Musgrave, P. W. (1992). From humanity to utility:
Melbourne University and public examinations 1856-1964.
Hawthorn: ACER. 340 pages. Hardback. $65.00
This book examines the manner in which the University of Melboume "created, maintained and controlled the system of public examinations" (1992, p.5) in Victoria from 1856 to 1964. Musgrave's major contention is that the debate over public examinations reflected a broader ideological struggle between the humanitarian and utilitarian traditions of education. He emphasises the role of public opinion in influencing the education system to respond to the realities of changing economic and political circumstances. In the process, he accentuates the hegemonic influence of the university's examinations on the whole education system of Victoria.
The book operates at three distinct levels. It sets out to explain the relationship between social structure and human agency. As a consequence, Musgrave devotes considerable space to the historical, economic and political contexts of the public examination debate. Within these broader constraints, he explains the manner in which various interest groups struggled to control the nature, content and process of education. Finally, at the school level, he examines the implications of the broader ideological struggle in relation to the organisation of the school curriculum in the private and public school systems.
Chapter One briefly outlines the major conceptual ideas that illuminate the book. Musgrave alludes to some important theoretical ideas to order his data and expose the interests that stimulated public examination reforms in Victoria between 1856 and 1964. The ideas of structure and culture provide the major 'organising principles' for this rather ambitious task.
Chapter Two analyses the early power struggle between the proponents of the classics and the modern subjects. Musgrave demonstrates that in the period 1856 to 1880 the goveming elite sought to impose a particular set of cultural arrangements on the Victorian education system. From the beginning, a strong relationship between the elite private schools and Melbourne University effectively limited any attempt to establish altemate parameters of a worthwhile education.
Chapter Three traces some of the early pressures to refomm the public examination system. Under the influence of broader economic, political and social changes, pressure to broaden the range of examination courses mounted. Melboume University came under increasing pressure to offer a curriculum more relevant to the contemporary world. Thus in the 1890s utilitarianism became increasingly influential as the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie demanded courses in engineering, agriculture, forestry and the sciences.
Chapter Four charts the move toward 'adaptation and modemity' in the period 1905 to 1916. In the first decade of the twentieth century Federation, industrial growth, economic prosperity and social mobility created a mood of optimism in Australia. After Federation there was a general consensus between the ruling elite and working class about the desirability of social peace. In this context schools adapted their curriculum to the modem era and moved in a utilitarian direction. At this moment the Education Department started to mediate in the debate over the role of secondary education and public examinations.
Chapter Five examines the role of Theodore Fink and Frank Tate in engineering the establishment of the Schools Board in place of the Board of Public Examinations. In the context of Musgrave's argument, the balance of power shifted to the self interest of the industrial bourgeoisie under the impact of technological progress. Reformers like Tate and Fink were able to affimm the values of national efficiency to appeal to the ruling elite.
In chapter Six Musgrave explains how Melboume University's desire for a distinct university entry examination allowed the Professorial Board "to reclaim the function of policing the standards of matriculation while allowing the School Board to run the Leaving certificate" (p.256). The final chapter draws together some of the major historical and sociological conclusions arising from the study. Unfortunately, this concluding chapter is disappointing. The first chapter promised much but the final chapter delivered little of consequence. Possibly Musgrave wearied of his task.
Central to the book is Giddens' idea of the 'duality of structure' or the relationship between social structure and human agency. Unfortunately, for the theoretically inclined this discussion is limited. Nonetheless, the book is an important reminder that only some individuals and social groups are empowered to speak about what counts as valuable and legitimate knowledge in the education system. It offers some valuable insights into the 'goings on' of various examination bodies, university senates and professorial boards.
However, the reader is left wondering where this account is leading to. Is the major aim to show that education in this time and place was instrumental to the needs of the economy? Recent developments demonstrate that educational refomn has been easily hijacked into serving the instrumental objectives of economic rationalism and economic efficiency. If so, is the book challenging the dominant or prevailing hegemony and contesting the inequalities of wealth, power and status?
Musgrave also draws attention to the certification role of public examinations in selecting a small number of University entrants and certifying the rest of the school population for the job market. As a consequence, the public examination system tended to reinforce the hegemony of the competitive academic curriculum connected with the elite private secondary schools.
While Musgrave has revealed a fine level of scholarship and research, there are a number of weaknesses evident in the manuscript. The story is a little long-winded even for those interested in the history of Australian examinations. The excess of historical baggage sometimes causes one to miss the key ideas developed in Chapter One. Unfortunately, the narrow focus of the book excludes any comparative reference to other state education systems.
Nonetheless, Musgrave achieves his objectives. The book is thoroughly researched and wntten in a clear style. His sources are intelligently and thoroughly pursued.
In short, this publication should be essential reading for all scholars interested in social history, in particular the history of examinations. It is highly recommended to educators at all levels who wish to gain an insight into the origin of the Australian examination phenomena.
Barry Down and John R Godfrey
Edith Cowan University
Rowe, Helga. (1993). Learning with personal computers.
Hawthorn: ACER. 334 pages Paperback. $29.95
Learning with personal computers is a substantial piece of work that addresses the place of computers in schools from both a theoretical and a practical perspective. The book is comprised of four parts, each of which has several chapters. Part One of the book, Theoretical Framework, deals with a discussion of the place of computers in schooling from a theoretical perspective. The author includes a large number of references in the descriptions that are given. Much of the section is given to a discussion of the cognitive outcomes from computer programming. The second part of the book deals broadly with the topic of computer literacy and discusses the many ways in which computers and technology can be incorporated in school programmes. The section moves from a discussion of policy needs, through an examination of the acquisition of computing skills, to a detailed description of the means by which outcomes might be assessed and judged.
The third section of the book describes outcomes from an empirical study of the use of laptop computers by Year 6 and Year 7 students in the SUNRISE classrooms at Coombabah Primary School in Queensland. Through a very detailed description and analysis of student usage, the section provides information that could guide others who wish to integrate computers into school curicula. Part Four, entitled Assisting the teacher, provides general comments and strategies that might be applied in developing teachers' skills and knowledge of computers and their instructional applications.
On completion I was left with several impressions of the book's value and potential. In the first instance, the depth of the material would make it a very useful reference for the teaching and training sectors where good ideas and theories are an integral part of teaching and learning. Although the book is aimed also at teachers, school administrators and parents, I suspect that it is not entirely suited to this audience. In places it is difficult to follow the ideas that are developed from the descriptions and discussion. I suspect that most teachers, parents and administrators would prefer to read an abridged version with the main points extracted and summarised.
The author has drawn on a substantial number of sources in creating the work and the ideas and papers that are included represent a broad sample of the research and writing in this field. The book agues strongly of the need for computer technology as an integral part of the teaching and learning process. This view is developed from an extensive review of the relevant literature and supported by a detailed analysis of outcomes from a comprehensive and quality piece of classroom research. For me, the high profile given to discussions of Logo and computer programming seemed to over-emphasize these aspects of computer usage, given the broad range of possible classroom computing applications.
To conclude, the book provides some sound insights into the need for computers as instructional aids in classroom teaching. Readers are made well aware of the theoretical frameworks that underpin and support the place of computers in classrooms. But is it a practical book? Does it provide the reader with practical and achievable ideas for incorporating computers into learning programmes? I feel that the book falls a little short of its intended aim to do this, but it does provide a vast resource of information and knowledge to those who already work in field.
Department of Library and Information Science
Edith Cowan University
Elkins, John & Izard, John (Eds) (1992).
Student behaviour problems: Directions, perspectives and expectations.
Hawthorn: ACER. 213 pages. Paperback. $34.95
This book is a collection of selected papers from the 1992 National Conference on Student Behaviour Problems conducted by the Development and Training Division of the Australian Council for Educational Research. The theme of the conference was the emotional and behavioural problems of children and adolescents.
The book is divided into three sections: perspectives on behaviour problems; initiatives by schools and systems; and programs in special settings. This division is somewhat misleading as most of the papers are actually reports of programs and interventions at varying levels of service delivery. The one paper taking a theoretical perspective on behaviour problems, rather than a description of a specific program, is a paper by Sandra Renew that takes a discourse analysis perspective on gender and violence.
Other papers that may be of interest include two by Western Australian Senior School Psychologist, Chris Gostelow; one on a statewide youth suicide prevention program; and another on dealing with grief reactions in a high school following the widely publicised killing of a student on campus. There are also a good number of papers dealing with interventions at a school and system level, that provide quite detailed descriptions of programs and techniques.
This is a book that would appeal to people working in the field of emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents, whether at the policy or implementation levels of service. The book also contains a useful list of participants, allowing for readers to contact directly authors of papers who arouse interest and promote national networks in the area. The 1993 National Conference, to be held in Perth during September, will also be publishing a collection of selected papers that will add to the series.
Faculty of Education
Edith Cowan University
Liddy, Nevile (Ed.). (1991).
Proceedings of Logo and Mathematics Education Conference.
Hawthorn: ACER. 182 pages. $34.95
The introduction to the proceedings alludes to the fact that Logo has been around for two decades and while there have been some "spectacular successes", "its potential remains unfulfilled". For the uninitiated, Logo is a special computer programming environment with a major graphics component which was developed by Seymour Papert to create flexible "microworld" learning environments. Typically, educators who are familiar with Logo tend to be either extreme enthusiasts or sceptics who wonder what all the fuss is about. While there have been educators from a number of subject disciplines who have developed applications of Logo, it is usually associated with mathematics education and in Australia is mainly used in mathematics learning programmes, particularly at the upper primary level. Recently the connection between Logo and the Lego Technics products has opened up new learning potentials, particularly in science and computing.
The proceedings ofthe LME5 conference is presented as 12 chapters, divided into four sections. The first section, titled Building microworlds, presents four case studies of applications of Logo to classroom learning, two using Lego technics and two using the graphics component of Logo. The second section, Social and cultural dimensions, presents three theoretical papers by Logo enthusiasts. As usual these papers extol the virtues of Logo in terms of constructivist theory, collaborative learning and a variety of theoretical frameworks. The third section, Thinking recursively, outlines work by three educators to develop applications to present the concept of recursion in mathematics. The final section, Challenging the curriculum, presents a report from a research project concerned with integrating Logo into secondary mathematics education and a paper discussing the prospects of Logo in the future.
While the proceedings provide a range of mathematical applications of Logo and set a theoretical framework for the use of Logo in learning, they provide nothing new in either area. Those who have not encountered Logo before and have an interest to do so would find the proceedings valuable and interesting. Those who have been reading about Logo for decades and have experienced its use will find little to interest or enthuse about in these proceedings.
Personally, only the chapter on the research project concerned with integrating Logo into secondary mathematics education caught my eye. But on reading the chapter I was disappointed. The methodology of the project was highly suspect and the results were once again inconclusive. But in typical Logo enthusiast fashion the author proceeded to try to make a case for his beliefs out of statistically non-significant differences in means. After stating that there were no sign)ficant differences, the author goes on to say, "some of the figures suggest trends which would be worth some follow-up". Therefore, I must say that this paper and the proceedings in general reinforced my belief that, while Logo had laudable aims and may evolve into something important in the future, it is still for enthusiasts and still lacks the tangible credibility required to impact sign)ficantly on learning in Australian schools.
In my opinion it is unfortunate that the focus of a conference should be Logo, a programming environment, rather than "learning in mathematics" or even "using computers to support some particular style of learning in mathematics". While many of the papers provide useful models for learning, to then suggest that Logo is the primary way to achieve those objectives is very narrow focus. However, I am aware that Logo enthusiasts are not alone in this pursuit as there are Hypercard in Education Conferences and other such technically-focused computer education conferences presented. My hope is that when computer technology becomes so user friendly that every teacher can competently use one, these type of conferences will be seen for what they are: irrelevant, and the presenters will tum their attention to the more central concerns of learning and technology support of learning.
Faculty of Education
Edith Cowan University
© 1993 Issues in Educational Research
Last revision: 5 Dec 2013. This URL: http://www.iier.org.au/iier3/bookrevs.html
Previous URL: http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/iier3/bookrevs.html
Previous URL from 3 July 1997 to 7 Aug 2001: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.edu.au/gen/iier/iier3/93p56.htm
HTML: Clare McBeath [firstname.lastname@example.org] and Roger Atkinson [email@example.com]