The education revolution that wasn’t. Education is back in the headlines, but in a most peculiar way. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has announced that he wants to make 25% of Australia’s public schools “independent”, to lift student outcomes. There are a couple of problems with this announcement. First, we have had a perfect controlled experiment in Australia on the effectiveness of more school autonomy that has been running for the last two decades. Victoria has had one of the most devolved or autonomous public school systems in the world (yep, in the world) for 20 years. Its neighbour, New South Wales, has had a centralised system during the same period. Is there any difference in student outcomes between NSW and Victoria? Have Victoria’s independent public schools left NSW’s in the dust? Nope, the two systems are “neck and neck“. Making public schools more autonomous may not do much harm, but it doesn’t appear to do much good either.
But there is a much more peculiar side to Pyne’s announcement than merely spending 70 million badly needed dollars on busy work. According to education researcher Bronwyn Hinz, 25% of Australia’s public schools are already “independent”. So that’s 70 million badly needed dollars for … um …. what we already have.