Those of us working in education are eagerly awaiting the Government’s initial response to the Gonski review of school funding on Monday. This will be the first major review of funding for schools since the 1970s, which is why it’s such an emotionally charged issue for education systems and unions, and a hot potato for the Government.
From where I sit, the debate around school funding has divided rather than unified. Old battle lines between public vs private seem to have detracted from an intelligent discussion on how we can go about the business of improving student learning outcomes by ensuring quality teachers in every classroom.
Schools are as diverse as the students who attend them so we can’t talk about private or public schools as if they were homogenous entitites. Not every school has the same resource levels or teacher quality as its neighbour and we know that some public schools are in a much better financial state than non government schools.
Any discussion about our education system should not be reduced to an ‘us vs them’ argument – its success relies on delivering value for money for tax-payers, choice for parents and fair and equitable funding for all sectors. Diversity is the new norm and any model of funding should support this while guaranteeing equity.
In the Flat World and Education, Linda Darling-Hammond states that the ‘norm’ in developed nations is funding education systems centrally and equally with ‘additional resources’ going to schools where student needs are greater.
Darling-Hammond goes on to say that high achieving nations make equitable investments that are more focussed on key elements of the education system – quality of teacher and teaching, schools as learning organisations and curriculum and assessments that encourage ambitious learning. This is how we close the achievement gap by focussing on the things that make the greatest difference to student learning.
In considering the implications of the Gonski review, Minister Garrett said they had further work to do because “it’s an issue that lies right at the heart of our prospects as a nation”.
Imagine an education policy environment where the discussion about funding were at the periphery and the ways of building teacher and leaders capacities to improve learning and teaching were at the centre of this discussion.
At the end of the day we all share a common goal to deliver high quality education. If the world is flat, then so must be the playing field for all students.