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Choosing a school in a knowledge vacuum

By John Ridd - posted Wednesday, 12 October 2005

A significant part of the current Australia-wide education discussion is centred on parental choice. Much of that discussion is focused on the issue of public versus private schooling.
It is axiomatic that choice involves decision making. It should also be axiomatic that all decisions need to be made in the light of good quality, reliable information. The poorer the information, the less likely it is that the best decision will be made.
Unfortunately the information we have on a given school is poor, far less than we have on food items. Try an experiment. Pick any tin or packet of food from the cupboard and look at all the information that is there. It is detailed, giving not only what ingredients there are but numerical detail on various dietary issues. Now think about the secondary school down the road. How much do you really know about that school and the quality of education it provides? Do you really know anything at all about it?
And note, I don't mean rumour or scuttlebutt, but facts and solid reliable knowledge.
The decision as to which school to send little Joanna or Johnny to is important: much more important than what is in a tin of tomatoes, but the vast majority of us know much less about a school than we do about tomatoes.
Above all else, do you have any evidence at all as to the improvements in individual student performance at the enabling subjects English, Maths and Science over time?
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About the Author

John Ridd taught and lectured in maths and physics in UK, Nigeria and Queensland. He co-authored a series of maths textbooks and after retirement worked for and was awarded a PhD, the topic being 'participation in rigorous maths and science.'

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