The hype surrounding the Gonski review of education funding in Australia gives the impression that, once implemented, all our schooling woes will be consigned to the dustbin of history.
But the truth is that it is just hype.
Gonski’s report focuses on funding, not teaching. And as anyone who pays any attention to government programs knows full well, throwing more of the taxpayer dollar at a problem is rarely an efficient solution.
Fistfuls of cash will do nothing to address the appalling inability of Australia’s schools to graduate Year 10 students who can read and write coherently, and it wouldn’t take a cent to put long-division back in the primary school curriculum.
If there is one thing to be noted from the Gonski report it is this: private schooling costs the taxpayer less and it delivers better results.
I’ll take a wild stab in the dark and offer a reason for this truth: if parents are prepared to take an extra hip-pocket hit for their children’s education, then they are also more likely to work with their kids to ensure there is an educational return on the investment.
Or, in simple terms, parents who pay school fees are more likely to be involved in their kids’ education.
And we all know that it’s parents, not teachers, who carry the primary responsibility to educate their young.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like common-sense to me.
I’m not suggesting that all parents can afford to pay top-tier school fees. I can’t. But even a token payment would result in parental ‘buy-in’ at school.
Unfortunately, instead of offering up common-sense solutions that would assist more parents to get their kids into the private education system, Gonski wants more funding to go to the systemically inefficient public schooling system.
And the report also offers this scary advice. Private school funding should be based on the anticipated ability of parents to pay.
That is code for governments to cut funding over time to the most efficient schooling system in the country.
Parents who send their kids to private schools can always be anticipated to pay a little more. And you can bet any government will anticipate just that. Grants will be reduced, school fees will be increased as a result and those unable to pay the difference will drop out of the school community.
The remaining group of ‘richer’ parents will then be re-assessed at some point as a community of less need. It won’t take Einstein to anticipate that the government will anticipate this ‘richer’ group can fork out more and the cycle will continue.
The other problem of Gonski is that it is centralist.
Education should be delivered at the lowest level possible but Gonski, like other education reforms of late, want Canberra to oversee all.
Unfortunately, it only leads to bloated administration and a dumbed-down curriculum.
Parents, schools and the states should all oppose this trend.
The truth is that parents and local communities can do a better job educating their kids than some bureaucrat in Canberra.
And the states should, for once, tell Canberra to butt-out of their affairs. It’s unhealthy for Australia that its states are losing their inherent competitiveness to Canberra and its inefficient, one-size-fits-all approach to service provision on this island continent.
All governments just need to show us the money, return our taxes to our schools and let us get on with the job.