Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Matters of Public Importance
If we go to the international results, the latest results are a serious wake-up call for Australian education. They show a serious downwards trend since 2009 in our student performance, Senator Lines, under the previous government. Mathematical literacy in Australia fell from 15th to 19th; reading literacy fell from 9th to 14th; and scientific literacy, of particular importance, fell from 10th to 16th. So under the previous Labor government our international results decreased, but the international evidence also shows that other nations are investing a lot less in their education systems with larger class sizes but are achieving better results—better student outcomes, if that is how you choose to measure educational quality.
But comparisons can be made in our federation. If we look at the states: the amount spent per student in my home state of Victoria is one of the lowest and yet we achieve one of the highest NAPLAN results. That is because we have had a long-term focus on school autonomy which ensures that local principals and communities can make decisions about what works best for their schools and students. We know what works and it is what you do not want to admit—because your benefactors, the AEU, hate it—and it is that teacher quality, which, as Hattie, who did an extensive review of literature, said 'is the single most powerful influence on student achievement'. It is the single most powerful influence, and yet we refuse to look at performance based pay.
I do want to turn briefly to Senator Lines's commentary on the WA election to recognise that under the coalition government in WA teachers are the highest paid in the country and funding to public schools is the highest per capita in the nation. That is a good story. They have independent schools with locals in charge of what occurs in their own communities. That is what 'empowering community' actually means and it can be delivered by a government that is focused on real outcomes in education.