Education Resource Gaps in Australia Are Amongst the Largest in the OECD

The following is a summary of a new Education Research Paper by Save Our Schools. It can be downloaded below.

Data published by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2022 show that Australia has one of the most inequitable school systems in the OECD in how resources are allocated between schools and school systems. There are huge resource gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged schools in Australia that are amongst the largest in the OECD.

61% of Australian 15 year-old students had their learning hindered by a shortage of teachers in 2022. This was the 10th largest proportion in the OECD. This compares with 17% in PISA 018. The increase of 44 percentage points was the 3rd largest in the OECD. The resource shortage had a large negative impact on average student mathematics achievement, which was the 2nd largest decline in the OECD.

Over one-quarter (27%) of students had their learning hindered by a lack of fully qualified teachers. This was the 14th largest in the OECD and similar to the OECD average of 25%. However, the negative impact on mathematics achievement was large and Australia had the  3rd biggest decline in the OECD.

Low socio-economic status (SES) schools in Australia are highly disadvantaged in their access to educational staff and other school resources.

Low SES schools face much greater shortages of educational staff than high SES schools. The shortage gap was the largest in the OECD in 2022 as it was in PISA 2015 and PISA 2018. The gap has increased since 2018.

Low SES schools have a much larger shortage of educational materials than high SES schools. The gap is the 5th largest in the OECD.

Over one-fifth (21%) of students in low SES schools lack digital resources compared to only 2% in high SES schools. The gap is the 6th largest in the OECD.

All OECD countries except the UK and Australia have lower class sizes in low SES schools than in high SES schools. Low SES schools in Australia have similar class sizes and student-teacher ratios as high SES schools. While the difference in class size between low and high SES schools are minor in several countries, 20 out of 35 countries had three or more fewer students per class in low SES schools than in high SES schools as a way of addressing disadvantage.

ublic schools face greater shortages of educational staff, educational materials and digital resources than do private schools.  The gaps are the 10th, 9th and 12th largest in the OECD.

Rural schools face greater shortages than city schools. The gaps were the 3rd , 5th and  9th largest in the OECD. 

These resource gaps are having a major negative impact on student achievement, especially for disadvantaged students. Low SES and other disadvantaged 15 year-old students are about five years of learning behind their high SES peers.

Australian governments are effectively discriminating against low SES students and schools in terms of their access to resources. They have failed to ensure high quality teaching and other resources in these schools while high SES schools have amongst the most and best quality resources in the OECD.

The resource gaps reflect long-standing major funding gaps. Funding increases over the past decade or more have heavily favoured private schools which enrol only a minority of low SES and other disadvantaged students. Public schools enrol over 80% of disadvantaged students and over 90% of disadvantaged schools are public schools. Despite this, public schools are only funded at 87.6% of their Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) in2024 while private schools are funded at 104.9% of their SRS.

The immediate priority is to increase funding for public schools to 100% of their SRS by 2028. This includes ending the accounting tricks that defraud public schools of about $2 billion each year. The Commonwealth should increase its funding share of the SRS of public schools to 25% to meet its national responsibilities for improving school outcome and greater equity in education. After decades of under-funding public schools, state governments must also increase their funding shares of the SRS by 2028.

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