It’s the debate that’s worth $3 billion. For the past three years, state and federal governments have been fighting it out over future of Australia’s schools. Does more funding equal better performance?
Education minister Simon Birmingham says the performance is not good enough at a time when there are record levels of funding being put into schools, which has grown by around 23 per cent over the last three years.
The situation has now come to a head after the Federal Government withdrew its support for the final two years of the Gonski Funding Agreement.
Gonski was supposed to redirect funding to the schools ‘most in need’ with the highest number of disadvantaged and poorly educated children.
However, Malcolm Turnbull confirmed in the 2016 Budget the Government would provide $3 billion less in funding than was negotiated by the states with Gillard Government in 2012.
The state’s political leaders have been left aghast.
“Anyone who argues money doesn’t matter in schools is wrong,” New South Wales education minister Adrian Piccoli says.
However, Birmingham says funding the full six years of Gonski is “unsustainable” and that those record levels of funding over the last few years have not generated improved results from our schools.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its major education ‘report card’ that compared the school systems and higher education in 35 advanced economies.
Education at a Glance highlights Australia’s world-class education system, but it also confirms what Simon Birmingham has been saying.
A close look at the report shows there has been a 14 per cent increase in spending per student over the last 10 years, yet Australia’s performance in national and international assessments have not improved. In some cases, the performance has gone backward.
The report also highlights that Australian teachers have bigger classes (an average of 24 in Australia when the OECD average is 21) and more teaching hours (11:9) than the OECD average.
Questions are now being raised about whether or not every child will get a ‘fair’ education.
In these days of open-plan, computer-equipped classrooms where there is a wide variety of subjects in which to study, gender equality and restrictions on discipline, it can be hard for a student today to understand what getting an education was like in the ’50s, ’60s’ and ’70s.