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Thursday, 29 October 1970


Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Smith) - 1 want to make a couple of points in respect of this legislation. Firstly, the Bill seems to indicate that the research projects will be authorised by the Minister for Education and. Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) by making payments out. Clause 4 of the Bill indicates that these payments would be made to the States. I understand that the appropriate advisory committee will also be able to approve of projects. At the moment I would assume that this provision is contained somewhere in the Bill but I cannot find it. A publication entitled 'Education News Gazette' states that this committee may give financial assistance to educational research submitted to it or it may initiate research in areas of importance where little is being done. It is in this respect that I would like to make a couple of points which I think are very appropriate to the problems of New South Wales as I know them.

Education is the biggest business in any State. As it is the biggest business in all States it is the biggest business in the Commonwealth. The Minister for Education and Science has a very responsible portfolio. He has a big problem in the allocation of funds. If we look at lectures recently given we find that in the fields of research not enough has been done. We know the problems associated wilh school populations and universities. The real issues are: Are we getting the best from our education system? What is the best system? Why are there so many failures? What is the cause of drop-outs? What should be done to try to alleviate some of these problems? It was indicated in the course of submissions made to the Australian National University that in 1966 we had in Australia about 3 million students at all levels and that they were taught by an estimated 135,000 lecturers. These are significant figures. Further it was said that every State department has research teams, but all States are undertaking research within a limited field and to a large extent they are overwhelmed by the immediate problems referred to them. So, within the large problem that they have there are a number of immediate problems that they have to solve with their own research teams.

The question arises as to whether we are looking at the overall situation as it appears to me as a parent. We have a system which has encouraged the streaming of children in the sense of what might be called their aptitudes or their intelligence. I can be contradicted in this, but it appears that if a child is classified too early - say at first form at the age of 12 or 13 - as being only of pass level, research shows that this child is not motivated any more to try very hard. It has been proved that when a child has been classified as not being of the highest grade he thinks there is no need for him to make the application that others are making. This also creates an inferiority complex. This is particularly so when a child is at a school with other children who are undertaking studies at a higher level. I think research on this subject would show that some examinations at the lower level are producing marks as low as 10 or 12. It follows that that youngster obviously has a problem and the system itself is not really giving any education. The system merely classifies that unfortunate youngster who says: 'I am not able to apply myself because I am not making the progress that other youngsters in the class are making'. Teachers, of course, are aware of the different intelligence levels of children. This problem has been mentioned in a publication called 'Map of Educational Research'. It has been stated that there is a wide range of difference in intelligence levels which creates educational problems. It has been shown that by streaming children into what are deemed to be the brighter, the less bright and the dull, the bright certainly improve. This research has been undertaken by a gentleman named G. R. Cross. With the concurrence of honourable members 1 incorporate in Hansard a table headed 'Achievement Quotients of Children in Different Streams at Various Stages of Schooling'.

 

Over a 2-year period the bright youngster between the ages of 8 and 10 years improved and the middle-of-the-road child did not show any change. But the child who was not making the same progress as the child at the highest level in fact dropped back. Mr Cross indicates that it is obviously not a good thing to stream or classify children too early because the one who is not so bright gets worse. He goes on to say that there has been further research done by a gentleman named Daniels in 1961 where, without the screening process, the youngsters were intermingled and very splendid progress was made by all of them.

That leads me to this comment: Could we not have some good look at what is known, without mentioning its name, as the present scheme in New South Wales? Could we not have a look at the problem of these youngsters and whether they are classified too early? Is it not true that in many cases a latent factor is involved? Obviously, many people go to university who might have just scraped into the entry faculty. Having got to that faculty, they really shine in it because they apply themselves to it. At that stage, they are more mature. They have matured at the age of 18 years or 19 years. They all know what they want to do and they are able to apply themselves to that end. It would have been unfair to classify them at the age of 12 years or 13 years because they might not have been interested then in history, geography, science or something of that nature and it might have been said that they should not pursue those subjects any further. 1 would like to think that this matter might be considered further and that it might be studied, not in any critical evaluation of the scheme but in seeking to have a look at the way in which it has worked especially with regard to examination results and with regard to young ladies who need every encouragement to continue their studies but who, if they obtain a bad rating on an early classification, are not likely to develop any aptitude for study.

We are spending a lot of money in the fields of science. This brings me to this point: 1 have a letter here from certain Ph. D. students at the University of New South Wales indicating that they expect to make the grade but that no employment opportunities are available for them. They wonder why so much money is being spent on science when our top men in this field who are about to graduate are not able to find opportunity for employment because they are classified as being in the 'employee status' which most of them are as scientists. Surely some research ought to be done to discover whether we are encouraging too many students to undertake study in a field in which no vacancies exist. One would like to think that there is something wrong in the fact that no vacancies are available and that more research ought to be done on the question of creating further vacancies.

I wish to deal with one final matter. I will do so briefly because the Opposition has made a promise not to delay the House. I did a bit of research myself into prisons in New South Wales. One of the striking failures of the human race when it comes to prisons is that inmates in prisons are all uneducated. It was startling in my limited research to find that 10 per cent of the prison population was illiterate. One can hardly imagine that this could have happened. It did not follow that they were all dull or mentally deficient. Many of them were quite bright.

Most of them were under the age of 23 years. It was quite evident that 70 per cent of them have been before the Children's Court. So, they had failed at the time when they normally would have been at school. It was pretty evident also that the failure in most cases was due to the fact that they had not remained at school. It was further evident in most of the cases that the reason why they had not remained at school or succeeded was that there were problems at home in their environment. These problems were due to broken homes, neurotic parents, delinquent parents, alcoholism or a sheer inability on the part of parents to take an interest in their children. I would say that a splendid opportunity exists in this respect for research into the problems of youngsters. Teachers would know that certain youngsters were not necessarily making the grade at school and might look at the parents to see whether the problem rested there. As we.l as educating the parents, an opportunity might be taken to try to improve the home environment or to try to improve the attitude of the parents, in other words, because they might need further assistance as well.

A splendid example of the point I am making is to be found at the Chino Prison in California which has achieved an 80 per cent success rate with inmates by saturating culprits with education and classifying them as to vocational guidance. Throughout the whole prison system in New South Wales, there is an 80 per cent failure. We read now of further disasters because nothing but disasters could follow from this system as a result of the fact that no research has been carried out into it.

The solution to the problem is education. lt is not the punitive power of sending someone to prison. This is no deterrent. These people keep going back. Society thinks that by sending a person to prison that person will be redeemed and reformed. In fact, he is not, because he is not taught anything. One New South Wales penitentiary with 1,400 inmates has one tutor for all of those inmates. The situation is ridiculous. I would like to think that a research grant could be provided for investigations in this field. Research could show one way in which the crime hazard could be reduced. Many splendid people, if some money was provided to research this problem, would try to seek a solution. State Governments could be encouraged to look at it. This can be done only in the way in which a research student could encourage them. The imprimatur of somebody of high quality would be needed. Somebody who would obtain grants for this purpose would be required so that this work could be done.

There are many fields in which research is essential now. I have mentioned just one or two of them. They are very important. I think that it is vital also that we try to set up the statutory advisory committee chat our amendment proposes. I am not critical of the members that we have. But I would like to think that the membership might be a little wider. No harm would be done if a member of Parliament was a member of the committee as well. A number of members might be appointed to the committee. These members might assist in an advisory way because they are mixing at all levels of society and they are mixing with the problems of life. They know perhaps where some need exists which could well be evaluated by splendid research. To that extent, I support the amendment.







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