Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

NAPLAN much more gain than pain

Blaise Joseph

18 May 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

More than a million Australian students sat NAPLAN tests this week, assessing their standards in reading, writing, language and numeracy.

Despite some hysterical criticisms, the national assessment program remains a vital educational tool and there is no rigorous evidence it has widespread negative effects on students. And in general, parents groups continue to support the tests.

Claims that it harms students are at best superficial, and at worst downright misleading. There have been very few studies to date on the impact on students, and the existing research is mostly based on surveys or samples so small as to be insignificant.

There is a world of difference between serious mental health issues and the low levels of nervousness associated with any school assessment.

The other target of NAPLAN naysayers is the MySchool website, where school results are published and can be compared to other schools and the national average. It is argued MySchool harms schools by making them focus excessively on NAPLAN test results. But again, there is little evidence to support this claim, and ultimately schools focusing more on literacy and numeracy is almost always a good thing.

MySchool is important for parents. Parents choose schools based on multiple factors, including academic achievement. Having access to NAPLAN results allows parents a more informed choice for their children’s education success.

And when we’re constantly told parents should be more engaged in their children’s education, it would be bizarre to tell parents they shouldn’t know how their local school is performing compared to national standards.

NAPLAN helps improve schools and teaching, by identifying problems in the school system over time and enabling potential solutions — from the national level all the way down to individual students. It also provides transparency for school results. And it holds governments and schools accountable for the more than $50 billion of taxpayer money invested in the school system every year.

So what is the future for NAPLAN?

It is reasonable to investigate how NAPLAN data can be used more effectively to help students. A possible review of NAPLAN — which education ministers are currently considering — should focus on such issues, rather than simplistically scrapping the whole program.

Blaise Joseph is the author of the research report, Why We Need Naplan, published this week.

Costello’s rare gift for lucidity

Eugenie Joseph

18 May 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

An enthusiastic audience braved Monday’s morning chill this week for a CIS breakfast with former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello sharing his perspectives on the Budget in a lively conversation with Simon Cowan.

Mr Costello welcomed the “believable” path back to surplus and reflected on the government’s seven-year personal income tax plan. He affirmed that reducing income tax rates and thresholds is a step in the right direction, but was justifiably cautious about the ability of governments to guarantee tax cuts that take effect so far in the future.

Mr Costello pointed out some mathematical truths about the government’s tax plan — ignored by much of the post-Budget critique — such as a flat tax rate of 32.5 per cent for incomes between $41,000 and $200,000 still seeing high income earners pay a greater share of income taxes.

On the worrying consequences of our high income taxes, he jokingly discussed the appeal of a new lifetime work-retirement cycle for young Australians: earn good incomes and pay low taxes in Hong Kong or Singapore… and once you have children or retire, repatriate to Australia for the social services.

Mr Costello also cautioned against the “crystal ball” mentality of governments in regards to budget projections. He emphasised that it is near impossible to predict tax receipts in 10 years’ time, precisely because no economist can say — at least not with a straight face — what will happen to the economy next week, let alone next decade.

In a further warning, he pointed out the abject failure of compulsory superannuation in reducing reliance on the aged pension — which will become a fiscal “ticking time bomb” for future governments.

Mr Costello demonstrated his exceptional ability as a communicator, with that rare gift for lucidly explaining economics to the general public — a remarkable feat when it comes to tricky and (for many Australians) mind-numbing subjects like taxation and deficits.

This is why, more than 10 years after leaving public office, Mr Costello’s contributions to the public policy debate are respected more than ever.

Gaza slides further into violence, poverty and despair

Peter Kurti

18 May 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

Sustained violence in protests along a series of staging points on the Gazan border with Israel has been deliberately orchestrated by Hamas, the terror group with political control of Gaza.

Under hashtags such as #instructionsforparticipants, explicit directions were posted on social media to the ‘Youth of the Revolution’ about assembly points, movements, and weapons to be used.

The objectives of the so-called ‘March of Return’ included penetrating the border fence, and capturing or killing Israeli Defence Force (IDF) personnel and Israeli civilians resident in the vicinity.

Hamas intended to continue the border violence until the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day — Catastrophe Day — the day following Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948.

But Hamas has tricked the international community into thinking the ‘peaceful’ protests are solely in response to President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In reality, as Colonel Richard Kemp, a former British army commander, has said, the protests are carefully planned operations aimed at breaching the Israeli border and committing mass murder.

Hamas’s strategy has “no viable military purpose but seeks to deceive the international community into criminalizing a democratic state defending its citizens,” Kemp says.

Needless to say, the response of the IDF has provoked international condemnation — especially because of the use of ‘live’ fire. Some sixty people have been killed and thousands more injured.

Yet Hamas pushed the protesters towards the border under cover of smoke from burning tyres knowing full well that Israel — which issued warnings — would not allow the fence to be breached.

In Sydney this week, Peter Lerner, a retired IDF officer, acknowledged the high price of preventing border incursions. The IDF has now set up a board of inquiry to investigate the deaths.

Lerner warned of a “looming humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. Hamas takes aid money — including US$80m (AU$106m) each year from Iran — and builds tunnels instead of schools and hospitals.

Yet no protest issues from human rights advocates about this truly criminal disdain for human life. Meanwhile, the impoverished people of Gaza slide deeper into poverty, disease, and despair.