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).
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.