The following is a summary of a new Education Research Paper published by Save Our Schools. The paper can be downloaded below.
New data from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018 show that Australia allocates more and better quality teacher and physical resources to socio-economically advantaged secondary schools than to disadvantaged schools. The gaps are amongst the largest out of 36 countries in the OECD. The highest performing countries in the OECD generally allocate resources more equitably between low and high SES secondary schools.
Low socio-economic status (SES) secondary schools in Australia have more teacher shortages, more teacher absenteeism, more poorly qualified teachers, fewer fully certified teachers and fewer highly qualified teachers than high SES schools.
There are very large differences in teacher shortages, poorly qualified teachers and teacher absenteeism between low and high SES schools. About one-third of students in low SES schools have their learning hindered by teacher shortages, poorly qualified teachers and teacher absenteeism compared to less than seven per cent of students in high SES schools.
Teacher resource gaps in Australia are amongst the largest in the OECD. For example:
- The gap between the proportion of students in low and high SES schools with a shortage of teachers is the equal 5th largest;
- The gap for inadequately qualified teachers is the 6th largest;
- The gap for teacher absenteeism is the equal 3rd largest.
- The proportion of highly qualified teachers in low SES schools in Australia is the 4th lowest.
Almost without exception, the six highest performing OECD countries have smaller gaps than Australia in the allocation of teacher resources between low and high SES schools.
Low SES secondary schools in Australia have fewer and poorer quality educational materials such as textbooks, laboratory equipment, instructional material and computers than high SES schools. About 20% of students in low SES schools have their learning hindered in this way compared to one per cent of students in high SES schools.
Low SES schools also have less and poorer quality infrastructure such as buildings, classroom space and heating and cooling systems. Nearly half of students in low SES schools have their learning hindered in this way compared to less than 8% in high SES schools.
The physical resource gaps are amongst the largest in the OECD. The gaps between the proportion of students in low and high SES schools whose learning is hindered by a lack of educational materials and poor quality education materials are the 7th largest in the OECD.
The gap for a lack of physical infrastructure is the 3rd largest in the OECD and that for poor quality physical infrastructure is the 2nd largest. Although there are exceptions, the six highest performing OECD countries generally have smaller gaps than Australia in the allocation of educational materials and infrastructure between low and high SES schools.
Australian governments are effectively discriminating against low SES schools in terms of their access to resources. They have failed to ensure high quality teaching and physical resources in these schools while high SES schools have amongst the most and best quality resources in the OECD.
While other factors also influence student results and achievement gaps, the difference in teacher and physical resources between low and high SES schools in Australia contributes significantly to the very large achievement gaps between low and high SES 15-year-old students of about three years of learning.
The new OECD data shows that the highest performing OECD countries allocate resources more equitably between low and high SES schools than does Australia. Previous OECD PISA reports have concluded that student performance is higher in education systems that distribute teacher and physical resources more equitably between low and high SES schools.
Australian governments must take a much more active role in promoting a more equitable allocation of teacher resources if progress is to be made in reducing the achievement gaps. Governments must increase the number of teachers and the quality of teachers in low SES schools and better support them to remain in these schools. They must also significantly increase and upgrade educational materials and physical infrastructure in these schools.