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Research hub aims to raise school standards

The federal government has committed up to AU$16 million for a research centre focussed on learning processes, the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced on 6 July.

The objective is to improve school education by identifying new teaching practices.

The initiative follows recommendations made by a Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) task-force in 2009.

The task-force recommended the establishment of a Science of Learning Programme, to be delivered through a number of interdisciplinary, inter-professional centres.

“The research would address practical problems that hinder learning, from the basic science of optimizing learning through to tackling issues relating to Indigenous learners, learners in regional and remote locations, and learners from underprivileged backgrounds”, the group said.

Through the Special Research Initiatives scheme, under the auspices of the ARC, the government has now implemented the recommendation. Funding of up to AU$4 million a year over a period of up to four years has been committed.

The centre will draw together researchers from disciplines such as neuroscience, cognitive development, pedagogy and educational technology.

In line with priorities proposed by the PMSEIC working group, research will cover a range of geographic, demographic and socio-economic groups including Indigenous communities, according to the programme guidelines.

Cooperation across sectors is essential to the scheme, the government’s funding guidelines state. “Collaboration with live educational settings, families and educational groups will be integral to the centre’s program to test the transfer of new insights in the learning process into practice,” say the guidelines.

The government hopes the scheme will boost Australia’s research capacity by attracting high-calibre international scientists and promising research students to the country.