Thursday, November 29, 2012

Federal Education Bill Doesn't Fit the Bill

Australian Greens MPs give a Gonski
Australian Greens MPs give a Gonski (Photo credit: Greens MPs)
by Kevin Donnelly, Online Opinion:

About the Author: Dr Kevin Donnelly is Director of Melbourne-based Education Standards Institute He can be contacted at

He is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars available to purchase at

Yesterday's tabling in the federal parliament of the ALP government's Australian Education Bill 2012 represents a momentous and important occasion.

So says the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, who, in an interview on ABC radio said it was a "big day for us" and that education was the "smack bang, central core business for this government".

Ignored is that the education bill, some two years after the Gonski review of school funding was established and some 11 months after the government received the final report, says nothing about the quantum of funding available to schools or how such funding will be distributed.

The reality is that the current socioeconomic status model expires at the end of 2013 and non-government schools are desperately trying to finalise financial plans for 2014 and onwards in an environment of uncertainty and doubt.

Also ignored is that the bill simply repeats a long list of motherhood statements about lifting standards, improving performance, making schools more accountable and ensuring that children reach their full potential - all of which have been stated again and again since the election of the Rudd-led government in 2007.

ALP inspired documents like the Federalist Paper 2: The Future of Schooling in Australia, the series of issues papers published leading up to the 2007 election and the Melbourne Declaration (that provides a road map for Australian schools) all employ the same hollow rhetoric and grandiose promises.

Take the promise that by 2025 Australian students will be ranked "as one of the top 5 highest performing countries" in reading, mathematics and science. Much like Bob Hawke's promise, when Prime Minister, that no child will live in poverty, the sentiment is noble but, impossible to achieve and totally unrealistic.

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