Given that Australia’s international test results in mathematics and science have fallen in recent years, it is somewhat bewildering that the Turnbull Government’s innovation statement released on Monday virtually ignores school education.
The statement says that ensuring students have the skills to equip them for the workforce of the 21st century is critical to maximising Australia’s productivity, and ensuring economic and social well-being in an increasingly STEM-based and digital economy. However, it proposes spending a miserly extra $100 million on school education over five years from 2016-17, comprising $48 million on prizes and competitions in science and mathematics and $51 million on digital literacy programs.
The proposed increase is farcical. It amounts to only $20 million a year or $54 per student a year. It represents only one per cent of the increase in Gonski funding planned by the Gillard/Rudd governments over the three years from 2016-17 to 2018-19. It will do little to reverse Australia’s declining maths and science results.