Australian School Standards Slipping

Written on the 13 April 2012

Natasha Boddy and Rebecca Trigger, The West Australian April 20, 2012.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett says Australian students are not performing as well as they used to compared with the rest of the world.

Delivering an address to the John Curtin Institute at a CEDA luncheon about advancing the Australian education system in Perth yesterday, Mr Garrett said the international performance of Australian students had declined in the past decade, while other countries had improved.

But he warned it would be a mistake to try to copy overseas models which did not fit Australian circumstances.

"Our challenge is to develop a uniquely Australian Education solution, applying successful International strategies to local conditions and drawing on our own expertise, knowledge and insights," he said.
A recent report by the Grattan Institute found Australian students were trailing years behind their South East Asian counterparts.

The Gonski Review also found an increase of $5 billion was needed to reverse lagging student performance and uncoordinated capital development.

Mr Garrett said funding was an area which the Government needed to "get right" if Australia's decline in international student performance was to be addressed.

"Any new system must meet our test that no school will lose a dollar per student (and) any new model must also be an improvement on the current situation - it must be fair, effective and sustainable," he said.

Mr Garrett pointed to WA's Independent Public Schools model as a "conspicuous example of reform".

"The evidence is there that greater degrees of autonomy in the school system generally do lead to better results for students in those systems.

"So we are absolutely confident that school autonomy, as expressed in the independent schools system, is generally to the benefit, not only of the students but to the school system as a whole," he said.
Speaking ahead of today's ministerial council of Education Ministers in Perth, Mr Garrett moved to hose down speculation the Federal Government was using the proposed funding reforms to gain control over Australian schools.

"The State Government ought to properly continue to run and administer schools as it's done - it's not a matter for the Commonwealth other than finding ways of working closely together to support good education for kids in the school system," he said.

Mr Garrett's agreed with Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier this week and warned that Australian schools were not keeping pace with the rest of the world.

"We have a good education system by the standards of the world but when you compare our students in International testing with other students around the world, we find that there are some concerning signs about us starting to slip back," she said.

"We're not keeping pace.

"What that means for our economic future is that there's nothing preordained about Australia being a high-wage high-skill economy, we will only be that in the future if we've got a top-class education system."

She made the comments at a forum on the Gonski Review in the Labour heartland of Rockingham on Wednesday night, as part of her whistle-stop tour of the State.

Ms Gillard also used the forum to lash out at the Federal Opposition, saying they were trying to "stir up the old politics of school versus school".

"I think we're all a bit better than that and we can have a different conversation," she said.

She stressed the Government's commitment to continuing to fund private and independent schools and said she believed there should be some public support for the education of every child, regardless of which school they attended.


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