Now the extra base funding necessary to get us to this school resourcing standard over six years is $14.5 billion. It’s a lot of money, but I believe it is a wise investment in our children’s future and in our nation’s future. J. Gillard
The Gonski Review has led to our Prime Minister announcing “the biggest changes to school education in our nation for 40 years” as an integral part of the government’s “national plan for school improvement” (and re-election).
What does ‘biggest changes’ mean exactly?
Before exploring that question here is what needs to happen before this plan becomes reality and Public Schools are funded more equitable than is currently the case:
1. The state education ministers at COAG (19th April) need to agree with the Gillard government’s ‘offer’ (before June 30).
2. The Gonski legislation (The Australian Education Act) needs to be reintroduced into Parliament so that it can be amended with all the funding detail and passed before June 27 (when Parliament rises for the winter break).
3. If there is a new federal government elected on the 14th September an Abbott led government will be unlikely to repeal legislation that has been agreed to by all state ministers.
The Australian Education Union has run a fantastically effective campaign using social media and catchy sloganeering. The funding is desperately needed in Public Education (here are my previous ‘Gonski posts’). Here is more of the detail about how the Schooling Resource Standard would work.
What will change?
There will be more equity and greater opportunity to provide quality education for all Australian children, regardless of their backgrounds. This is good. The current government has maintained an inequitable funding arrangement that they inherited in 2007 and one wonders why it has taken 6 years (and at the eleventh hour) for funding reform to eventuate? The politics of schooling in Australia would have everything to do with it.
As important as money is for equity, democracy and educational reform one wonders how schooling will change? All agree that educational outcomes need to improve and how that is measured, and the appropriateness of constantly weighing the calf, is vexed. An even more managerial model is currently being further refined in most states and the fundamental nature of exams, traditional classrooms and instruction continues. When the Prime Minister talks about “the biggest changes to school education in our nation for 40 years” one would hope that more than just a formula for funding that is involved.
The per student amount for 2014 is to be $9,271 for primary school students and $12,193 for secondary school students (if the state education ministers reach agreement in the next 10 weeks). What can we do with this in our systems and schools that really improves learning and democracy? It cannot just be about maintaining our funding based on the results of standardised testing or the inappropriate, creepingly managerial, measurement regimes that are stifling learning in systems around the world. We need genuine, not faux reform.
We need some BIG THINKERS.
What now? What needs to change? Who will lead the reform of schooling with a focus on the future of learning?
Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by CanadianAEh: http://flickr.com/photos/canadianaeh/4765650580/