Education spending lacks coherence, think tank says - Education Matters Magazine

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Education spending lacks coherence, think tank says

Record $16.5 billion investment in school and early childhood education

Despite a significant rise in government spending on school and higher education over the past decade, spending on Vocational Education and Training (VET) has declined comparatively, a new study shows.

Expenditure on education and training in Australia, from Victoria University think tank the Mitchell Institute, brings together data across all areas of education, serving as a prompt for governments to consider a more planned and consistent approach to distributing resources.

Mitchell Institute Director, Megan O’Connell said the latest report shows governments are ignoring expert warnings and refusing to look at education as a cohesive, integrated system.

“Governments need to look at all stages of education together when considering reforms, but the figures show that this is not happening,” O’Connell said.

She said the institute is most concerned about the tertiary sector, where there is growing disparity between universities and VET. Last year, the Mitchell Institute reported that VET expenditure had plummeted to its lowest point in 10 years, but it had dropped further this year.

“We could be setting up a very uncertain future for Australia, since many predicted growth areas for jobs require vocational qualifications,” she said.

“It is staggering that despite all the evidence for a strong VET system, governments still treat it as the poor cousin of universities. We are ignoring the critical role VET plays in preparing people for careers and contributing to our nation’s prosperity.”

Student loan programs also needed to be taken into account to see the full picture of public investment in education. Changes to VET funding had resulted in more loans to VET students, but that represented a significant cost shift to students.

In higher education, expenditure growth is slowing – perhaps suggesting an end to the strong climb that followed the uncapping of places. Schools experienced increased expenditure, largely mirroring operational growth in the sector. Preschool expenditure grew the fastest over the eleven-year period, although this was from a significantly lower base.

O’Connell said the fourth report in Mitchell Institute’s education expenditure series adds further evidence for governments to substantially rethink their education investment approaches.

“The longer we lack coherent education policies, the longer we miss out on the benefits that an integrated education and training system can deliver for young people, communities and our economy” she said.

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