Bess Davey 0

MGSE students object to cuts

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Dear John Hattie,

This petition is a document containing the signatures of a significant number of enrolled students at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education who strongly object to recent decisions about cuts being made to staff and our curriculum.

We have two core concerns: 1) we have heard that key subjects will have the face-to-face teaching hours cut back next year and 2) many of our experienced lecturers and tutors are facing job cuts.

In relation to the cuts to subjects, we are very alarmed about the effects on courses such as Educational Foundations and Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms. The reduction of face-to-face hours in these subjects reflects poorly on the MGSE’s dedication to upholding high standards of academic rigor and progressive vision in education. We believe that the university could better manage fiscal cuts without compromising these core aforementioned values.

As a cohort we see great value in courses such as Educational Foundations and Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms and believe that the hours of class time dedicated to them is already unsatisfactory. We worry that if these face-to-face hours are further reduced, future Master of Teaching students will not be given sufficient opportunity to explore the ideas presented in these courses, which we consider to be of vital importance. It is unreasonable that at a Masters level the units that most encourage us to engage in critical and theoretical discussion about inclusive pedagogies are being slashed.

The skills and knowledge we are learning in these courses provide a broad foundation from which we will teach throughout our careers. We will undoubtedly have opportunities after graduating to develop content knowledge of the subjects we teach, however it will be significantly harder to find moments in which we can sit with our peers and engage in in-depth discussion around the nature of inclusive education and what it represents on a social and philosophical level. We have found the structure and dynamic of Educational Foundations and Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms unique among other courses in our timetable in that they operate on a basis of student input and debate. They provide a safe and supportive environment in which students from all backgrounds are encouraged to work through complex ideas by engaging in challenging discussions, rather than shying away from them. This would not be possible if the courses were moved online or absorbed into other areas of the Master’s curriculum. Separate and dedicated class time is needed in order for students to adequately engage with this material.

In regards to the job cuts, we are concerned about the kinds of experience and expertise that will potentially be lost through the MGSE reducing certain areas of its workforce. We have received little information about why staff are being cut, what justification there is for this and how this might impact our experience here at the MGSE as Masters students, particularly in relation to the courses mentioned above. We believe we are being well prepared to be committed and expert teachers through this course but it is also incredibly demanding and we need to know that we will have the support that we need. We know that a number of our lecturers and tutors have worked here for many years and established vital connections with local and global communities. We are very concerned that these connections will be impacted by the proposed reduction of staff at the MGSE in 2018.

This letter, and the number of signatures accompanying it, highlights your need to address these issues. Please consider the message you are sending to your current and future cohorts. You are demonstrating that you do not prioritise critical discussion nor the need to provide an example of world leading teaching methodology in relation to inclusive education. The way you treat your staff is also concerning to students and you should be aware that we stand with them in demanding that no jobs are lost in this process. There must be another way and we urge you to go back to the Vice Chancellor and argue for greater respect for the MGSE, its staff and its students.

We, a group of student representatives, are available to discuss the matter further if you would like to arrange a time to meet with us.

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