Failed education revolution
3rd February 2011

In the following and The Drum website, I argue that the ALP Commonwealth Government's much proclaimed education revolution is a failure.

 Australia’s education revolution’ is one phrase that Peter Garrett, the Commonwealth Minister for School Education rarely, if ever, uses in his speeches and media releases.

How times have changed. Kevin Rudd, when prime minister, said he’d be happy for the public to judge the success or otherwise of his government on whether it delivered on its education revolution.

Julia Gillard, when minister for education, repeated the mantra and boasted that her education revolution, involving national testing and the MySchool website, computers and trade centres in schools, a national curriculum and Building the Education Revolution infrastructure program, would strengthen schools and raise standards.

Why has the expression disappeared? Simple, in addition to being flawed in concept, such has been the mismanagement and failure to fulfil promises and meet deadlines, the ALP’s education revolution is now an electoral liability.

As stated in a report monitoring how the ALP Government is travelling compared to the Abbott-led Opposition by Essential Research, “In October 2009, it led by 17 points on education, 12 points in January last year, 11 points in October and now, just six points on an issue that Julia Gillard professes is her main political passion”.

When it comes to the education revolution, the wheels have fallen off.  Take the MySchool website that provides details about every school in Australia, including results from national tests and a profile detailing the socioeconomic status (SES) for each school’s community.

Not only do experts like The University of Melbourne’s Dr Margaret Wu argue that the methodology behind the tests is invalid but also, Minister Garrett had to postpone launching the latest version of MySchool late last year because the information detailing whether schools were wealthy or not was misleading.

In March 2010 Julia Gillard, as education minister, launched the draft national curriculum and stated that it would be ready for schools at the start of 2011. Once again, such has been the flawed nature of the process that the December 2010 meeting of education ministers postponed approval until October 2011.

Minister Garrett now admits that all states and territories will not be implementing the curriculum until 2013 and, even then, there are doubts whether the new curriculum will be the same across Australia.  NSW and Victoria, for example, instead of adopting the national curriculum as designed, will give priority to existing state based curriculum.

The 2007 election campaign promise to give every senior student a computer remains unfulfilled, as does the promise to give every secondary school a trades centre (funding is only available to groups of schools).

While the Government is now cutting back programs and raising taxes to pay for the recent tragic floods, it should also be remembered that by some accounts at least $2 billion of the $16 billion BER program represents over charging and waste.

There is an alternative to the ALP’s centrally controlled, bureaucratic and micromanaged education revolution. Research proves that two of the characteristics of stronger performing education systems are autonomous schools and a system where parents are supported when choosing between government and non-government schools.

A real revolution, and one proven to raise standards and strengthen schools, is to place decision making at the local level and to promote school choice by ensuring that all schools, government, Catholic and independent, are properly funded.



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Failed education revolution
3rd February 2011
In the following and The Drum website, I argue that the ALP Commonwealth Government's much proclaimed education revolution is a failure. Australia’s education revolution’ is one phrase that Peter...

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