In what is now standard fashion, yesterday’s education reform announcement by the Prime Minister was leaked ahead of time, an increasing and increasingly annoying media management practice that entirely negates the point of actually delivering a speech.
But the announcement was unusual in that there was so little detail — it actually felt like we were less informed after Julia Gillard’s speech than before.
The government has an Olympic-like aspiration to achieve a top-five position for the Australian education system by 2025; it will legislate to establish the framework to achieve that by next year; it accepts the funding model proposed in the Gonski review; it will negotiate with the states to deliver it. Beyond that, nothing.
No indication of how much the Commonwealth was willing to commit, given how cash-strapped state governments are. No indication — Peter Garrett skilfully dodged the question when Lyndal Curtis put it to him yesterday — of how the magic-pudding commitment that all schools would be better off related to the funding model and indexation. No indication of what impact lifting entry standards for education courses would have on the number of teachers being trained. Just a lot of aspiration. And, of course, no explanation of where funding would come from, beyond the inevitable incantation of “tough decisions”.
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Knowing the reflexive aversion of the Abbott opposition to anything proposed by the government, and knowing that state governments are likely to insist they can’t afford such a massive injection of funds over the long term, one might be forgiven for thinking that yesterday was more about setting up a fight with the Coalition at both state and federal levels on an issue where the government knows it has strong public backing, rather than the preparations of a government willing to enter good-faith negotiations to secure an outcome in the national interest.
It bodes poorly for hopes of securing lasting reform of a profoundly flawed educational funding model.