STILL LEARNING: Dr Geoffrey Swan, 87, of Eastern Heights, has graduated with a Masters of Arts (Research) at QUT.
STILL LEARNING: Dr Geoffrey Swan, 87, of Eastern Heights, has graduated with a Masters of Arts (Research) at QUT. David Nielsen

Love of learning doesn’t stop for oldest graduate

DOCTOR Geoffrey Swan is officially QUT's oldest graduate, receiving his Master of Arts (Research) at the age of 87.

Dr Swan, from Ipswich, worked as a teacher then as a school inspector and already held a PhD and two Masters degrees before this week's graduation.

He said he has used his passion for education history to secure his latest qualification.

"I taught in schools in Ipswich 60 years ago in the days before special schools were established," he said.

"Education is the means to a better life, it's a tremendous thing."

Dr Swan has worked with special schools extensively and was a founder of the Endeavour Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation supporting people with disabilities.

The 87-year-old's thesis, titled The Rise and Demise of the Inspector of Schools in Queensland, takes a candid look at the influences that led to the removal of the school inspector role, a position he held for 14 years with much devotion.

He held the position of inspector of schools working with special education institutions after starting his career in special education teaching in 1953.

Dr Swan said school inspectors made a valuable contribution during their time, acting as the vital link between teachers and the Director-General, and the enforcer of guidelines and standards in schools.


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"School inspectors had a really difficult job," Dr Swan said.

"In the very early days, they had to travel between schools on horse or coach, and for longer journeys used the coastal shipping routes and railways, setting up camp when they arrived."

According to Dr Swan, school inspectors weren't often popular with teachers.

"Teachers, many of whom were poorly trained and incompetent, were hostile towards inspectors whose role it was to correct any shortcoming," he said.

"But as time moved on and as teachers moved away from 'on the job' training to departmental-controlled teachers' colleges and eventually independent training in colleges and universities, they became more independent and confident in their task.

"Inspectors, too, improved their education, being drawn from the teaching ranks.

"However, teachers never seemed to enjoy a friendly working relationship with inspectors, and with the establishment of the Queensland Teachers' Union, hostility increased."

Dr Swan said the ultimate downfall of the school inspector was the turbulent times between 1982-89 when there was a noticeable change in the function and relationship between the Education Minister and the Director General, and an increasing politicisation of education.

The graduate from Coalfalls said he has no plans to slow down after receiving his most recent qualification.

"Now that I have finished my latest Masters, I am writing two more articles, one looking at my time at the Kelvin Grove Teachers College and another at how children in Queensland have learnt to read," he said.

"I have never wanted to stop and I don't have any plans to do that just yet."

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