GONSKI 2.0: How should fund­ing be al­lo­cated?

Com­put­ers, tablets, cod­ing and smaller class sizes are not so­lu­tions to Aus­tralia’s ed­u­ca­tion woes, ac­cord­ing to na­tional think-tank the Cen­tre for In­de­pen­dent Stud­ies (CIS).

The Australian Education Reporter - - NEWS - EL­IZ­A­BETH FABRI

A sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in school spend­ing over the last 10 years, cou­pled with de­clin­ing lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy stan­dards, has prompted ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als to speak up about how the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s $23.5 bil­lion Gonski 2.0 decade-long plan should be spent to im­prove stu­dent out­comes.

CIS ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy an­a­lyst Blaise Joseph – au­thor of Get­ting the most out of Gonski 2.0: The ev­i­dence base for school

in­vest­ments – urged schools to not fall into the trap of splurg­ing on tech­nol­ogy, and in­stead in­vest in im­prov­ing teacher qual­ity with ev­i­dence-based train­ing.

“Aus­tralian schools al­ready use tech­nol­ogy sig­nif­i­cantly more than most of the OECD and high-achiev­ing coun­tries,” Mr Joseph said.

“There is con­flict­ing ev­i­dence in the re­cent re­search on the topic, but over­all there is no clear link be­tween stu­dent achieve­ment and the level of in­vest­ment in class­room tech­nol­ogy.

“In­vest­ments in tech­nol­ogy also have the po­ten­tial to both be ex­pen­sive and quickly be­come ob­so­lete.

“One ex­am­ple of this was the Rudd and Gillard Gov­ern­ments’ ‘Dig­i­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Revo­lu­tion’ pro­gram, which was sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive than orig­i­nally es­ti­mated, had many im­ple­men­ta­tion is­sues, and was not linked at all to im­proved lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy.”

Mr Joseph ad­dressed three ar­eas for im­prove­ment; early lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy, giv­ing teach­ers less classes and more time out­side the class­room, and ef­fec­tive class­room man­age­ment train­ing for staff.

“In­ter­ven­tion to help stu­dents who are un­der­achiev­ing in lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy is more ef­fec­tive in early pri­mary years than in later school­ing,” he said.

“Phon­ics are an es­sen­tial part of the re­quired mea­sures to ef­fec­tively teach read­ing…how­ever, teach­ers’ ed­u­ca­tion de­grees do not equip them with the lan­guage knowl­edge nec­es­sary to ef­fec­tively teach read­ing; and phon­ics in­struc­tion is not con­sis­tently taught well in Aus­tralian schools.

“Pri­mary school teach­ers could be helped by at­tend­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment specif­i­cally to im­prove teach­ing of read­ing and phon­ics in­struc­tion.”

Mr Joseph said Aus­tralian teach­ers were also spend­ing more time each day teach­ing in class com­pared to OECD and top per­form­ing coun­tries.

“This means, all else be­ing equal, Aus­tralian teach­ers have less time to plan, re­fine, and re­view their lessons,” he said.

“It would be ben­e­fi­cial to give teach­ers fewer daily classes so they can have more time out­side the class­room to im­prove their teach­ing.

“The ex­tra cost of this ap­proach would be min­i­mal if it was off­set by other sav­ings, such as by in­creas­ing class sizes or mak­ing teach­ing hours more pro­por­tional to teacher ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Poor stu­dent be­hav­iour also had proven neg­a­tive ef­fects on stu­dent achieve­ment, but re­search showed Aus­tralian ed­u­ca­tion de­grees did not pro­vide ev­i­dence-based class­room man­age­ment prac­tices to pre­pare teach­ers.

Fed­eral Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing min­is­ter Si­mon Birm­ing­ham agreed that to achieve best ed­u­ca­tional per­for­mance the sys­tem must look at how fund­ing was used in schools, and not just how much was spent.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment re­cently launched a Re­view to Achieve Ed­u­ca­tional Ex­cel­lence in Aus­tralian Schools, chaired by David Gonski, to as­sess how the fund­ing should be spent to im­prove stu­dent per­for­mance.

The re­view was opened up for pub­lic sub­mis­sions in Septem­ber, with a fi­nal re­port to be de­liv­ered to Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull by March 2018.

“This Re­view is about de­ter­min­ing the best ev­i­dence-based prac­tices for our stu­dents that will help guide how our schools and ed­u­ca­tors fo­cus the ex­tra re­sources we’re de­liv­er­ing in class­rooms,” Mr Birm­ing­ham said.

“The in­put of ed­u­ca­tors, aca­demics and peo­ple at the coal face of our school sys­tem com­bined with the lead­er­ship and ex­per­tise of Mr Gonski and his panel will be in­valu­able to guid­ing how our record lev­els of fund­ing for stu­dents should be used most ef­fec­tively.”

Fig­ure 2:Class sizes in Aus­tralia with in­ter­na­tional com­par­isons Aus­tralian teach­ers spend more time in the class­room than their OECD and top per­form­ing coun­ter­parts.

Fig­ure 1: Teacher class time in Aus­tralia with in­ter­na­tional com­par­isons Aus­tralian class sizes are higher than the OECD av­er­age, but still smaller than Sin­ga­pore and Ja­pan.

Cen­tre for in­de­pen­dent stud­ies ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy an­a­lyst Blaise Joseph.

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