Failing on educationMy opinion piece on why the government’s mark-down of #Gonski hits public schools hardest.
I was educated at a public high school. There were 120 other kids in my final year and together we shared a community sports field, one small library of about ten bookshelves and a science department that could afford Bunsen burners and not much else. Despite these first-world hardships I recently graduated university with a Distinction average and am working for one of the largest commercial television networks in the country. So is education really linked to school funding?
The review panel headed by David Gonski certainly thought so. The Gonski report was commissioned to try and address the huge education gap that has emerged in our nation. Australia has one of the largest disparities between high- and low-performing students among all developed countries. Our top students are remarkable but they’re leaving the rest of their peers behind.
This divide falls neatly into the stereotype of public versus private schooling. Parents who want their kids to do well are prepared to pay to see those results. Conversely, parents who have priorities other than education will send their children to schools where the aim is to pass, not to excel. Our schooling system endorses a dichotomy of education disparity.
Public schools are naturally at a disadvantage because they can’t pick and choose their students. But they also have to educate more with far, far less. The MySchool website confirms public schools on average have 25% less income than their private counterparts, but educate 66% of Australia’s students. Australia spends above the world average on private school funding and below the world average on public school funding. It’s a model that encourages the education gap we’re seeing in test results today.
One of the aims of Gonski was to create equality in school funding. It would guarantee every student (and therefore every school) had enough financial support to give kids the education they deserved. One of the unique aspects of the Gonski funding model was that it meant private schools couldn’t leech off extra money supplied to underprivileged students. Previously if a state government increased funding for disadvantaged students in public schools, a portion of it would flow through to the private sector as well. Gonski changed this by directly allocating funds to the students in need (although Labor acquiesced by promising Catholic schools they would retain their share).
Labor’s model wasn’t exactly what the Gonski panel recommended – making concessions to Catholic schools and lowering some of the extra student loadings – but it was certainly a grade higher than the previous system. The federal government’s decision to re-negotiate Labor’s promised $14.5 billion funding injection sends a bad signal to all schools. But it definitely hits public schools the hardest.
Whether or not an increase in funding would directly improve education is debatable. Research certainly suggests it plays a major role. Education Minister Christopher Pyne says education is equally influenced by teacher quality and the national curriculum. Personally I had brilliant teachers at school and the curriculum appears to have taught me useful things. But I would have liked a bigger library. #education #schoolfunding