The Productivity Commission has released a new draft report about the national education evidence base, indicating that increases in education spending hasn’t resulted in a positive uplift in standards.
The draft report, which was commissioned by the Federal Government in March, says that better education outcomes will result from the ability to identify and evaluate better policies, programs and teaching practices based on available data.
Commissioner Jonathan Coppel highlighted the disparity between the “14 per cent real increase in spending per sudent over the last ten years” and the fact that “student performance remains broadly static and in some areas has actually decreased”.
“More resources, performance benchmarking and competition between schools alone, although important, are insufficient to achieve gains in education outcomes,” Commissioner Coppel said.
The report goes to the heart of the ongoing political debate between Labor and the Turnbull Government regarding the Gonski education reforms, and the effectiveness of education spending.
In addressing the point of contention, the Productivity Commission is of the opinion that ‘there is little evidence or systematic processes in place to evaluate policies, program and teaching practices to identify what works best in schools and early learning centres’, despite the amount of data that is collected to monitor and report on student and school outcomes.
“Teachers have the greatest impact on student performance, after accounting for the characteristics of students themselves. Looking within the classroom, particularly teaching practices, is thus paramount to improving education outcomes across all schools and all students,’ said Commissioner Coppel.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli slammed the report on Tuesday, in a response that implied it was a waste of money, saying “I hope no one paid for this report … it tells us nothing that we didn’t know four years ago”.
Mr Piccoli said the report covers only 1.5 per cent of the proposed Gonski funding timeframe, but could be used as an argument to discontinue the funding.
“I’m disappointed,” he said Piccoli. “When [the federal government] sees a report like this, they see it as a justification for not funding the final two years of Gonski. They see this as vindication.”
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham had said the Government would await the commission’s final report before considering a response.
‘We also know there are some schools whose students perform better than expected compared with similar schools. We should be lifting the bonnet on these schools to find out what they are doing, and carefully evaluating if we can apply their methods across schools.”
The report also identifies better data sharing between jurisdictions as beneficial, suggesting existing privacy protections be overhauled and a universal student tracking system be introduced to gain better insight into why some schools consistently foster greater outcomes.
“We are not looking to add to the compliance burden of educators. In fact, our report makes recommendations for reducing the existing burden by collecting data more cost-effectively and also making better use of existing data,” said Productivity Commissioner Julie Abramson.