Federal Politics


Reality check overdue on level of education delivered

The two-syllable word standing in proxy for a sentence is no better exemplified than by the gratuitous ''enjoy'' delivered at the finest restaurant near you. Surely the transitive verb demands an object if it is to make any sense?

I don't presume to be a grammatical beacon of light by a long shot, but what grates with me about this culinary peccadillo is that it is delivered as if from some higher literary form. Maybe if one replied in a pseudo French accent ''Rufus'' that would start a rather absurd exchange.



Enjoy Rufus?

Oui! Dans la soupe!


You do not need a computer to teach students grammar. You need a teacher who is proficient in grammar and has the aptitude to persist and the mechanisms to deliver knowledge in an atmosphere of learning. We are just not going to cut it in the Asian century as a service deliverer from the far side of the continent if we are not on the cutting edge of secondary school academic outcomes. Presently we are not and falling still.

When we threw out Latin, we threw out grammar too. In deciding that everyone gets a prize the levels as compared to other countries are falling. We have to have the reality check. How we will prosper if we do not make anything, believe that it is environmental Armageddon if we mine anything, are of the view that it is politically incorrect to farm animals, whilst nowhere near our competition in reading, writing and arithmetic? Yet we talk of our nation as a service provider?

Agriculture enforces a discipline. If you do not get the fly strike out of the sheep then the sheep die by being eaten alive by maggots. If you don't plant a crop on time you will lose a lot of money. Building is the same; if you do not put in the noggins then the wall will be weak. If you do not properly screw down the roof it will blow off. Builders are not considerate of feelings when they ask their apprentices to be diligent in screwing down your roof. Farmers do not pay for shearing half a sheep.

The question that has to be asked is have we created excuses in education that we have to be over-considerate of feelings ahead of competency? This is a pure and simple cop-out - a cop-out about to be brutally shown up in the Asian Century. Have we fallen for the vanity trap that we are expert in the metaphysical when the reality is we are struggling with the basic educational building blocks?

If we paid on outcomes in education in a similar manner that other jobs pay on outcomes rather than merely participation then would the result differ? In the accountant's office, if you do not create an income for the office you do not keep your job. The partner wants to know what you have billed for the firm. They take it for granted that you will turn up showered and dressed appropriately.

I think it would be a fair bet that the apprentice Australian chippy is further ahead of their south-east Asian contemporary after two years of their apprenticeship because their boss is precisely that, their boss. Our lodger from Hong Kong has average English, better Japanese and excellent Mandarin and Cantonese. She has only been to high school, where she informs me she was average academically, so I am making the grand assumption that her Year 11 and 12 academic apprenticeship is vastly superior to ours.

The idea that she will be buying a service in the future based on the academic proficiency of Australians stretches credulity. I think we may be buying one off her. The Asian Century means Australia has immense opportunities but we should not kid ourselves it will be ruthless and we have not got a hope unless we are the best. Even in agriculture they gave us Wagyu cattle, the premium eating beef.

If we look after our producers and invest in real research and not excessively fascinate ourselves in climate change we can prevail. Be the best or get ready to be the peasant. Additionally, please do not owe money to those working harder than us or they will question why their savings needs to sustain our profligacy. If south-east Asia is bankrolling an indolent Australia, that is a very bad start in our immersion in confusion culture.

>> Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals' Senate leader and the opposition spokesman for regional development, local government and water.