Australian students should receive a world-class education, tailored to individual learning needs, and relevant to a fast-changing world, writes Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP.Students should be challenged and supported to progress and excel in learning in every year of school, appropriate to each student’s starting point and capabilities.
To achieve this, our Government is delivering real, needs-based funding, and our Government is delivering real reforms to improve student outcomes.
The Australian Government will provide a record $307.7 billion dollars in recurrent funding to all Australian schools over the period 2018 to 2029.
There will be more money available for disadvantaged students, including those with disability, those from remote and regional areas, and Indigenous children.
However, despite the states, territories and Commonwealth spending more money than ever before on education, our performance is stagnating in parts and going backwards in others.
So spending more money can’t be the only answer.
That is why our Government is delivering reform with our National School Reform Agreement.
We are ensuring every state and territory commits to the improvements identified in the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools.
That review identified three priority areas:
- Deliver at least one year’s growth in learning for every student every year;
- Equip every student to be a creative, connected and engaged learner in a rapidly changing world; and
- Cultivate an adaptive, innovative and continuously improving education system.
Every state and territory is now on board to deliver reforms across these three areas.
To further the Australian Government’s education agenda, this year we will embark on the ambitious and necessary project to update the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.
The Melbourne Declaration set out the aspirational goals to improve equity and excellence in education for every student.
An updated declaration will need to be a big picture document – it must outline what we want for students, for society and for the economy in the future, and ask how education will get us there.
This will mean looking beyond the scope of the original Melbourne Declaration to encompass education from early childhood through to higher education, vocational training and then beyond.
It will be important that we ensure a public consultation process, where anyone can provide input or feedback.
One thing that is apparent is that we need to strengthen the relationship between students, parents and educators.
As I have travelled around the country talking to teachers and parents, I keep hearing the same message: the curriculum is overcrowded and that means we are sacrificing quality for quantity.
The Australian Curriculum has the fundamentals right but we can maintain stability while reducing complexity.
It is the view of the Australian Government that our education system must ensure that every child gets the basics right.
If you can’t read, and you can’t write, and you can’t count, then you can’t continue to learn.
As Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel points out, mathematics is a skillset that is fundamental to science, to economics, to medicine, to engineering, to geography, to architecture, to IT.
Only deep subject-matter knowledge is the key to success.
As Dr Finkel says, “Mastering a discipline is mastering your destiny. Focus on your discipline – then you’ll see your options expand.”
Our Government will never support any change to our national curriculum that diverges from these priorities.
Another area of opportunity is the area of teaching.
We know that teachers can make the biggest difference to a child’s education.
Research by respected education academic John Hattie indicates that a student’s achievements can be improved by as much as 30 per cent if they experience quality teaching.
I want to ensure that the best, the brightest and the most passionate people want to become teachers and want to stay teaching.
That is why I asked the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training to inquire into and report on the status of the teaching profession, specifically looking at increasing the attractiveness of the profession, reducing out-of-hours work and increasing retention rates.
We have all benefitted from Australia’s world-class education system and we all have a stake in the education of future generations.