The bottom line of funding

The Gonski review panel released four research reports for public comment ahead of its final report into new schooling funding arrangements due by the end of the year.

Funding of every student is critical to Australia’s future.  We need to make sure we get this right.  Equity is at the centre of much of the deliberation as is the issue of student achievement.

It’s interesting to look at the PISA 2010 survey, which ranked Shanghai, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Finland, Canada, Japan and New Zealand as the top performing nations.

According to the latest figures, OECD countries spend an average of USD 94, 589 per student from primary through to secondary.  It is interesting to note that both Australia and the United States spends more than the average yet under performs, while some other top performing nations spend well below the OECD average.

The claim that more funding is needed to deliver a world-class education is only true if it focuses on improving  teacher practice.  Funding acts to improve student performance only through its influence on the quality of teaching.
We know that quality teachers make the difference so if we are serious about equity, then our best resources are good teachers.   If we have to pay good teachers accordingly to work in chronically disadvantaged schools, then that’s an investment worth making.

6 thoughts on “The bottom line of funding

  1. Greg, as you know, I enjoy reading your blog and would love to hear your response or take on the following.

    You say what appears to be a truism:

    “The claim that more funding is needed to deliver a world-class education is only true if it focuses on improving teacher practice.”

    I would say, and the research I believe supports this, that we will not have a ‘high quality’ and ‘high equity’ education while pursuing current political policies that isolate poorer, disadvantaged and struggling students into schools that are filled with poorer, disadvantaged and struggling students. Our ‘ranking’ has declined as the the impact of successive government policies compound.

    My reading of this round of reports for #Gonski suggests that we need to support these students and their communities, also the teachers that work in these areas much, much better. In fact, we need to seriously reconsider more than just funding. Often, the reports talk about teacher quality as the most important factor when socio-economic background is removed. This issue cannot be glossed over and requires political willpower and integrity. Our egalitarian values require some policy-making that values our egalitarian principles.

    I could say much more but think the point is clear and one that is politically unpalatable to either Party. Until we honestly address this issue and what the data/research tells us, we cannot expect change to happen effectively for all our students.

    Nothing less than the long term health of our civil society is at stake.

    1. Darcy you are right about the complexity in all this. My post was looking at the issue from a funding perspective and what makes the difference to improving all student achievement. And the reseach is clear that it is teacher quality number one.
      However most govt. policy initiatives seem to ignore this fact. The policies water down the available funds and lack both precision and focus far to often. Rewarding good teaching does nothing to ensure that every teacher should be a good teacher. See the comment I made to Barbara above.
      I don’t think that the govt policies isolate poorer and struggling students into schools etc. This is a fact of geography, social mobility economic climate and the like. You are right though it has to be addressed. We know that when the disadvantaged are better resourced with good teachers they make a big difference. I often wish I could bring about the changes needed to restructure society but give it up as alost cause. Better to ensure a well educated society and we’ll all do it together

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful response, Greg. I do think ‘policy’ has a larger part to play than what you suggest re: ”poorer and struggling students” but do note you accept ‘it has to be addressed’. Fair enough.

        The review’s scope does not address some issues of fundamental importance about how we create opportunities for young people to be in learning communities that are relevant and flexible, rather than schools designed for an ‘industrial’ society that no longer exists. This makes it particularly challenging for those ‘good teachers” you mention. Now, with the changed leaving age (17) young Australians are at school for much longer in environments that are very factory-like, with ringing bells, rigid systems and old-fashioned handwritten exams that lack the flexibility needed in this era. I will leave that for another day but these ‘good teachers’ will need to operate in ‘systems’ that understand the paradox of our current schooling arrangements.

        In conclusion, when Mr Rudd’s Government placed Education at the centre of economic (rather than the usual social) policy it signalled serious change was needed in Australia. I suspect that no system or player will be completely happy with what results from #Gonski but if we waste this opportunity to reform it will be a tragedy of social, as well as economic proportions.

        I hope that many educationalists are involved in the public discussion.

  2. Let’s hope that the final outcomes of all the deliberations put equity at the core of funding decisions. Ensuring that we have quality teachers in disadvantaged schools is essential if we are to redress the imbalance in educational outcomes.

    In their conclusion to the review of equity programs in DEC schools Stephen Lamb and Richard Teese found that “there are systemic and structural factors that seriously limit the potential impact of all equity programs. The most pressing are the quality of teachers and the stability of teaching staff.”

    But I wonder whether paying teachers more to work in disadvantaged schools is the answer. Challenging schools need teachers who are passionate and committed: the best are motivated by the heart rather than the hip pocket.

    Adding to a school’s staffing allocation designated teacher positions with a higher pay rate may be an answer to encouraging quality teachers to stay in low ses schools. Mentor teachers or teaching team leaders may be such positions.

    Another mechanism would be to reduce the disincentives to teach in such schools. Reducing the layering of additional programs that ensures that these schools are “condemned to innovate” would be one solution. And, of course, reducing the impact of high stakes testing and the associated name and shame league tables would be another.

    1. Barbara you make some excellent and sensible points here. Of itself payment is not the answer. It is simplistic I know but all kids should have good teachers, so for me that’s the focal point. I don’t buy the fact that bad teachers go to poorer schools. We need to build the capacity of all teachers and their leaders so we can support improvement across the board. In this light I like your mentoring and coaching model. Getting good teachers to work with the teacher, not instead of the teacher, makes more sense to me. High stakes tests are a distraction to this main game.

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