In the 2016 Federal Budget the government announced that it would spend a billion dollars on a back to basics program I editorialised on another thread at the time that this kind of solution is no solution at all.
Why should it cost a billion dollars just to do what’s expected, what you’re supposed to be doing in the first place? And it raise the question as to how and why we have strayed so far off course?
The infantile notion that just because you throw money at a problem used to be the preserve of Labor and the left.
Not anymore apparently.
In the auction for votes, it seems that the Liberals also hold to the view that more money somehow equates to better outcomes when the results, particularly in the area of education are in and demonstrate that clearly the exact opposite is the case.
Spending a billion dollars on back to basics is just more of the same, lazy, simplistic Keynesian economics “throw money at the problem” type solution we’ve seen over the last God knows how many years across a multiplicity of public policy areas.
Having thrown the money, the political class dusts off its hands, walks away, job done.
No accountability and no study to find out which bits of the dollar spray if any, actually did anything.
Education is an easy emotional target for the political class because after all we are dealing with the minds of our children and of course everyone wants the best possible but you can’t help but raise a sceptical eye when the first response, the knee jerk reaction of the politician is to reach for the cheque book with more billions sucked into to the bureaucracy at one end and nothing to show for it at the other.
Many Australians are old enough to remember when class sizes ran to about 45 or 50 with one teacher and no teacher’s aids and none of the techy stuff available today but the outcomes were far superior. No one is suggesting a return to those days but a comparison clearly demonstrates something is seriously wrong.
Increased billions of dollars have been pumped into the education system and god knows how many programs over the last few decades and Australia is still falling behind the rest of the world.
According to a report last year by The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores on reading, maths and scientific literacy have recorded statistically significant declines since 2000, while other countries have shown improvement. Apparently the decline is equivalent to more than half a year’s schooling. To reinforce the point, Australian students are three years behind students from Shanghai in maths and 1½ years behind in reading.
In maths and science, an average Australian 15-year-old student has the problem-solving abilities equivalent to an average 12-year-old Korean pupil.
Natasha Bita in The Australian today further reinforces the point with the revelation that “Chinese students are trouncing their Australian counterparts in English and maths but cost half as much to educate.
OECD data shows that Australia spends $132,945, on average, to educate a student from primary school to Year 10 — double the $66,463 spent on students in Shanghai and 40 per cent more than the $93,630 cost in South Korea, the latest comparative OECD data shows. More than half the students in Shanghai and nearly a third of Korean students top the class internationally in maths — compared with just one in seven Australian students”.
The US spends even more than Australia — $157,270 to educate a child to Year 10 — yet its students performed even worse.
Singapore spends slightly less than Australia — $115,665 per child — yet its students are twice as likely to top the tests in maths and reading.
So what does all this tell you?
This same data, these cold hard facts are available to Bill Shorten and his education spokesperson Kate Ellis.
Doesn’t this tell you that they are approaching this the wrong way?
Insanity, it is said, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time, but that’s exactly what we’re doing in education.
The only conclusion to be drawn out of all of this is that extra money doesn’t equal better outcomes.
Here’s an idea.
Perhaps we could start with a curriculum cull. Cull some of the crap from the curriculum like the gender bending and grooming, Safe Schools program and get back to the core message and the core tasks of reading, writing and arithmetic. This goofing off with a fixation on other stuff, like the Victorian governments Respectful Relationships program which has been introduced into the curriculum this year is all about teaching students to learn how to build healthy relationships, understand global cultures, ethics and traditions and to prevent family violence.
All very worthy ideals, but there are only so many hours in the school day.
By junking some of this rubbish it will free up time for the stuff that makes kids numerate and literate and prepare them for life beyond the school gates.
Total cost. $nil
And while talking about billions of dollars spent on education consider this.
We have 6 states and two territories each with their own Departments of Education and then there’s Federal Department in Canberra. And the Federal department doesn’t employ so much as one teacher or run one school.
Why does it even exist?