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The Forum > Article Comments > Gillard's education pipedream > Comments

Gillard's education pipedream : Comments

By Dean Ashenden, published 21/12/2012

One US calculation found that just five more students in every classroom would deliver a 34 per cent salary increase for every teacher.

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How schooling is funded and organised and the quality of teachers and their teaching practices are important contributing factors to student performance. But these factors on their own do not determine how well students perform.

Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, recently launched new Australian research that says what happens in schools contributes between 20 per cent and 40 per cent to a student’s schooling outcomes, while the attributes the student brings to school contribute 60 per cent to 80 per cent. The research was commissioned by the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau.

The research found that schools in which parents and the wider community are encouraged to be involved in students’ education have better results in overall student performance.

“Results include higher grades and tests scores, higher successful completion of classes, lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates and a greater likelihood of going onto tertiary education,” Mr Garrett said.

If Australia is really going to lift student performance we cannot afford to continue to look for solutions only within school gates.
Posted by Ian D, Friday, 21 December 2012 9:54:02 AM
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Blame shifting and funding, up to 30% of which, can disappear in state management fees are the real stumbling blocks?
I don't believe it's a pipe dream, nor is Gonski unaffordable.
But only if the states and their often overly expensive and very top heavy management model are excluded.
My approach would be to make the Fed the sole funding source, for both health, education and urban rail, all of which could be fully and much more adequately funded, via a direct funding model; and, GST funds rerouted for that purpose!
The states have by and large, failed to fulfil the arrangement/agreement that gave them access to the GST anyway?
Stamp duties have not disappeared, but remain or have morphed into other fees and charges, most of which are increasing, well beyond the CPI!?
State admins and their duplicating bureaucracies, cost the Australian community 70 billions plus per year! And public transport, seems to be locked in a management model time warp, or the fifties?
There are cities in the world with larger populations, and arguably far better managed by a single, forward looking administration.
Many of the duties assigned to modern govts/centralising bureaucracies, used to be presided over by voluntary unpaid boards.
[Populated by very experienced professionals, who often had a far better idea of local needs and funding priorities!]
And schools with full autonomy can finally be free to compete on the basis of excellence! Which could result in some serious bonus outcomes for all the staff.
They would need to sign up for comparative benchmarking.
Which could be used, to lift outcomes across the sector, given apples for apples comparisons!
Finally, we need to add a mileage meter to all funding outcomes; meaning, the further away the student/patient is from a capital city, the higher the capital unit outlay per unit?
Say, an additional $150.00 per unit per year, for every 100 kilometres.
This would go a very long way to fixing some of the more obvious anomalies, in both health and education outcomes. To say nothing of public transport outcomes!
Posted by Rhrosty, Friday, 21 December 2012 11:46:26 AM
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The unwritten premise behind this kind of scrutiny of global student ‘performance’ comparisons is that, if all students received the same quality of education in terms of teacher quality and school resources, then all school populations would perform equally. This seems a highly suspect premise to me.

If the premise is not correct, then what is needed is an analysis that is somehow adjusted according to the correct performance expectations. I don’t know how to do that but the experts who are telling us to improve education ought at least have some idea. Otherwise, go find some new experts.

Politicians are competing on how to spend the most money on improving our education standards and lifting our test rankings. If, as I suggest here, they don’t know what they are talking about then we must demand more accountability on their proposals. I for one reckon that any policy that hinges on the claim that Bulgaria is doing better than Australia (as the papers kept telling us) needs sceptical scrutiny. The result just doesn’t make sense.
Posted by Tombee, Friday, 21 December 2012 2:27:46 PM
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The Gonski proposal is not “to fund schools according to their educational task rather than the sector to which they belong”. It is to fund schools, in the medium term, according to how well off the students’ neighbours are (i.e., to continue the Howard government’s SES funding model) and, in the long term, on the income of each parent. This abominable system punishes low-fee schools that take poor students from well-off areas.

The Gonski proposals would not “would slow this dynamic [i.e., “causing the educationally rich to cluster with their kind and the poor with theirs, to the advantage of the former and the disadvantage of the latter”] and reduce its worst effects, but not eliminate it.” They would exacerbate it because the funding principle is the “parents’ capacity to pay”, not the school’s own resources. This principle would have the effect of concentrating each income group in a particular school as the higher the parents’ income, the less the government support, thus the higher the fees that have to be charged, thus the more likely that students with low-income parents would be driven out of the school. There is no better method than this ever proposed to stratify our schools by class.

Both these points are dealt with at length at and, more recently and specifically, in my posts at

The press reporting on the Gonski report has been abysmal
Posted by Chris C, Friday, 21 December 2012 3:11:38 PM
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The comment, “staffing schools according to student-staff ratios rather than fixed class size maxima”, is meaningless. As I said in my unpublished letter to the editor when the author made this claim in The Australian:


‘Dean Ashenden wants schools to be staffed “according to student-staff ratios rather than fixed class maximums” (“Hard lessons still not sinking in”, 15-16/12). As any student who scored well in PISA or TIMSS could tell him, student-staff ratios and class sizes are actually connected. The staffing ratio is determined by a combination of class sizes, teaching loads and non-classroom positions (e.g, principal, librarian).

‘Despite the vocal push by the forces of the right against spending money on public education, the Tennessee STAR study, the work of Professor John Hattie and the everyday experience of teachers tell us that smaller classes are better for learning – unless teaching is just giving lectures. This is because they give the teacher the time to interact with each student and to thoroughly correct each student’s work.

‘Large classes are not a burden to slack teacher, but they are to the committed teacher, who will strive to his or her best until burnt out or in a better-paid jib with less exploitative working conditions.

‘Victoria staffed its secondary schools on a pupil teacher ratio of 11.7:1 in 2011. Thirty years earlier, it had no trouble staffing them on a ratio of 10.9:1. The much wealthier state we have now could easily return to those days.’

Teachers are right to resist all attempts to worsen their working conditions by pushing up class sizes
Posted by Chris C, Friday, 21 December 2012 3:12:14 PM
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I can't imagine anything more useless than pouring more money into education.

With our unionised workforce all we will get is the same bunch of no Hooper teachers, getting higher pay.

All ready primary school teachers are the most over educated, over paid, under worked section of the public service. Yes even worse than adoption administrators.

The only chance of improvement is complete outside testing, with a required 5% improvement in test results, year on year.

The reward for success the teacher keeps their job, two failures earns dismissal. The fun watching this would be worth quids.
Posted by Hasbeen, Friday, 21 December 2012 6:57:55 PM
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