Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Six Steps the Government Needs to Take on Gonski

SA Greens Senators give a Gonski
SA Greens Senators give a Gonski (Photo credit: Greens MPs)
by Kevin Gould, Researcher in Economics of Education at Central Queensland University, The Conversation:

It’s been six long months since the Gonski panel made its recommendations on schools funding, but in the next few weeks the federal government will finally respond and release the details of its school funding plan.

Much of the commentary so far has focused on the increased funding to schools but there’s much more to the reforms. If handled right they could mean a great deal for educational outcomes in Australia.

So what should the government decide?

I suggest the following six strategies to form part of the government’s plan to help improve student performance.

1. Set clear performance goals

The Gonski panel was ambiguous on this, with its recommendation for funding based on a minimum NAPLAN performance. The government should make it clear that its responsibility is to ensure that all students obtain a minimum education that enables them to effectively participate in employment, further study and leisure over their lifetime.

Performance objectives for schools and school sectors should not only include minimum NAPLAN performance, but also minimum year 12 graduation rates - an issue overlooked by the Gonski panel.

2. Treat senior secondary separately

Senior secondary provision was ignored by the Gonski panel, even though this is the bridge between a common general curriculum and employment or further study. It is also an area of schooling which is more complex because of its association with vocational education and training (VET).

Senior secondary schools need to be treated differently because of this complexity. Indeed, providers of VET Certificate III courses should be included in considerations and their students receive similar funding, given the suggested equivalence of Certificate III and year 12 certificates.

And, as senior secondary qualifications are vital for future opportunities, every student’s progress through the senior secondary programs should be monitored. Those falling through the cracks can be quickly identified and provided with support and second chances to graduate.

3. Endorse local decision making

The Gonski panel recommended that all decisions be made as close to the local level as possible, also known as the principle of subsidiarity. This principle, in effect, means the federal government coordinates the funding to the states, who in turn coordinate the funding of school sectors and their schools.

Such a process ensures that there is maximum local participation of those close to the action in the decision making. Canberra should not be dealing directly with individual schools.

Similarly, states with large public systems should split these into autonomous regions whose funding is coordinated by a state body dealing with all school sectors.

The principle of subsidiarity should be fully endorsed by the government.

To read about the other 3 recommendations by Kevin Gould, go to:
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