Beware False Idols of Education Excellence

The international PISA tests have become “false idols of educational excellence for the world to worship”. They have extraordinary status and influence. Education systems and even nations are judged by test scores and rankings that are assumed to be accurate measures of achievement. A primary assumption is that all students always try their best. A growing literature shows this to be false.

The OECD report on PISA 2018 found that over two-thirds of students in the OECD did not fully try on the tests. Eighty per cent of students in Germany did not fully try as did 79% of students in Denmark and Canada and 78% in Switzerland. Some 73% of Australian and New Zealand students did not fully try. In contrast, 46% of Korean students and 60% of Japanese students did not fully try. This variation calls into question the validity of league tables of countries based on PISA results.

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Morrison’s Private School Funding Model Ignores the Bank of Mum and Dad

Private schools will receive $130 billion in funding by the Commonwealth Government over the next 8 years – $73 billion for Catholic schools and $57 billion for Independent schools. It constitutes massive over-funding by the taxpayer because the Morrison Government’s funding model ignores a major source of family income used to assess the financial need of private schools.

Commonwealth funding of private schools is determined by family income, but it ignores income received from the Bank of Mum and Dad which pays school fees directly and indirectly through a myriad of supplements to family income. As a result, the capacity of private school parents to pay school fees is vastly under-estimated and private schools are massively over-funded by taxpayers.

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Public Schools are as Good as Private Schools

The widespread perception that private schools deliver better results than public schools has taken another blow. A new study of NAPLAN results shows that public schools do as well as private schools after differences in socio-economic background of students are considered. This is despite the large resource advantage of private schools.

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Does Education Technology Improve Learning?

In recent years, use of information and communications technology in classroom learning has increased massively. A new paper published in the Journal of Economic Literature provides a comprehensive review of studies of the impact of new technology on learning. It finds that some education technologies contribute to the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills in some circumstances and some are not as successful. It recommends more detailed research on the mechanisms by which these technologies can improve learning and in what education situations.

The overall results of the review suggest that educators and policy makers should exercise considerable caution in selecting education technology products and not be seduced by the marketing campaigns of education technology companies. Relatively few education technology products have been thoroughly evaluated for learning and cost effectiveness. Educators need support in deciding which products offer the most potential for meeting for the learning needs of their school and classroom. Inadequate discrimination in the adoption of products can be highly wasteful financially and fail to improve learning.

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Super-school Chaos

There needs to be a serious conversation about the direction being taken by state governments in Australia to close schools and merge into large single super schools. Parents need to band together and say enough is enough!

Every bad outcome you have imagined for your school merger of up to four schools will come true. You will see an increase and more violent bullying assaults occurring; you will see more wagging, you will have a lowering of expected and academic standards; your children will become numbers and get lost in poor administration; they will be offered more choices that can’t be delivered; many will not form lasting relationships with their teachers and peers; you will be ignored if you try and advocate for your child; students with special needs will be worse off; low-socioeconomic and disadvantaged students will fall through the cracks along with previously above average students; they will be treated like robots encouraged to perform to a level playing field and the ‘so-called’ new well-being programs will fail with teachers unable to cope with the problems the new systems create.

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Sweden: A Failure in Market-Based Education

Sweden is often seen as part of a homogeneous Nordic sphere; small cold countries with midnight sun, fair-skinned population, small social democratic idylls with equal free healthcare, good schools and a high standard of living. The reality is never as simple as our prejudices and one of the things that now characterizes Sweden is that we in important areas of society have left the common Nordic tradition of a cohesive school.

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Gonski Gone: Morrison Abandons Public School Students

With its blatant favouritism of funding Catholic and Independent schools to the detriment of public schools, which educate over 80% of disadvantaged students, the Morrison Government has completed the demolition of the Gonski funding model that began with the Abbott and Turnbull Governments.

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Funding Gap Between Public and Private Schools Will Accelerate Over the Next Decade

Commonwealth Government funding of schools is now a complete schemozzle. The Morrison Government has abandoned public schools and blatantly favoured private schools with billion-dollar special deals. These deals will accelerate the funding gap between public schools and private schools over the next decade.

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Education Resource Gaps in Australia Remain Amongst the Largest in the World

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

Disadvantaged students in Australia are being denied equal opportunities to learn because they face far more shortages of teachers and material resources than advantaged students. The gaps in access to education resources between advantaged and disadvantaged schools in Australia, between rural and city schools and between public and private schools are huge. Not only are they amongst the largest in the OECD but they are also amongst the largest in the world. This is totally unacceptable for a country that regards itself as egalitarian.

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‘To those who have, more will be given’: Largesse to private schools continues

In line with the adage “never let a good crisis go to waste”, the Morrison Government has taken the opportunity of the COVID pandemic to extend its largesse to private schools. The Budget Papers reveal that private schools received over a billion dollars in advance payments in 2019-20 to re-open their schools.

Some of the wealthiest private schools in the country have reaped millions from Jobkeeper. They include The King’s School, St Joseph’s College, Frensham and The Armidale School in NSW as well as Geelong Grammar, Trinity Grammar, Wesley College and Bialik College in Victoria.

The Government also gave $10 million to private schools to offset COVID-19 hygiene costs for items such as soap, hand sanitiser, classroom cleaning products and additional cleaning services. Similar funding was not provided to public schools. 

All this adds to the largesse the Morrison Government has showered on private schools. The main component of this largesse is $3.7 billion in additional funding for Catholic schools over the next ten years as a result of a new method of funding private schools introduced this year. Independent schools lose from this measure but are partially compensated by special funding deals. 

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