authorities and governance in general to account.”
The comments came as new figures exposed the vast gulf in standards between England’s 152 local authorities.
Data published following a Parliamentary question shows that in some areas fewer than one-in-five children currently leave school with decent GCSEs in the core “English Baccalaureate” subjects – English, maths, science, languages and history or geography.
Last year, just 3.2 per cent of pupils gained A*-C grades in Knowsley, Merseyside, while as few as 4.9 per cent hit the target in nearby Halton. Standards were as low as 4.7 per cent in Sandwell in the West Midlands and 4.9 per cent in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham.
In a further 28 council areas, fewer than one-in-10 pupils gained good grades in the core subjects, it emerged.
Nationally, 15.4 per cent of teenagers hit the target, rising to around a third in the best-performing areas such as Buckinghamshire and the London boroughs of Barnet, Kingston-upon-Thames and Sutton.
Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, and a member of the Commons education select committee, who obtained the data, said: “These figures demonstrate that there are local authorities failing some of the most disadvantaged pupils in achieving what is becoming the minimum standard for a school education. “Every pupil, regardless of where they grow up, should be given the opportunity to succeed, and it is clear that this is not happening.”
From January, Ofsted will draft in eight regional directors covering the North East, North West, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, South East, London and the South West.
Each one – reporting directly to Sir Michael – will lead a team of inspectors tasked with rooting out councils, large-scale chains of academies or faith groups suspected of failing to properly support schools.
Although Ofsted does not routinely inspect these institutions, Sir Michael insisted that area-wide problems would be reported to the Education Secretary who can then order the watchdog to carry out a full probe.
Sir Michael will raise further concerns over regional variations in education standards in his first Ofsted annual report, to be published later this month.
Speaking to the Telegraph, he said: “We need to look behind what’s happening in individual institutions to see whether there is an issue with governance… Is the governance at the local authority good enough? Is the governance by academy chains good enough?
“If we identify particular issues in a local area, I think it is important that we talk to the Secretary of State about it.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Sir Michael is right – standards in some local authorities are simply not good enough. We are working with them to turn round poor performance in their schools.
“We are identifying consistently weak schools and allowing experienced academy sponsors to take them over. The best way to turn round these schools is the strong external challenge and support from an academy sponsor.
"Academies have already turned around hundreds of struggling secondary schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average.
“As with maintained schools, if academies do not make the progress we expect, we take further action. This may result in a change to the sponsorship arrangements."
Test case could dictate admissions policy in British faith schools
New faith schools could be forced to admit pupils from non-religious backgrounds if a judicial review currently being heard in the High Court is successful.
Campaigners have brought a legal challenge against Richmond Council, claiming that in approving two new Catholic schools it had broken the law and discriminated against non-Catholic children.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) and a group of local activists, including parents, argue that all new state schools in the London borough should have religiously inclusive admissions policies.
They say they want to halt the “back-door” spread of new religious state schools in England.
If successful, it could mean that traditional faith schools that cater only for believers, could no longer be opened by a local authority without first seeking proposals from those wishing to establish an academy.
A faith academy would be required to reserve at least 50 per cent of places for non-religious pupils if oversubscribed.
The BHA is fighting to overturn the council’s decision to offer a new £8.4 million site to the Catholic Diocese of Westminster to be used for one primary school and one secondary, which are due to open next September.
It says that the council breached a new law introduced earlier this year which states that if a local authority believes a new school is needed, it must seek proposals from groups wanting to set up free schools or academies.
If there are no suitable proposals, local authorities can the open up the competition to include other types of schools.
However, the Department of Education insists that it is possible to open new faith schools outside of such competitive arrangements. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has personally intervened in the case to back the council.
The council said that 67 per cent of parents and residents who responded to a consultation on its plans were in favour of them. There is no Catholic secondary school in the area and the Church insists it is responding to local demand.
Cllr Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, has accused the BHA and Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) of using local children as “play thing in their ideological campaign to stop church schools”.
But Andrew Copson, chief executive of the BHA, said the case reflected "a disturbing national pattern", in which religious groups were being given preferential treatment by local councils through "back-door proposals".
He said outside the High Court: "Victory here would hopefully set a precedent and level the playing field on which proposals to establish schools are treated equally, with the same level of scrutiny, whether religious or not.
Voluntary aided faith schools can select pupils solely on the basis of their faith. In Richmond, the new primary school plans to allocate two thirds of its places to Catholics while at the secondary, all places will be selected based on religion.
The two-day judicial review, which represents the first time the new law has been tested, is due to end on Friday.
Australia: Principals say teachers forced to do risk assessments for things like painting and drawing. Children too frightened to "have a go"
PRINCIPALS say children are becoming too frightened "to have a go at things" as teachers are forced to do risk assessments for activities including painting and drawing.
Principals say common sense has been abandoned in "the litigious age", with society's risk aversion starting to have a visible impact on children.
They warn risk-taking is "absolutely crucial to learning and development", with some students visibly frightened of making mistakes.
Tiggy [tag], handstands and running on bitumen have all been banned in some schoolyards over the past few years.
State schools now keep a Curriculum Activity Register recording all approved high and extreme-risk activities and some medium ones.
In one of the 134 Curriculum Activity Risk Assessments (CARA), painting and drawing is considered as dangerous as ice skating.
Teachers are told the use of toxic material in painting and drawing activities including glues, pigments and solvents require them to document controls or complete a curriculum activity risk assessment.
"Consider obtaining parental/carer permission," teachers are told.
It comes after the Queensland Association of State School Principals (QASSP) warned a senate inquiry "risk management is no longer left to good old 'common sense'."
QASSP president Hilary Backus said workplace, health and safety issues now gobbled up budgets and time, but there was no turning back from the CARA requirements because of fears of being sued.
She said while people once walked around uneven pavers or underneath branches, they were now pointing them out and expecting principals to deal with them immediately.
She said helicopter parenting and a desire to protect children was hurting learning. "We are starting to see children actually frightened to have a go at things and frightened of making mistakes - it does hinder the learning process," she said.
Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said people were now looking for someone to blame when accidents occurred.
"In this day and age the (CARA) forms are necessary," Mr Fuller said. "I believe that we have gone past the area of common sense and we are now seeing a trend of relying more on legal interpretation of risks . . . these days everything must be written down and signed."
Education Queensland assistant director-general Marg Pethiyagoda said parents expected their children would be safe at school.
"The department is working to streamline the curriculum activity risk assessment process to reduce the administrative burden on schools while still ensuring schools are safe places for students to engage in a range of learning activities," she said. She said painting involving toxic materials such as glues could result in students being exposed to dangerous fumes, but general art classes in primary school would use non-toxic materials and were considered low risk.
Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the register and CARA guidelines were in line with community expectations and brought schools in line with the private sector.
He said people might decry any suggestion a game like tiggy could be dangerous but children could be seriously hurt.
Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations president Margaret Leary said she was worried children were being "bubble-wrapped", but CARA was a result of "the litigious nature of society these days".
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the top priority for all schools should be student safety, which is why CARA guidelines existed. He encouraged staff to take "a commonsense approach" to decisions on playground safety.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Interviewing various bouncers, bartenders, pedicab drivers and other low-skilled workers along Bourbon St. in New Orleans, Peter Schiff ound almost everyone had an expensive college degree. And not meaningless ones, either. He found people with advanced degrees in neuroscience, robotics, radiology, mechanical engineering, engineering, to name but a few.
"President Obama promotes the myth that everyone must go to college," says Peter. "That if you don't go, your life will be ruined -- that you will end up waiting tables, or trapped in some other mundane occupation. The truth is, even with a college degree, you may still end up waiting tables, you'll just begin your 'career' four or five years later, tens of thousands of dollars in debt."
Watch the hilarious, thought-provoking video below:
British education bureaucracy to be slashed
Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to have halved his department's running costs by 2015-16. Michael Gove will shed 1,000 jobs from the Department for Education as he tries to set an example to the rest of Whitehall.
The Education Secretary has pledged to do 'more with less' by halving the £580million running costs of his department by 2016. He won the approval of Cabinet colleagues to conduct a radical 'zero base' review of his department, as though it were being set up from scratch.
But his plans have drawn the ire of unions, who warned they were balloting members on the reforms.
Mr Gove said poor performers will be 'speedily managed out' of their jobs and higher standards will be expected of those remaining.
Many back-office roles will also go as management consultants warned their costs were too high. Work that is not a ministerial priority is also likely to stop.
Children's services are likely to be hit, with resources diverted to supporting academies and free schools – which will account for one in four schools by 2015.
Staff will also be forced out of their expensive Westminster headquarters, which include a 'contemplation suite' and a massage room, to a cheaper building. Real estate costs for the DfE have soared to £40million – £6million of which is spent on vacant buildings.
Unions criticised the job cuts as an 'ideological attack on the civil service as a whole' and accused Mr Gove of 'playing politics' with people's livelihoods. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: 'Michael Gove appears to want to run his department as some kind of nightmarish Right-wing experiment, playing politics with people's livelihoods and putting at risk the very important services DfE civil servants provide to schools, teachers and the public. 'Staff in the DfE will not sit back and allow their jobs and the vital work they do supporting the education and development of our children to be used as some kind of ideological testing ground.'
A review document drawn up by the department's permanent secretary, Chris Wormald, said: 'While there is no formal headcount target, this is likely to mean that by 2015 the department will have fewer than 3,000 posts, around 1,000 fewer than we have now.'
Mr Wormald added: 'We will be smaller and will operate from fewer sites. We will focus on our duties to the taxpayer with renewed vigour, investing where we need to but always remembering that every pound we spend on ourselves must be justified to the citizens who pay for us.'
Cost-cutting will mean leaving the ministry's HQ in Great Smith Street in Westminster
Most Whitehall departments have been asked to save a third of their costs by Chancellor George Osborne as part of the austerity measures to reduce the country's deficit. But Mr Gove's target was to cut administrative costs by 42 per cent by 2015, which he has extended to a goal of 50 per cent by 2016.
Queensland private schools announce fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for 2013
Fees at Eton are approx. $48,000 p.a. at current exchange rates. But that includes full board, which is not discussed below. Considering the standard at Eton, one imagines that food and accomodation accounts for around $20,000 of that. So Australian private schools are well funded, considering that they get substantial Federal money as well
ELITE private schools have announced fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for next year, with one charging parents $19,880 for annual tuition.
Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS) has posted the most expensive "all inclusive" tuition fee so far of $19,880, just above the 2012 tuition fee for Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) for Year 8 to 12 students.
In a letter to parents, BGGS board of trustees chairwoman Elizabeth Jameson said the 6.4 per cent fee rise reflected "the lowest percentage increase in many years and the school's concerted effort to constantly contain the impact on our families".
"Brisbane Girls Grammar remains one of the few independent schools which does not impose additional levies on top of our tuition fees," the letter states.
Brisbane Boys' College (BBC), Clayfield College and Somerville House have posted the biggest fee percentage increases so far of about 7 per cent each.
BBC is charging $17,920 for annual tuition in Years 7 to 12 next year while Somerville House is charging $17,776.
Extra levies and other school costs mean BBC Year 12 parents will pay more than $20,000 next year for the cost of education.
BGS parents are expected to pay more than $20,000 for tuition in senior year next year - the first time in Queensland a tuition fee would have risen above that mark.
The all boys' school, which is also the state's most consistent top performer in OP rankings and NAPLAN, charged Queensland's top 2012 tuition fee of $19,635. Parents of Year 8 to 11 pupils also paid $1005 for a tablet PC levy.
Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said fee increases generally reflected the rising cost of education. Education costs have gone up 6.1 per cent over the past year according to Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index figures.
"Around 70 per cent of a school's expenditure generally goes to teachers' salaries," Mr Robertson said.
"Education costs include increases in salaries, capital costs for new buildings and maintenance programs plus implementation of the Australian curriculum."
Somerville House principal Flo Kearney said fees needed to go up "because of the increasing cost of delivering a quality education", including recruiting and retaining the best teachers.
"There are things that are out of our control as well such as significant increases in the cost of insurance and also meeting growing costs of compliance," she said.
Cairns-based Trinity Anglican School principal Christopher Daunt Watney said they tried to keep their costs to a minimum.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Higher Education: Why Government Should Cut the Cord
I'm currently in the 36th grade. After high school graduation, I spent four years at UC Berkeley to get my bachelor's degree, and four years at Princeton to get my Ph.D. In 1997, George Mason hired me as a professor - and I'm still here. I have a dream job for life: GMU essentially pays me to do whatever I want, and I never have to retire. But while higher education has been very good for me, it has been a lousy deal for society.
Taxpayers heavily subsidize higher education - about $500 billion dollars per year. What does our society get in exchange? Conventional wisdom says that these billions lead to a massive increase in what economists call "human capital." The nation's colleges teach promising young people the skills they need to contribute to the modern economy, enriching us all. If you actually pay attention to the subjects that most students study, however, this story is does not fit the facts.
Think about the classes you're taking right now. How many are teaching you skills you're ever likely to use on the job? There are very few jobs that use history, literature, psychology, social science, foreign languages, and the like. Think about your major: Does it even pretend to be vocational? There may be a few engineers in the audience, but most of us study subjects that simply aren't very practical. And if you talk to engineers, even they spend a lot of time proving theorems - a skill you rarely use outside of academia.
I'm not saying that college teaches zero real-world skills. My claim, rather, is that at least half of what colleges teach is not useful in the real world. And while many professors insist that their subjects are more useful than they seem on the surface, this is wishful thinking. If you actually measure learning, students usually learn little, quickly forget most of what they learn, and fail to apply what they still know even when their education is actually relevant.
If all this is true, why is going to college so lucrative? Because completing a degree - even a useless degree - signals to employers that you're smart, hard-working, and conformist. Most people never finish college. If you do finish, you show the labor market that you've got the right stuff - and many doors open.
If you're not convinced, let me point out that the best education in the world is already free. If you want to learn at Princeton, just go there and start attending classes. No one will stop you. Professors will be flattered by your attendance. At the end of four years, you'll have a great education but no diploma. Interested? Just take I-95 North and turn right at Philadelphia.
Key point: Since college is, to a large extent, jumping through hoops to show off, government subsidies are counter-productive. When education gets cheaper, you just have to jump through more hoops to convince employers that you're in the top third of the distribution. Subsidizing college so we can all get better jobs is like urging us to stand up at a concert so we can all see better. In technical terms, education has at least one big negative externality.
Steve is probably going to give you a long list of positive externalities of education. I'm skeptical of most of them; in fact, he often misapplies the concept. But suppose Steve's totally right. All he's shown is that education has some positive externalities that at least partly offset the negative externalities of signaling. To make an economic case for government support, however, Steve would need to show that the net externality of education - all his positives minus all my signaling waste - is positive. I'm not asking for precision down to the penny; I'd gladly settle for some ballpark numbers.
Isn't there more to college than just the economic benefits? What about transforming students into enlightened human beings who love ideas and savor culture? Many economists scoff at such notions, but I don't. I'm a huge fan of ideas and culture. But the harsh reality is the most college students find ideas and culture boring - and professors rarely change their minds. In any case, the Internet now provides free unlimited intellectual enrichment for everyone. Spending half a trillion dollars a year to force feed ideas and culture to students who won't consume them for free is just silly.
What about students who genuinely want to acquire useful skills or broaden their horizons? Government spending on their education is certainly less wasteful than usual. Even there, though, there's no reason why - given the labor market's rewards for education - students couldn't pay for their education with unsubsidized student loans. If the extra cost deters a lot of students from going, that tells us something: Though students rarely say it out loud, many silently realize that the full cost of a college degree exceeds all the expected benefits put together.
One last question: Even if a free market in education is efficient, is it fair? I say it is. Suppose your parents had the money to pay for your college, but refused to do so. Would it be fair to legally force them to cough up the money? Probably not: You're an adult and it's their money. I say we should extend taxpayers the same courtesy. If your parents don't owe you an education, neither do millions of total strangers.
Tough exams and learning by rote are the keys to success, says British education boss
Learning facts by rote should be a central part of the school experience, the education secretary, Michael Gove, will argue on Wednesday in a speech which praises traditional exams to the extent of arguing they helped spur the US civil rights struggle.
In the address, titled In Praise of Tests, Gove describes the ideological underpinning to his planned shakeup of GCSEs and A-levels, a philosophy which will further delight educational traditionalists but is likely to prompt criticisms that he is seeking a return to the teaching styles of the 1940s and 50s.
Competitive, difficult exams for which pupils must prepare by memorising large amounts of facts and concepts will promote motivation, solidify knowledge and guarantee standards, Gove is to tell the Independent Academies Association, a trade body for academy schools.
"Exams matter because motivation matters," Gove will say, according to extracts of the speech provided by his department.
"Humans are hard-wired to seek out challenges. And our self-belief grows as we clear challenges we once thought beyond us. "If we know tests are rigorous, and they require application to pass, then the experience of clearing a hurdle we once considered too high spurs us on to further endeavours and deeper learning."
Gove professes himself a great fan of Daniel Willingham, a US cognitive psychologist who has sought to use scientific research to show pupils learn best through the use of memory and routine, arguments outlined in a book, Why Don't Students Like School?, also popular with free schools guru Toby Young.
Gove argues that "memorisation is a necessary precondition of understanding". He says: "Only when facts and concepts are committed securely to the working memory, so that it is no effort to recall them and no effort is required to work things out from first principles, do we really have a secure hold on knowledge.
"Memorising scales, or times tables, or verse, so that we can play, recall or recite automatically gives us this mental equipment to perform more advanced functions and display greater creativity.
"And the best way to build memory, as Willingham explains, is by the investment of thought and effort – such as the thought and effort we require for exam preparation and testing."
Such exams must be "proper tests", marked externally and with results ranked in league tables, rather than teacher assessment, Gove he argues.
While saying he is "a huge fan" of teacher assessment Gove argues that external tests are more fair, saying evidence shows some ethnic minority children can be under-marked by their own teachers.
He goes on: "With external testing there is no opportunity for such bias – the soft bigotry of low expectations – and tests show ethnic minority students performing better.
"So external tests are not only a way of levelling the playing field for children of all backgrounds they are a solvent of prejudice."
Eton: what is it about the school that makes it such a breeding ground for leadership?
What exactly is the source of its pupils' legendary charm and confidence, their almost as legendary slipperiness? In his book, Fraser interviews the late Anthony Sampson, the famous investigator of Britain's elites. "I'd meet Etonians everywhere I went," says Sampson, not one himself. "I've never understood why they were so good at networking and politics." Fraser speculates: "The Etonian mystique often seems a matter of mirrors, a collusion between those [non-Etonians] hungry for [Eton] notoriety and Etonians who are only too happy to supply it." One afternoon last week, I emailed the school to ask if I could visit. Within less than two hours, Little emailed back and offered to meet the next day.
Like many British centres of power, Eton owes some of its influence to geography. It was founded in 1440 on the orders of Henry VI, frequently in residence with his court nearby at Windsor Castle. Nowadays, the school emphasises its closeness to London, the great global money hub, a dozen miles to the east. "About a third of our boys have London addresses," says Little, leaving open the possibility that they also have others. For the tenth who live abroad – the proportion "has grown a little" since he became head in 2002 – Heathrow airport is even closer. Jets intermittently moan loud and low over the school's spikes and towers.
But otherwise, for much of the long school day, there is an uncanny hush. As you approach the college, there is no grand announcement of Eton's existence, just small, hand-painted signs, white lettering on black, indicating that an increasing number of the courtyards, alleyways and driveways branching off the High Street are private property. From the open windows of neat classrooms, some late medieval, some Victorian, some Edwardian, some with expensive glass-and-steel modern additions, little of the usual hubbub of secondary school life emerges. Pupils and teachers alike sit upright in the black-and-white uniform, which is somehow both uptight and flamboyant – some might say like Etonians themselves. The uniform was standardised in the 19th century and must be worn for all lessons, AKA "divs" or "schools" in Eton's elaborate private language.
When the lesson ends, the spotless pavements are suddenly flooded with pupils. Some are tall and languid, some are chubby and scurrying, some are black or Asian, most are white. Everyone carries old-fashioned ring-binder files, and no one texts or makes a phone call. But some of the boys greet each other with hugs, or bursts of transatlantic up-talking, or say "like" with a long "i", London-style – for a minute or two, many seem reasonably modern and normal. Then everyone rushes off to the next lesson. "It is possible to be bored at Eton," says the school website, "but it takes a bit of effort!"
"In many ways it is a conservative institution, with lots of tiny rules," says someone who was a pupil from 2002 to 2007. The ambiguous outside status of Eton often makes old boys reluctant to declare themselves. "But Eton is probably more liberal, more permissive than its reputation. There are amazing cultural facilities, to do art and theatre for example. There were so many opportunities, it seemed churlish to focus on how annoying it was to have to wear a gown in the heat of summer." Last month, the History of Art Society, one of dozens of such pupil-run bodies, held a typical extracurricular event, a talk on 20th-century modernism. It was given by the BBC's arts editor, Will Gompertz.
Some boys are so well-connected when they first arrive at the school, they already have a certain swagger. In focusing on a single institution, Eton's critics are sometimes avoiding the more uncomfortable truth that the roots of Britain's elites go wider and deeper. But for less overwhelmingly privileged boys, says theex-pupil, Eton can be life-changing: "It's just expected that you will drink from the cup of opportunity. So you become used to being able to do whatever you put your hand to. Or at the least, you learn not to seem fazed by opportunities in the wider world."
Little himself was a pupil from 1967 to 1972, "the first male in my family to be educated past the age of 14". His study is baronial and high-ceilinged, with a window austerely open to the cold evening, but he is less forbidding than you might expect, with a quiet, calm, middle-class voice, like a senior doctor. "Dad worked at Heathrow, security for British Airways," he says. One of the school's main aims, he continues, is to admit a broader mix. But how can it, given the fees, which have raced ahead of earnings and inflation in recent decades? "It's a huge amount of money," he admits – the appearance of candour is one of Little's tactics when he talks to the outside world. "Sometimes I think, short of robbing a bank, what d'you do?"
Currently, by giving out scholarships on academic and musical merit, and bursaries according to "financial need", Eton subsidises the fees of about 20% of its pupils. "Forty-five boys pay nothing at all," says Little. "Our stated aim is 25% on reduced fees, of whom 70 pay nothing." What is the timescale? "Quite deliberately non-specific. But I'll be disappointed if we have not achieved it in 10 years." Not exactly a social revolution. "A long-term goal" is for Eton to become "needs-blind": to admit any boy, regardless of ability to pay, who makes it through the school's selection procedure of an interview, a "reasoning test", and the standard private-school Common Entrance exam. Whether Eton would then become a genuinely inclusive place is open to doubt: one of its selection criteria is an applicant's suitability for boarding, and many people connected with Eton would surely resist its metamorphosis into a meritocracy. Hierarchy is in Eton's bones.
Either way, Little says, the school does not have nearly enough money to become "needs-blind" yet. According to its latest accounts, Eton has an investment portfolio worth £200m. The school looks enviously on the wealth of private American universities: Harvard, the richest, has an endowment of more than £20bn. Eton seems unlikely to return soon to its core purpose as decreed by Henry VI: the education of poor scholars.
Little says the school teaches pupils "how to juggle time, how to work hard", and how to present themselves in public: "One thing I say to them when they leave is, if you choose to behave the way a tabloid would expect … you deserve everything you get." He downplays Eton slang as "a quirk and an oddity. A lot of words have fallen out of use."
I wonder if he would say quite the same to a Daily Telegraph journalist. The classic Etonian skills – Cameron has them – have long included adjusting your message to your audience, defusing the issue of privilege with self-deprecation, and bending to the prevailing social and political winds, but only so far. "Do institutions in England change totally while seeming not to, or do they do the opposite?" asks Fraser. "I think the latter. And Eton has changed far less than Oxbridge."
Does he think a school can ever be too powerful? For once, his affability gives way to something fiercer: "I'm unashamed that we're aiming for excellence. We want … people who get on with things. The fact that people who come from here will stand in public life – for me, that is a cause for celebration." If Eton is too influential, he suggests, other schools should try harder. Fraser has another explanation for the success of Old Etonians: "At moments in their lives," he writes, "they are mysteriously available for each other." Subtle networking, a sense of mission, an elite that does not think too hard about its material advantages – Eton's is a very British formula for dominance.
It can be a high-pressure place. For all the Old Etonians who have considered the rest of life an anti-climax, there have been others damaged by the school: by its relentless timetable, by its crueller rituals, such as the "rips" torn by teachers in bad schoolwork, and by Eton's strange combination of worldliness and otherworldliness. Compared to most other boarding schools, Eton seems more eccentric and intense, its mental legacy more lingering. "Eton never left me," writes Fraser. Little says: "I've come across a fair number of casualties who were here [with me] in the 60s." Another more recent ex-pupil describes Eton as "a millstone round my neck every day".
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Evidence Tampering U
For years, I've been writing about the issue of censorship on our nation's campuses. But I have given far too little emphasis to due process violations within the so-called campus judiciary. Today, that all comes to an end. This will be the beginning of a series of columns highlighting the worst colleges in America when it comes to due process violations. I will reveal the name of this week's winner after explaining why this university is being ushered into the due process Hall of Shame.
In 2005, a professor was brought up on charges of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Specifically, he was accused of giving a student an A in exchange for dancing with the professor in a sexually provocative way. There was only one problem with the charge: it wasn't true.
One set of university documents (the transcripts) revealed no A was given. The university convicted the professor anyway even after it was clear that another set of documents (the official harassment accusations) had been doctored in order to sustain the charge.
In 2009, our present inductees disciplined a fraternity for waving a fraternity flag that had a portion of the confederate flag imbedded within it. Incidentally, they waved it at another southern fraternity that also had a fraternity flag with a portion of a confederate flag imbedded within it. The all-white fraternity waved it at the other all-white fraternity at a university intramural game at which no nonwhites were present. So a white university official charged them with violating the campus hate speech code.
I wrote about the incident and the university soon realized the campus speech code (as applied) was illegal. So, rather than dropping the charges, they doctored university documents in order to remove any evidence that the charges against the fraternity were related to the speech code. They then inserted new allegations and convicted them under those. The fraternity was then punished with suspension from intramural sports competition for "taunting" rather than "hate speech" as originally charged.
In 2011, a professor was accused of sexual harassment and sought out legal counsel to defend him. During cross-examination by his attorney, the female accuser claimed not to have made two statements included in the official charges. In other words, the university helped the accuser by padding the charges without even bothering to tell her.
The accused was eventually dismissed from the university. Those tampering with the evidence were never identified and disciplined.
In 2012, police responded to an off campus alcohol-related incident involving a campus social organization. The police left shortly after arriving and no charges or arrests were even contemplated by police. Nonetheless, officers of the student organization were brought in to the Dean's Office for interrogation. Since they were being asked about behaviors that were minor violations of the criminal law, they asked to have legal counsel present. Their request was denied.
Recently, I had a chance to hear the tape recorded interrogation of the student officers. University officials repeatedly denied their requests for counsel and asked them to turn off the tape recorder. By the end of the investigation, the university had prepared three different reports on the incident. The facts in report #3 bore no resemblance to the facts in report #1. Each time the university realized its charges were incorrect they simply constructed a new version of events. Decent people would have dropped the charges once they realized they were wrong. But this is not the way things are done at Evidence Tampering U. The charges are still pending and the fate of the student organization is still hanging in the air.
Again in 2012, a professor appealed a sexual harassment charge (anyone seeing a pattern here?) and was exonerated on charges of inappropriately touching a student. Finally, there is some good news at Evidence Tampering U, right? Wrong. I'm not finished.
During the appeal of the conviction for inappropriate touching the university inserted a new charge of "inappropriate communication." The university convicted the professor of that in partial retaliation for his appeal on the charge of inappropriate touching. No chance of winning an appeal at Evidence Tampering U. These people are good. They rig appeals by adding new charges each step of the way. They base their judiciary rules on Franz Kafka novels.
This is all very important because the way universities administer justice affects the way students view justice. At Evidence Tampering U., justice is not a process. It is a result. The ends justify the means. It is the same mentality that justifies stealing elections. And it is not the way we educate young people. It is the way that a constitutional republic eventually turns into a banana republic.
Unfortunately, it is the way things are done at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, our inaugural inductees into the Due Process Hall of Shame. Their liberal administrators make providing a liberal education damned near impossible. It may seem ironic. But that’s what the evidence reveals.
In the next installment, we will learn about the role the Obama Department of Education has played in the erosion of campus due process. Students aren’t biting the hand that feeds them. They just re-elected the hand that is slapping them.
The £300 bespoke classroom chairs for the £80m British school dubbed 'socialist Eton' with a roof terrace and panoramic views of London
With panoramic views of the capital from a roof terrace, bespoke chairs and glass walls, this £80million six-storey building resembles that of a plush city hotel. But this is, in fact, Britain's most expensive comprehensive school - set to open next week in a leafy area of Kensington, west London, for 1,480 lucky pupils.
Holland Park School, dubbed the 'socialist Eton', has unisex lavatories where no main door will be fitted to deter bullying, a glass-clad open-plan library and an exotic 25-metre basement swimming pool.
The new futuristic building for the school, once attended by the actress Anjelica Huston, has a glass roof and glass-walled classrooms, with an energy-saving array of fins and mesh to spare pupils the glare of the sun.
Pupils will sit down on £300 bespoke chairs created by one of Britain's leading furniture designers, Russell Pinch - though the school paid far less for the chairs with its large order. Teachers will have their own version of Pinch's 'Holland Park Chair', with arms - retailing at £400.
They will also enjoy the services of waiters bringing them tea and coffee in their common room.
Modernist features of the building include wash troughs, and an atrium stretching the length of the building.
The school is about to leave council control to become an academy. It is part of a multibillion-pound building programme that has seen lavish state schools spring up around the country.
The schools have been designed by architects such as Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, renowned for their high-tech, modern designs, often featuring soaring glass atriums.
State schools built under Labour typically cost £21m-£50m and the lavish scale of Holland Park has caused friction among local groups at a time of cuts in services. Union representatives have asked why a new academy planned for north Kensington, one of the poorest parts of the borough, has a budget of £28m.
But Elizabeth Campbell, the council's cabinet member for education, told the Sunday Times she was proud of Holland Park. She said: 'We set out to build the best school in Britain and we have ended up with the best school in western Europe.'
She argued that the building had cost the taxpayer nothing, adding: 'We raised £105m by selling off part of the site to housing developers and built a six-storey school instead.'
The school dubbed the 'socialist Eton' because it once attracted members of the Labour elite who lived locally but did not want to compromise their principles by using private education.
The school now has Tory ministers in its catchment area, including George Osborne, who lives a short walk away.
A few weeks ago, according to the Sunday Times, a Holland Park parent reported that her daughter had seen Gove and his wife Sarah looking round with their nine-year-old daughter.
Headteacher Colin Hall said earlier the school was a reward for pupils and teachers who over the past decade had transformed the comprehensive and put it in the top 5% of state schools for improved GCSE results. He said: 'Students will be coming to something a bit unconventional and a little bit grand.
'Some don’t come from privileged backgrounds — we want them to have a sense of aspiration and see this building as aspirational.'
Australian students get right to sue training colleges
This could lead to damaging litigation by dim students.
DISGRUNTLED students will be able to sue their training colleges for shoddy education under new laws to be introduced in Victoria.
The state government hopes the new rules will prevent dodgy training providers from delivering substandard education. The rules will apply to students whose vocational training was subsidised partly or fully by the state government.
An explanatory memorandum of the legislation, seen by The Age, said students could seek compensation for a college's "failure to deliver training". The state government contracts training providers to deliver courses to students.
An Education Department spokesman said students would soon have the right to enforce terms of that contract.
"This is designed to provide greater protection for students if there is a breach of contract between the government and vocational training provider," he said.
But he said contracts would vary between providers.
Earlier this year the national training regulator rejected a training college's registration after finding it had failed to meet quality standards.
More than 1200 students were enrolled at the college, which offered a wide range of courses from aged care, childcare and transport and logistics. The students were forced to find other colleges to complete their courses.
The Australian Education Union's TAFE vice-president, Greg Barclay, said the new laws were a "good move" but the government needed to ensure the contracts were fair to students.
The Victorian TAFE Association's education policy consultant, Nita Schultz, said the greater capacity to seek compensation would "fill a gap" in students' rights as consumers. "It's got to give students more confidence," she said.
Ms Schultz said students might also be entitled to sue their training college if it closed their course before they could complete it.
The new laws are part of legislation recently introduced to the Victorian Parliament about how universities and TAFEs are governed.
Some of the new legislation is highly contentious, including the removal of the requirement that university councils and TAFE boards must include students and staff.
More than 220 academics have signed an open letter protesting against this change.
Melbourne University professor and author Raimond Gaita and La Trobe politics Professor Dennis Altman are among the high-profile academics who have lent their names to the "defence of university autonomy and academic freedom". The letter calls on the state government to abandon the bill.
"Universities are not businesses selling education and research products. They are some of our oldest public institutions and their autonomy is crucial to a properly functioning democracy and vibrant civil society," the letter said.
But Higher Education Minister Peter Hall said there was nothing to stop universities appointing students and staff to their councils if they had the necessary skills.
He said the government was introducing the changes after extensive discussions with chancellors and vice-chancellors from Victoria's universities.