The latest OECD Education at a Glance 2017 report adds strong evidence to calls for increasing investment in public schools, posing serious challenges for the low-growth trajectory of the Federal Government’s schools funding plan, according to the Australian Education Union.
But Federal Government Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the report only confirms the strength of Australia’s education system.
Correna Haythorpe, Federal President of the Australian Education Union, says the report suggests the government’s “watered-down Gonski plan” will fail to lift Australia in the international rankings, or meet the needs of thousands of children in Australian public schools.
The report showed Australian Government spending sat at 3.9 per cent of GDP , which was less than the OECD average.
Ms Haythorpe said the trend was set to continue, with public school funding projected to fall well short of the levels provided by the original Gonski agreements that were now being replaced by the government to include cuts of $3 billion in funding that was due to be delivered over the next two years alone.
“The Federal Government is trying to sell their funding model as enough funding, when it falls far short of need, favours well-resourced private schools over public schools, and will leave far too many public schools below the school resourcing standard, and far too many private schools above it, even after ten years,” Ms Haythorpe said.
She said the OECD report also highlighted continuing challenges for teachers.
“Australian teachers are teaching larger classes than the OECD average, which is a clear indication of resource shortages. When schools can provide extra staff, they can address larger classes and provide extra support for students who need it.”
“Putting extra resources into schools is the best way to ensure that all students get the support and attention they need in the classroom,” she said.
The OECD report found that the proportion of public expenditure that goes to public education has been decreasing over 2010–14, increasing by only six per cent when total government expenditure on all services increased by 18 per cent.
The report also compares teacher salaries across OECD countries.
The OECD average starting salaries of teachers with typical qualifications are as follows:
- Pre-primary: USD $29 636 (AUD $37,036)
- Primary: USD $30 838 (AUD $38,538)
- Lower secondary: USD $32 202 (AUD $40,242)
- Upper secondary: USD $33 824 (AUD $42,269)
The Australian average starting salaries of teachers with typical qualifications found:
- Pre-primary: USD $41 267 (AUD $51,571)
- Primary: USD $40 902 (AUD $51,115)
- Lower secondary: USD $40 874 (AUD $51,080)
- Upper secondary: USD $40 874 (AUD $51,080)
The report finds teacher salaries were directly affected by the GFC in 2008, with a number either frozen or cut in some nations.
On Friday in Adelaide, an Education Council meeting of federal, state and territory education ministers will consider a multilateral agreement for schools funding for 2018–19, with bilateral agreements to be negotiated after the Gonski 2.0 review reports in March 2018.
However, Education Minister Simon Birmingham said Education at a Glance report showed Australia’s education system ranked amongst the world’s best with high levels of access, participation and attainment and strong employment outcomes.
“While it can be difficult to compare with countries where much higher taxes help fuel government spending at the expense of personal contributions, these figures show Australia performs extraordinarily well on the world stage,” Minister Birmingham said.
“This report highlights that investment in Australian education accounts for 5.8 per cent of GDP compared to the OECD average of 5.2 per cent and while we will continue to boost that investment, we’re also focused on making it an effective investment.”