SUBJECTS: Star Wars; homework; teacher workforce; NAPLAN; the power of education
BRYCE CORBETT: Hello, and welcome to this very special edition of the Squiz Kids Q&A, the podcast where you, the kids of Australia, get to ask the questions. I'm Bryce Corbett, and joining us today in the Squiz Kids Q&A hot seat is none other than the Federal Education Minister himself, Jason Clare. Now, as the Minister in the Federal Government responsible for schools and education right around the country, it's not a stretch to say that more than any other politician in Australia, this man has a big influence over your day to day lives. So let's plonk him in the hot seat and get him to answer the questions that you've sent in. Minister, welcome to Squiz Kids.
JASON CLARE: Well thanks for having me, this is awesome.
CORBETT: Now as well as being the Minister for Education, you're a dad of two boys and if my reading of your Instagram account is right, you're also something of a massive Star Wars fan. Can you tell us a bit about how that came to be?
CLARE: I grew up with Star Wars at the movies and I was just blown away by the clash between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Between good and evil. And so my office here in Parliament House is full of memorabilia from Star Wars. I've got a Mandalorian helmet here right on my desk and I'm just trying to convince my little boys that Star Wars is just as exciting as Spider-Man.
CORBETT: How's that going?
CLARE: At the moment they think Spider-Man's better, but I still hold out hope.
CORBETT: Who's your favourite Star Wars character and which one is your favourite film?
CLARE: It's got to be Luke Skywalker. When I was a little boy at primary school, I desperately wanted to be Luke Skywalker when I grew up. And my favourite movie is Return of the Jedi. A lot of teachers that love Star Wars will be thinking, hang on, Empire Strikes Back is the best movie. But the baddies win in Empire Strikes Back. And the goodies win in Return of the Jedi. And that's why that's my favourite.
CORBETT: Yeah, excellent point. Now you're in Canberra, as we speak, in the middle of what's called sitting week in Parliament Which sounds like a very busy time and it's also why we really appreciate you taking the time to take the Squiz Kids hot seat and answer questions from our audience shall we jump straight in?
CLARE: Yeah, let's do it.
CORBETT: Alrighty, and our first question comes from Lola who's from Parkinson in Queensland take it away Lola.
Hi, my name is Lola, and I'm 11 years old and I live in Parkinson. My question is what do you need to know before becoming an education minister?
CLARE: This is a really unusual job. You actually don't need to do a course at university like you would if you're going to become a doctor or a lawyer or a nurse or a school teacher. You get elected to Parliament and then the Prime Minister asks you to do the job.
The best and most important thing that you need to do in a job like this is you've got to be a good listener. When I was little, I remember my Mum telling me that you've got two ears and one mouth, and that I should spend twice as much time listening as I do talking. And politicians are known for talking and sometimes yelling, but I try in this job to listen and to listen to people who know a lot more about schools and education than I do and so I tend to spend a lot of time visiting schools and talking to teachers and principals but also students. Sometimes I'm doing it as a Dad, picking my kids up, but a lot of the times I'm doing it as Minister, to learn from the experts what are the things that we should do to make our education system better.
CORBETT: The importance of listening that's a good lesson for everybody. Now our next question comes from Zara, who comes from Bulimba in Brisbane.
Hi, my name is Zara. I'm 10 years old and I live in Bulimba. My question is, what primary school did you go to, who was your favourite teacher and what was your favourite subject?
CLARE: I went to Cabramatta Public School a long, long, long time ago, last century. My favourite teacher was Mrs Fry. Her first name's Cathy and she started there in 1978. And believe it or not, Cathy is still teaching at Cabramatta Public School today. Who knows, she might even be listening in. If you are, hey Cathy.
Mrs Fry is awesome and before I got this job, I'd occasionally go back to the school to say g'day and she would invite me to talk to her students and be part of the class.
When Anthony Albanese rang me and asked me to be Education Minister, the first thing I did was go back to my old primary school, Cabramatta Public School, and give Mrs. Fry a hug. I did that for a reason, because I wanted to make clear how important teachers are not just in my life, but how important our teachers are for all of us. They're the people that give us so much opportunity in life. The opportunity through learning to do whatever we want to do when we grow up.
CORBETT: Hallelujah to that. And what was your favourite subject when you were at primary school, Minister?
CLARE: You know, I think it was science. I was obsessed with planets and the solar system. And my little boy Jack is like that now too. He thinks about life as an astronaut now. And it was the idea of what's up in the sky that blew my mind when I was little.
CORBETT: Yeah, I hear you on that one. Now also from Brisbane here's a question from Gus in Norman Park and it's a probing one.
Hi, my name is Gus and I'm 10 years old and I live in Norman Park. My question is what is your favourite sport?
CLARE: I've got lots of favourite sports. When I was little, I played soccer and now my oldest boy Jack plays soccer. He plays it in the winter, he plays it in the summer, he plays it every day in the playground at school. It helps him to burn off all that energy that he's got. And when he gets home from school, he wants to play FIFA on the Nintendo Switch as well. And he's watched the Disney documentary I think three times about the Matildas. And if he was here on the podcast, he could tell you the names of every single player in the Matildas. The awesome success of the Matildas has helped encourage a lot of girls to want to play soccer this year and next year and into the future, but also a lot of boys as well. I know from my son that he is obsessed not just with soccer, but with the awesome success of the Matildas.
CORBETT: Now let's head down to Goulburn not far from where you are right now Minister where Oscar has a question.
Hi, my name is Oscar, I’m 12 years old and I live in Goulburn in NSW. My question is what is your opinion on the teacher shortage?
CLARE: This is a really important question. A lot of young people listening to this podcast, a lot of teachers in the classroom, will know that there aren't as many teachers in our classrooms as we need.
There aren't many jobs in our country more important than teachers and over the last ten years, we've seen a drop in the number of people that are going to university to become a teacher.
One of the big priorities for me is I want to help us to change that. I want more people when they finish high school to want to become a teacher rather than a lawyer or a banker and so one of the things that I'm doing to try to help to change that is offer scholarships which are worth up to $40,000 and they'll start in a couple of months’ time to encourage people who are at high school now about to finish high school to think about becoming a teacher rather than doing some other course.
The idea that teachers start at nine o'clock when the bell rings, and finish at three o'clock when the bell rings at the end of the day, is not true. Teachers do a lot of work before school and after school, often into the night and on the weekends and during school holidays. So, if we want more people to become teachers, and we desperately do, then it's about pay, it's about working conditions, it's about making sure that teachers have got more time to teach. But it's also about what we can do to encourage people when they're still at school to want to be a teacher. Those scholarships are an important part of that. And we're also taking steps to improve the university courses so that it's more helpful, so that when you finish the university course you're ready from day one to teach.
CORBETT: And it's a good reminder too Minister, to all the kids out there, to give some love to your teacher today, make sure they know how much you appreciate them. Down to Melbourne we go now for a question from Hope in Kew East.
Hello, my name is Hope, I'm 10 years old and I live in Kew East in Victoria. My question is, what are your ideas for improving education in Australia?
CLARE: That's a really, really good question. I think we've got a good education system in Australia, but it can be a lot better than it is at the moment and a lot fairer.
I want to make sure that we fund all of our schools across the country fairly. And we're not really doing that at the moment. Our public schools aren't funded to the level that they need to be, and I want to make sure that we use the extra funding that we need to put into our schools to make sure that we help children who really need help.
We know that some kids fall behind and often will stay behind, don't catch up and unlike last century when I went to school, nowadays almost every single job that's being created requires you to finish high school and then go on to TAFE or to university. So we need to make sure that we're doing the right things, funding all of the resources that teachers need in primary school so the children who need a bit of extra help get it.
CORBETT: Yeah, excellent to hear. Ethan has a question now, which we had a lot of kids writing in wanting to ask you. That question is...
Hi, my name is Ethan I'm 10 years old and I live in Melbourne in Victoria. My question is why do we have to do homework?
CLARE: My personal view is it's a really good way to practice what you've learned at school to help to make sure that you remember it and then you can apply it when you're back the next day. I know with Jack, my little boy who's in first class at the moment, that it helps me as a parent to know what he's learned at school and the areas where he needs to do more work. So, it's really helpful for me as a parent but really important I think for Jack to be able to go through the stuff that he's learned at school as well.
CORBETT: Yeah absolutely. Sorry kids of Australia, the Minister of Education is recommending homework. There you have it.
CLARE: Yeah, sorry.
CORBETT: Let's go now to Frida in Balaclava in Melbourne with a question about NAPLAN.
Hi, my name is Frida and I'm 10 years old from Balaclava in Victoria. My question is about NAPLAN. My mama says NAPLAN is not all that useful because it doesn't test how kind you are or how good of a friend you are or how well you can sing and dance or play a sport. Do you agree?
CLARE: That's absolutely right. It doesn't measure everything. It doesn't measure many of the things that are so important in life like the sort of person you are. But it does help us to understand where you are with reading and writing and spelling and maths. All of those things are really important for teachers and parents so that your teacher knows where you're at and whether you need extra help, whether Mum and Dad know where you're at, and whether you need extra support. And also in my job as the Minister to make sure that with the funding that we need to invest in our schools, that we direct that funding to help those children who need that extra support.
CORBETT: Now here is a question minister, which perhaps needs a little bit of context. Claudia from Coorparoo has a question about misinformation and social media after her class recently completed Newshounds, a Squiz Kids free media literacy program for primary school kids.
Hi, I'm Claudia, I'm 11 years old and I live in Coorparoo. We've been doing the Newshounds program at school where Squiz-E the Newshound teaches us to stop, think and check before believing everything we see, read or hear online. How important is it for kids to be taught how to spot fake news and misinformation?
CLARE: The answer is really important. There is so much information out there that it can be tricky to you know to work out what's true and what's not and so being good detectives and spotting fake news is a really important skill to have. So my message is remember what Squiz-E the newshound says. Stop, think and check.
CORBETT: Absolutely, hallelujah to that. Here's a question now from Felix, who's nine and lives in Moorooka in Brisbane. And he is a little puzzled by what exactly it is you do down there in Canberra.
Sometimes we watch politicians in Canberra on the news and they always seem to be shouting at each other. Why do they do that? If I did that in class I'd be sent out.
CLARE: Good question Felix. Sometimes it looks more like a football match than a classroom or a parliament. And sometimes that's what happens when you have 150 people all in a room and half of them are on one side cheering for one team, and half of them are on the other side cheering for the other team. It looks and sounds more like you're at the footy or the soccer than in Parliament and I can understand why you look at it and you say, “why are people shouting?” Or mums and dads shake their heads and think that all of these politicians are behaving badly and sometimes they are and it's not a good look. The only thing I'd say to Felix is that's one part of the day in Parliament that's called ‘question time’ where all the politicians are there. And for the rest of the day, it's usually the opposite. Where there's only one or two or three or four politicians in there and they're making speeches and it's often very, very quiet. And usually, well behaved.
CORBETT: We'll take your word for that. And finally, a question from Otto, who lives in beautiful tea gardens on the NSW Mid North Coast.
Hi, my name is Otto. I am 7 years old and I live in Tea Gardens, NSW. My question is, what's the most important thing you've learned when you were in primary school?
CLARE: Thanks Otto. My little guy Jack, he asked me when I got this job last year, and he was in kindergarten last year, he said, “Dad, are you in charge of school now?” And I said, “well, sort of”. And remember, he's only been at school for maybe, two or three months at this point. He says, “Dad, can you ring my teacher, and tell her that I'm not coming back?” And as I thought, oh, what am I going to say? And Jack's obsessed with the Matildas now, but this time last year he was obsessed with Spider-Man and wanted to be a superhero. And I said to Jack, “going to school gives you superpowers. Because it's what you learn at school. It's what the teacher teaches you. It's what you learn from your friends as well. That will give you the power to be whatever you want when you grow up.” So the lesson that I learned at school about the power of education, which I'm trying to instil in Jack too, and to everybody that's listening, that it's what you learn at school that gives you superpowers. It's what you learn at school. It gives you the opportunity to be whatever you want to be. Everything that you dream of at night, you can do when you grow up. But it's school that gives you the chance to do that.
CORBETT: Amazing, and what a wonderful note to end on. Minister, that is officially a wrap. We really appreciate you taking the time to chat to us.
CLARE: Thanks Bryce. I really enjoyed the chance to speak to all the kids and parents and teachers out there. To all the students, keep working hard at school, and a big thank you to all the parents and teachers. For the hard work that you do to make sure that our children get a great education.
CORBETT: Now, if this is the first time you've stumbled across us, during the school term, Squiz Kids is a daily news podcast made just for kids. A kid-friendly take on the big news headlines, fun, free, fresh. And teachers. Don't forget about Newshounds, our free media literacy resource teaching primary school kids how to spot misinformation when they come across it online. An eight-part podcast series with accompanying classroom workbook and teacher manual currently being trialled by no fewer than 1,700 schools around the country.
Check it all out at squizkids.com.au or simply subscribe to Squiz Kids in your favourite podcasting app. For now, though, this is Bryce Corbett signing off, and as is customary with our Q&As, we're going to ask our special guest to do the traditional Squiz Kids sign-off.
CLARE: Now get out there and have a most excellent day.