New school funding figures provided to Senate Estimates show that government funding increases for Catholic and Independent schools have outstripped funding increases for public schools since 2009. The percentage increase in funding for Catholic and Independent schools was almost double that for public schools despite the fact that public schools enrol the overwhelming majority of students in need of increased support.
According to the Australian Scholarship Group, families face a total bill of nearly $500,000 to send their children to Independent private schools and over $200,000 for systemic religious schools compared to about $50,000-70,000 in a public school. This is a huge difference. Year 12 fees in the elite Independent schools are up to around $30,000 a year and more. Just what do parents get for this enormous outlay?
One thing for sure is that they do not get any better school results. Research published recently by Save Our Schools shows that student test results are no better in private schools than in public schools when like schools are compared. The common perception that private schools deliver better results than public schools is a complete myth.
Charter schools are a central component of current efforts to change the face of public education in the United States. Charter schools are publicly financed, but free of many of the regulations that govern traditional public schools, such as those involving staffing, curriculum, and budget decisions. Independent public schools in Australia are similar to charter schools in some respects such as autonomy in staffing and budget decisions.
A leading US education research economist caused shockwaves amongst the education research community last week by saying that markets don’t work in education. Dr. Margaret Raymond from Stanford University said that after decades of looking at charter schools in the US she has come to the conclusion that the “market mechanism just doesn’t work” in education.
Parents are becoming more and more disillusioned with the NAPLAN tests. New figures released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) show record withdrawal rates from the tests across Australia and in most states/territories this year. It suggests that increasing numbers of parents realise that NAPLAN is not compulsory and are unwilling to put their children through the high stress associated with the tests in schools nowadays.
School size is a much debated policy issue. Closing small schools is a sensitive policy issue for many inner urban and country communities in Australia with low or falling enrolments as governments seek to reduce costs.
Arguments for closing small schools and consolidating enrolments into larger schools stem from two presumed benefits of larger schools: first, larger schools promote better quality teaching and learning and, second, they do so at lower costs than smaller schools, that is, larger schools are more economically efficient.
A new paper published by the OECD reviews the literature on the impact of school size on school outcomes and efficiency. It raises a number of issues that should be considered before closing small schools. It shows that small schools may provide better school outcomes for students, especially at the primary school level and for lower socio-economic status students. It also shows that the efficiency benefits of consolidating students in larger schools may be offset to some extent by other financial and social costs.
The following is a summary of the paper. Parts have been edited for ease of reading. Continue reading “Closing Small Schools May be Ineffective and Inefficient”
A leading education academic says that education policy in Australia is based on myths. Professor Stephen Dinham from the University of Melbourne said that Australia is getting “the worst of both worlds” by copying policies from the United States and the United Kingdom. He called for greater scrutiny of these policies by educationalists.
The head of Australia’s leading education research body, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), has questioned the effectiveness of teacher and school incentives as a school improvement strategy. ACER Chief Executive Geoff Masters said that there is little evidence that performance pay for teachers, financial incentives for schools, encouraging competition between schools and sanctions on schools that fail to improve are effective in delivering better student outcomes. Continue reading “Education Chief Says Market-Based Policies are Ineffective”
In a column in The Australian last Monday, Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre for Independent Studies claimed that the expansion of Independent Public Schools will benefit students who have the most to gain. The basis for her claim is that independent public schools in the United States, called charter schools, achieve much higher results for low income and minority students than do traditional public schools. However, her evidence fails to stack up and she is guilty of grossly exaggerating the differences in results.
The Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission report on school autonomy published at the end of last month is a remarkable document. It finds that the research evidence on school autonomy is inconclusive about its effects on student performance, but then it rejects its own finding and recommends increasing school autonomy. In so doing, it opts for faith over evidence.