Feb 25, 2013

Gonski’s education revolution demolished in a weekend

Within a single weekend a long debate over education reform took a dramatic and probably doomed turn. States have revolted on David Gonski's plan, bouyed a likely Coalition government in Canberra.

Dean Ashenden

Education consultant and commentator

Gonski had a bad weekend.

The most recent in a long series of backward steps came on Friday when the Prime Minister announced the reform plan drafted by David Gonski — once scheduled for full implementation this year — will be phased in over five years from 2014. The next day Victorian Premier Baillieu announced Victoria has a better, cheaper alternative to Gonski and will go with that. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman promptly declared himself very attracted to the Victorian plan.

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11 thoughts on “Gonski’s education revolution demolished in a weekend

  1. Gavin Moodie

    Yes, very depressing. All the more so because at least as I understand Ashenden’s earlier analysis, Gonski was never the solution but the removal of obstacles to better schooling.

    Presumably the private schools will do ok out of Pyne and Abbott, but if they continue to increase their share of enrolments the current funding arrangements will be insupportable, even for a Coalition government. So private schools’ long term interests would be served better by the good deal they get out of Gonski than the deal they would get should school funding reach crisis.

  2. Hominoid

    Yet another reason to get rid of the states. There just isn’t a big enough population or political talent pool to justify their existence anymore. Julia Gillard is way more talented than any state leader and has more policy smarts and capacity for hard policy graft than the lot of them combined. That education, of all things, should be a political football is a disgrace. Qld the smart state? Not with a dumb, venal Premier. We will become a nation of idiots at this rate, and the Tories like that idea, lest the masses revolt against their self awarded right to power, wealth and privilege.

  3. Microseris

    Conservatives will need someone to do their menial, low paid work.

  4. CML

    The “underclass” will wake up one day and realize what the Conservative/right-wing forces in this country are trying to do to their children. I don’t think they know that there is more of the former and less of the latter in this society.
    Oh! for the day this information is widely accepted. Bring on the revolution!!

  5. Damien

    I agree that Abbott is unlikely to want to move away from the Howard era SES private school funding model. But I disagree that there have been no demonstrable impacts of additional school funding over the last 50 years. It completely ignores the growth in digital literacy which was non-existent back then. The point is that the additional funding was mainly spent on hardware such as computer infrastructure, laptops and similar resources which is really capital and not program expenditure.

    Similarly, evidence about the inefficiency of small class sizes is contested. It seems self-evident, however, that a junior primary class of 20 is going to have more success with basic literacy than a class of 35. See today’s SMH article with Chris Richardson’s critique of the Government’s short-term analysis of literacy results. Taken over a 10 year period, results have improved. PISA is also a dodgy indicator, really not fit for the international comparison purpose.

    Also, the Coalition, like all Federal governments since Whitlam, does want to exert more control over school administration including forcing adoption of ideologically driven changes, such as more principal autonomy. The states will, as usual, bargain and receive additional funds in return. It will also have an impact on Catholic systemic schools – by far the largest provider of private schooling in the country. These schools didn’t fare as well as the independents under the Howard SES funding formula and would like change. The bishops are unlikely to agree to significant loss of centralised control over the 25 per cent of school they run without an enormous sweetener in the form of significant additional cash up front- and even then they might not take the extra funds.

    Finally, Dr Ashenden is correct. Susan Ryan found that the only way to implement any type of education funding reform was on a “no losers” basis. The problem is that the Howard SES formula so outrageously favoured the independent school sector that they produced ridiculous, well documented inequities between public funding of elite schools and the rest. Further changes on a no losers basis will simply lock those inequities in for all time. He won’t do Gonski, but the pressure will remain on the next government to do something.

  6. burninglog

    It is often said that people don’t devote much thinking to who they’ll vote for in an election until a week out from the election.

    I think as “crunch time” for Gonski draws near, more & more people will want the Gonski findings to become law

  7. Rena Zurawel

    The whole discussion about the educational system in Australia is a hogwash.
    We need better academic standards, memory retention exercises and the development of both analysis and synthesis techniques.
    Both private and government schools fail the students.
    A 14 year old student, born in Whyalla, from a ‘very poshy’ (read; expensive school in Adelaide) has never heard about St. Vincent or Spencer’s Gulf!!!!
    But a 7 year old boy from catholic school in Gold Coast knows that his menstruating girlfriend cannot get pregnant!
    I am just wondering: if nuns are so busy with studying and teaching sex education, when do they have time to pray?

    An Australian girl graduated from Sydney uni, with a PhD in physics from an American university, could not get a job in a high school as a teacher of physics in Australia.
    What qualifications does a teacher need to teach sex education???

    I have recently seen a science textbook year 9 and I still cannot recover from the shock!. Academically, it is rubbish, and it looks like the author just copied down from the Internet some articles for a primary school students with learning problems. Lots of colourfull pictures.
    Very enigmaic is the title of this textbook: it is called SCIENCE.

    We are still bickering about money …. no one really cares for the standars of teaching..

  8. Gavin Moodie

    The self evidence that ‘a junior primary class of 20 is going to have more success with basic literacy than a class of 35′ is not borne out by the research.

    John Hattie reviewed hundreds of studies of the effects of class size on pupils’ attainment to find that on average class size improves pupils’ attainment by 0.21 of a standard deviation, less than the average of from 0.34 to 0.23 that pupils gain just by growing older and being in school for a year longer.

    Hattie posits that this is because teachers don’t change their teaching methods for classes of different sizes. It is teachers’ teaching, not the size of their classes that affects pupils’ learning.

    Hattie, John (2009) Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, Routledge, London and New York.

  9. David Coles

    Get a grip Dean. This is all about scoring political points to boost the chance that the LNP will get in to government. Nothing to do with education reform. Instead of despair surely anyone who cares about education reform should be focused on ensuring that anyone who is seen to stuff this reform up is well aware that a price will be exacted on them at the ballot box.

  10. Gavin Moodie

    Since Baillieu and Newman are doing their best to undermine Gonski, presumably they will suffer the electoral consequences.

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