SOS Policy Brief on the New National Goals for Education

A Policy Brief published by Save Our Schools shows that the new national Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (the Melbourne Declaration) promulgated by Australian education ministers at the end of 2008 fails on equity.

It fails on two grounds. It weakens the previous national commitment to improve social equity in education and it introduces a new policy commitment on reporting school results which will exacerbate inequities in student outcomes.

The Melbourne Declaration adopts a weakened commitment to improving equity in education. It does commit to the achievement of an adequate education for all students and to reducing achievement gaps between students from different social groups. However, its commitment to improving social equity in education is much weaker than the previous statement on national goals in that:

  • It removes the key goal of achieving social justice in schooling which was in the Adelaide Declaration;
  • It increases the emphasis on equity in access to education and reduces the emphasis on equity in student outcomes; and
  • It weakens the commitment to eliminating achievement gaps between students from different social groups.

The new Declaration also contains a fatal policy contradiction which will undermine equity in education. It commits to both reporting individual school results and improving equity. These policies are incompatible.

Reporting the results of individual schools makes the publication of league tables of school results inevitable. This will entrench choice and competition between schools as the fundamental organizing feature of school systems in Australia. The international evidence shows that equity in education is diminished where choice and competition rule.

Trevor Cobbold

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