Gonski revisited: Making the education dollar work harder for our kids
The latest paper by the Menzies Research Centre, Gonski revisited: Making the education dollar work harder for our kids, argues that the billions of taxpayers dollars spent on schools since the original 2012 Gonski Review would have been better targeted at improving teaching standards and directly assisting disadvantaged families.
Reducing the argument simply to a question of money delayed the opportunity to examine other ways of lifting educational achievement.
The paper calls for a truce in the sterile debate at the size of funding for schools and calls for the implementation of reform that will improve the quality of spending – and the quality of young lives.
Introduction from Gonski Revisited:
If the task of the education dollar is to produce a better educated public the school system is an underperformer. The public cost of educating an Australian child has never been higher. Yet literacy levels are poor and continue to decrease, trending in the opposite direction to the level of funding. The unpalatable conclusion is that the changes implemented by the last Labor government were a costly policy mistake. Scarce funds were squandered on a top-down plan that diverted attention from measures that might have given pupils a greater chance of fulfilling their potential. There is abundant evidence to show that beyond a certain level, the allocation funding has little impact on educational outcomes. This evidence was all but ignored in the Labor federal government’s response to the Gonski Review which presumes a causal relationship between the size of a school’s budget and the academic performance of its pupils. That presumption is a flimsy basis on which to recommend a 15 per cent increase in recurrent public spending on primary and secondary education. The Gillard administration’s response assumes that economic, social and personal disadvantage can be overcome by varying one factor alone – the size of the school budget. It made the fatal bureaucratic mistake of making inputs, rather than outcomes, the key measure of success.
Seldom has an inquiry acquired the totemic significance of the Gonski Review or become such a hot political issue. Support for what are assumed to be the Review’s recommendations, but were in fact determined by the Labor government’s response, has become an article of faith for those who advocate greater Commonwealth spending. Five years and four prime ministers after the report’s release, the name Gonski continues to be requisitioned as a political slogan by Labor and its union supporters. This report analyses how the Gonski Review failed to deliver what it had promised, and what course of action a prudent government would take to correct its expensive mistakes.