Archives for posts with tag: research

We all seem to be agreed that there have been huge advances made in world knowledge in the past 30+ years yet we tend not to take this, and its implications, any further. My oft expressed feeling is that much of the increase has bypassed many of our leaders on the world stage and they don’t recognise its how dangerous this is. For example, it is nearly 50 years since Trump went anywhere near a text-book, assuming he hasn’t done so since he did his undergraduate degree. Much of the knowledge revolution will have bypassed him and others in similar positions of influence and power.

An even bigger disadvantage of this ‘head in the sand’ attitude to learning is that much of the new knowledge will also bypass our young people in school unless we realise what is happening. We can’t continue with this ‘what was good enough for us is good enough for them’ attitude. We live in a world of new and progressive knowledge and it is dangerous to try to pretend it isn’t happening.

A few years ago we had a review of our education system in Australia and seemed to take the view that real change was largely too expensive so lets forget about it. Some of the changes will be implemented, such as new equipment, but much won’t be, particularly ideas which enable teachers to have a new attitude and provide an environment in which their creativity can be enabled. Far too much stress, and money, is currently directed at national testing which at best is severely limited. The current model includes labelling the neighbourhoods in which schools are located in terms of economic status! Thank goodness nobody labelled me at school. My life would have taken a very different path and would have been unlikely to include 5 degrees, with 3 higher degrees and a Ph.D!

School principals should be the knowledge leaders in their schools, which implies updating their qualifications, leaving the everyday running of the school to non-teachers. This would enable them to concentrate on bringing out the creativity in their teaching staff and providing an environment in which this could flourish. True and productive leadership.

A few weeks ago I attended an assembly at a local primary school. It was beautifully coordinated, with children involved as much as possible but on the teachers’ terms. The children sang well, standing tall and with their arms neatly tucked in beside them, a good reflection of 20th century discipline! A modern 21st century school would have had the children fully participating, letting their bodies express the music too. Ownership was well and truly in the hands of the staff.

To me full participation means that the children are really immersed in their learning, whether it be music, robotics, English or mathematics or any other subject, and it isn’t compartmentalised into what happens inside the often prisonlike school structures and the external learning which defines the world we live in. The two worlds would be complementary.

Schools seem to have changed little in the last 50 years, with only marginal improvements in class size and replacement of blackboards etc. The change we need is to recognise that our teachers are artists and should be given freedom to use their imaginations and be recognised as the backbone and strength of the system. This would help to marry what is taught and learned in schools to be applicable to the world outside. I suspect our failure rate, and drop out rate amongst the students, would decline and teachers would have more pride in their work and be less likely to drop out themselves. Real, up-to-date modern education.

I seem to have become involved in a jigsaw recently which I would rather not have participated in.

It started when I read an article about the importance of management in the success of a company. If management don’t appreciate their staff, and make them aware of how much they are valued, it has disastrous consequences. This shows in a high rate of ‘sickies’ among staff and high staff turnover rates. With the former it means carrying extra staff where their presence is necessary, such as in hospitals and nursing homes. For all businesses having to regularly replace staff who resign is expensive, thus raising operating costs.

The second part of the jigsaw was learning that our local public hospital has the highest sickie rate of any of the comparable facilities in the area. The person in charge blamed the nurses, apparently unaware that research shows that the blame in such situations lies with management. Worse still I have since been told that their figures have deteriorated further this year.

The third and final puzzle piece was when the safety officer of a major hospital in the U.S. was quoted as saying that the greatest threat to the safety of the patients was the relationship between the staff. Put these pieces together and I hope that neither I, my family or my friends have to be admitted to this local hospital.

The situation was brought home to me recently when a family member went into hospital, fortunately to another one, a private one. What struck me was the wonderful relationship between the staff, from the nurse in charge of the ward to the trainee nurse doing a university placement there. Both said how much they enjoyed their work. The older one said she had worked there for 17 years. What impressed me even more was that this was 21st century care as it wasn’t just the medical care that was done as a team but they also included patients and visitors who were given the impression that they were also part of the team. This is commendable as of course they all have a role to play in patient recovery.

This recognition of team work, rather than the hierarchical model which characterised the last century, is valuable knowledge to enable all organisations to reach the highest standards in all aspects of their work, leading to higher productivity. It is absolutely necessary in all businesses, but particularly where people’s lives and well-being are at risk.



Yesterday I attended a one day conference which was described as an aged care dialogue. It involved many of the top Australian researchers in the field (plus a couple of overseas ones) but I got the impression the dialogue was just intended to be among themselves, and was not intended to include people involved in the area or, heaven forbid, actual aged people.

The only person I found impressive was the Minister who not only gave a good presentation but had obviously gone around the country talking to older people, listening to them and learning from them. I get really cranky that our views are rarely asked for either by the researchers or the government staff employed in this area. It reminded me that I once presented a paper at a conference on ageing. I suggested that researchers should be working alongside older people (I’d already come across a couple of projects where this had happened and it resulted in much better research). The president-elect of the organisation who had organised the conference stood up and opposed the suggestion and added ‘Where will we get these older people from’. I told this story to an older farmer friend of mine who said in a lovely rustic drawl ‘has she tried opening her eyes’. It sounds as though too much research can be bad for you!

I pointed out to the Minister that he went around listening to the voices of older people but researchers tended not to and they should. He wasn’t prepared to say more than that it was a valid point. The trouble is that it is the researchers who contribute to policy and we older people need to be more vocal if our voices are to be heard otherwise policy will be made which doesn’t fit either us or our needs. In her talk the First Assistant Secretary, Ageing and Aged Care Division, Department of Health and Ageing, made the comment that even though she has intimate knowledge of the system she had difficulty finding accommodation for her parents last year. If people of that rank and with all that knowledge have problems then how are the rest of us going to fare, particularly if those doing the research and hence contributing to policy don’t talk to us, the users, so that we can get things changed to meet our needs. I would have thought that that was what aged care in particular should be about, not just academics having cosy chats amongst themselves.

This is why I think it is really important that older people over 65 become a loud voice. For those who don’t like speaking out in public I hope that this blog site will become a place where people can air their views. I’ll read them and bear them in mind next time someone at a conference asks ‘Does anyone have any questions?’. We older people certainly do.