OECD: Australia’s funding and policy web holding back education sector - Education Matters Magazine

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OECD: Australia’s funding and policy web holding back education sector

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Australian school funding lacks transparency and coherence, and outcomes of numerous studies have shown the difficulty in determining how individual schools are funded, according to research by the OECD.

The Education Policy Outlook 2015 – Making Reforms Happen addresses the need for improvement in education in a comparative manner, taking into account the importance of national context. Through a review of different countries’ context, challenges and experience in implementing education reform, the report offers directions and strategies to facilitate successful introduction of changes.

The OECD report found expenditure on educational institutions in Australia as a percentage of GDP (for all educational levels combined) is below the OECD average, with a higher share from private sources than the OECD average.

The research pointed at Australia’s decentralised education system and said increasing the clarity of policies and finding within it needs attention, and added that the country’s high education performance can be complemented with further focus on reducing inequities by tackling system-level policies hindering equity in education.

It addressed the need to increase access to education and performance of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, as well as providing continued support for professional development of teachers among key issues.

Last month the Federal Government gave a strong indication that education policy and delivery will remain the responsibility of the states and territories in its issues paper titled Roles and Responsibilities in Education which summarises the progression of both Commonwealth and state and territory involvement in Australia’s education arrangements, along with analysis of the current education system, and forms part of the white paper on the Reform of the Federation, due for release early 2016.

Although the paper acknowledges that not all the pressures on the education system stem from the complexity of coinciding government roles and responsibilities, it says that improving the allocation of roles and responsibilities could make it easier for governments to identify what the problems are, who is responsible for fixing them, and empower teachers, parents and the wider community to hold the appropriate level of government to account for taking the action necessary to improve outcomes.

Addressing equity in the Australian school system, renowned author and educator Dr Pasi Sahlberg said more equitable education systems are those that are able to weaken association of socio-economic situation and learning achievement in school.

He said equity in the Australian school system is above the OECD average, but OECD’s latest PISA survey found that Australia is the only country where differences in learning mathematics between advantaged and disadvantaged students are large, while the strength of the relationship between students’ achievement in school and their family background is weaker than average.

“This indicates that there is an equity problem in Australia rather than a genuine lack of quality in its public schools,” he said.

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