Australia Has High Quality, but Mixed School Outcomes

The following is a summary of a working paper published by SOS. It reviews a range of school outcomes in Australia. The paper can be downloaded below. It is the first in a series of working papers to be published in coming months on equity in education and school funding in Australia. Comments are invited on the paper and can be sent to SOS at References will be included in the final version, but are available on request.

Australia has a high quality education system. It has high average results in reading, mathematics and science by international standards and it ranks consistently amongst the top performing countries. Australia is one of the top performers in all-round results. However, Australia’s international test results have largely stagnated or declined over the past 15 years.  Australia is one of few countries whose PISA results for 15 year old students have declined in the last decade.

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More Years of Education Improves Health

A new Australian study has shown that extending the years of education improves health outcomes. The study shows that more education improves people’s diet and their tendency to have more regular exercise but not necessarily to avoid risky health behaviours such as smoking. The results imply that increasing the proportion of students, particularly low SES students, who complete Year 12 will have a positive effect on health outcomes. Continue reading “More Years of Education Improves Health”

In Finland Less = More

Finland is one of the top performing countries in the world in terms of results on international tests in reading, mathematics and science. It succeeds without resort to the long hours of study out of school that characterizes East Asian education success. In the following article an American teacher on a Fulbright scholarship teaching in Finland explores some possible reasons for its success. The full version is available here  Continue reading “In Finland Less = More”

How Good is My School?

It is a sad fact, but true, that in Australia a student’s background greatly influences how well they will do at school. Whether their parents went to university, work as professionals, or whether they live in a rural area or are indigenous, all help to predict a student’s performance. And more so in Australia than in many other countries. Continue reading “How Good is My School?”

The Success of East Asian Students is Explained More by Family Attitudes Than Differences in Teaching

The high performance of East Asian countries in international tests such as the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is often ascribed to high-quality teaching and calls have been made for Australia to imitate the policies of these countries. This campaign has been led by Ben Jensen, formerly of the Grattan Institute, and was recently taken up by Kevin Donnelly.

Jensen has been in the forefront in promoting East Asia as a model for improving teacher quality in Australia. He argues that Australia has much to learn from teacher training and mentoring in these countries and that we should adopt East Asia’s “unerring focus on teacher performance”.

Donnelly on the other hand recently claimed that chalk and talk teaching and rote learning are key features of China’s education success and that Australia has been misguided in abandoning this method of teaching.

However, both claims of better teaching in East Asian countries than in Australia are highly dubious. They ignore the fact that the results of students of East Asian parents in Australia are much higher than for students of Australian born parents and are similar to and, in some cases, even higher than those in East Asian countries. This suggests that differences in teaching are not a critical factor. Continue reading “The Success of East Asian Students is Explained More by Family Attitudes Than Differences in Teaching”

Education Policy is Based on Myths According to Leading Academic

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.

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Australia Still Lags Badly in Pre-School Education

New data released by the OECD shows that Australia lags well behind most other OECD countries in enrolment in pre-school education. Though enrolment has increased significantly since 2005, it remains well below the average for OECD countries. Continue reading “Australia Still Lags Badly in Pre-School Education”

Are Gifted and Talented Classes a Bright Idea?

Gifted and talented classes are becoming increasingly popular in public schools. They are often seen as an alternative to private schooling.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald at the weekend said that non-selective high schools in NSW are increasingly doing their own testing to stream students into selective classes and some are doing it based on NAPLAN results. NSW also has the largest number of selective and partially selective public schools in Australia and they are in high demand. Continue reading “Are Gifted and Talented Classes a Bright Idea?”

South Korea’s Education System is a Form of Child Abuse

Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said that Australia should strive to emulate the success of East Asian education systems. However, as Save Our Schools has pointed out on several occasions, there is a dark side to the success of East Asian that Gillard and others wilfully ignored. This dark side was highlighted in a recent article in the New York Times on the South Korean education system. Continue reading “South Korea’s Education System is a Form of Child Abuse”

Review of Class Size Research

Many policymakers and political commentators suggest that funding isn’t the problem in Australian education. They point money spent on reducing class sizes, arguing that this extra funding does not lead to better academic results.

Politicians and their advisers seem to agree, as they claim that much of Australia’s increased expenditure on education in the last 20 to 30 years has been ‘wasted’ on efforts to reduce class sizes. The class size issue also directs attention to the learning environment, while pupil/teacher ratio is typically an economic category illustrating the amount of money spent.

Most of this policy advice and commentary relies heavily on Jensen’s report (2010) on Australian education and teacher quality. Jensen suggests that the majority of studies around the world have shown that class size reductions do not significantly improve student outcomes, and that the funds should have been redirected toward enhancing teacher quality.

Although the results of individual studies are always questionable, a range of newer peer reviewed studies on the effects of small classes have now emerged, and they throw into doubt this advice being offered to policymakers in Australia. Continue reading “Review of Class Size Research”