Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Real Agenda Behind Gillard’s Gonski Response

Gonski (Photo credit: SurfGuard)
by Professor  Richard Teese, Director of Centre for Research on Education Systems at University of Melbourne, The Conversation:

After the government’s response to the Gonski report on schools funding, it’s worth looking at not only what was in the announcement but what wasn’t.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered no indication about the extent of a Commonwealth contribution yesterday and will presumably defend this silence on the grounds that her negotiating position with the state and territories will be compromised.

This may well be right, years of experience across different portfolios have taught her not to trust the states.

But more fundamentally Julia Gillard sees no long-term role for the states and territories in education, beyond sharing their GST. The Gonski review, now with the government’s lacklustre response, points to a bigger story about the governance of Australian education.

A centralised system

If the Prime Minister has her way, all schools in Australia will eventually be self-managing. They will be under greater accountability as a result, and the performance of their teachers will be assessed every year.

To support both their greater autonomy and greater accountability, schools will have complete control over their own budgets, including hiring and firing of staff.

The curriculum will be national, and there will be federal controls over who gets to train as a teacher and what kind of training they receive. Everything will be governed by statutory professional standards.

In this scenario, there are no states and territories. Their role is simply to contribute GST to a national pool, administered (under Gonksi, if not Gillard) by the National Schools Resourcing Body. Nor will there be any distinction between public and private.

Public schools will operate under the same funding, management and accountability regime as private schools. And the more that public schools are aligned to private schools, the more the role of public systems recedes into the past.

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