Only 6000 words really matter in the 24-page document, yet they're enough to demolish claims made by politicians and critics of schools about the way to solve the innumerable problems that teachers face every day.
The document also identifies the three key challenges confronting Australian education: children are starting school below their expected level of ability; our top students are not doing as well as their international peers; and the gap between the nation's best students and the worst performers is the biggest among most developed countries.
Academics in Melbourne University's graduate school of education prepared the document as a "green paper". Titled Focusing on the learner: Charting a way forward for Australian education, the paper warns that without significant changes in education policies, Australia is unlikely to achieve the federal government's goal of becoming a top-five nation by 2025 in terms of our students' performance in reading, science and mathematics.
Those policies being by promoted by state and federal governments have cost millions of dollars with little gain in student or teacher learning. They include plans for greater school autonomy, giving parents more choice, and test-based accountability – none of which improve student outcomes, the paper says. Countries with top-performing education systems employ a different mix of policies than Australia, and "quality teaching" is their platform for success.
Too many of Australia's education policies are devoted to matters that ultimately have little impact on student learning, the paper says. Market-based notions of choice, competition, accountability and standardisation have been tried unsuccessfully by other Western countries, "none of which are high performers internationally".
This is the second recent authoritative report to reject arguments by the federal government and the Opposition that competition between schools and market forces will improve student outcomes. The Grattan Institute's study, The Myth of Markets in School Education, also concludes this is simply not true.
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