Even the hardest-nosed economic rationalist would not begrudge state funding for primary and high schools. Take Adam Smith in 1776: “The expenses of the institutions for education are, no doubt, beneficial to the whole society, and may, therefore, without injustice, be defrayed by the general contribution of the whole society.”

We could spend more on education than it's worth. Illustration: Lobbecke

Arts degrees might have become taxpayer-funded book parties, but even free-market economist Milton Friedman said public schooling imparted the “minimum degree of literacy and knowledge” required for the functioning of “stable and democratic society”.

Cost is another matter. Just as gilding lighthouses might be considered excessive use of public funds, it is possible to overspend on education. While the marginal public benefit of extra public spending falls, the cost of raising extra tax rises.

Such basic economics was absent from the Review of Funding for Schooling, overseen by David Gonski, which argued schools ‘urgently’ need an extra $5 billion a year to ensure “poor education outcomes [do not] become an ever greater drag on Australia’s social and economic development in the future”.

But the link between extra spending and better outcomes is very tenuous. Spending less and using existing resources better would be more likely to improve educational outcomes.

State and federal spending on public and private schools has grown to around $32 billion and $10 billion a year, respectively. Federal spending is growing four times as fast as student enrollments.

Despite the snowballing sums spent, Andrew Leigh, a former economics professor and now Labor MP for Fraser, studied expenditures and outcomes at Australian schools between 1964 and 2003 and found “no evidence that the test scores of Australian pupils have risen over the past four decades, and some evidence that scores have fallen”.

Between 2000 and 2009 Australian students dropped around ten places in international league tables.

Christopher Pyne, the federal Opposition’s spokesman for education, points out Catholic schools have had about 85 per cent of the resources of public schools between 1995 and 2008 yet have produced consistently better academic results.

Paul Miller, an economics professor at Curtin University, says international evidence shows extra funding does not result in better literacy or numeracy outcomes, adding “we should be looking at successful schools and asking why they do well not what their funding levels are” he adds.

The Review recommends minimum annual spending of $8,000 for primary and $10,500 for high school students in 2009 dollars, each boosted by loadings for students with perceived disadvantages.

An Aboriginal secondary school student in a remote, poor area from a non-English speaking background would attract annual public funding of $39,400, for example.

The Review asserts “clear benefits to the federal government being more involved in the funding of government schools”, calling for “greater national consistency” and “rebalancing” so the Commonwealth spends relatively more on government schools and the states on private schools.

“The benefits of greater federal involvement are not articulated or even outlined in the Review”, Scott Prasser, a professor of public policy at Australian Catholic University says, adding that COAG “is a tangled and growing web of inefficient bureaucratic committees that undermine states’ incentive to come up with their own polices”.

Peter Dawkins, vice-chancellor of Victoria University and former secretary of the Victorian education department, says the Review was “right to argue that existing funding arrangements are ridiculously complex and need to be made more transparent and coherent”, but suggests “rather than have one national funding model it would be better to have agreed principles nationally and allow for coherent models within each state.”

He also says teacher quality perhaps bears the strongest positive relationship with outcomes.

Teachers’ unions are still the biggest impediments to improving teacher quality. In 1958 Kim Beazley Senior, a future minister of education in the Whitlam government, observed: “the publications that we receive every month from the teachers, especially that of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, are nothing but propaganda about money; there is never anything in them that would improve a teacher’s technique”.

Little has changed. Unions’ continual advocacy of smaller class sizes – which fell 40 per cent across Australia between 1964 and 2003 – has dramatically undermined productivity and sapped teaching quality.

While the rest of Australian workers embraced enterprise bargaining and deregulation since the 1980s, Leigh finds Australian schools were 78 per cent less productive in 2003 than they were in 1964 in terms of measurable student results per dollar spent.

“Class-size reduction has been a costly policy that has not translated into a commensurate improvement in overall student outcomes” the Productivity Commission concluded in a report proposing ways to improving teacher quality, released in May.

The Commission makes the obvious point that “to reduce class sizes more teachers need to be recruited”, which undermines the average quality of teaching. Over 20 years to 2003 the literacy and numeracy scores of teachers have dropped eight points across Australia.

Reversing the trend to ever smaller class sizes by sacking underperforming teachers would free up funds to pay more to better teachers or teachers with tougher teaching assignments, which would also attract better quality candidates to the profession.  Salaries at the top of teachers’ pay scales have barely grown in real terms since 1995.

“Centralised industrial relations arrangements ... can be a source of inflexibility that impedes a range of beneficial reforms”, the Commission noted. Pay scales for teachers barely differentiate according to teachers’ skills, performance or the difficulty of their teaching assignment.

Teachers’ pay typically creeps to the top salary scale after about 10 years of service. Its insulation from market forces has created chronic shortages of mathematics and science teachers, who can earn significantly more outside of teaching, and a glut of primary teachers, who typically cannot.

In 2010 around 8 per cent of high schools were unable to fill vacancies for mathematics teachers, and a survey from the same year suggested more than half of secondary school maths teachers did not have a tertiary qualification in the subject.

Reform will be difficult. Proposing what is routine for most workers, pay based on merit, is likely to provoke “significant systemic tension” between the status quo and “policy approaches that offer the prospect of material improvement in schooling outcomes for students”, the Commission anticipated.

State governments hold the keys to lifting standards. New South Wales announced in March it will give principals more control over their school budgets – including power to make purchases up to $5,000 – and an ‘increased say’ over which teachers the school employees.

But a high school principal will still not be able to, for example, dismiss a poorly performing teacher and adjust class sizes to hire a good mathematics teacher instead.

For all Adam Smith’s wisdom, he was wrong about one aspect of education. Schooled at public cost, he argued “[people] are less liable to the delusions of enthusiasm and superstition, which among ignorant nations, frequently occasion the most dreadful disorders…”

Yet the growing torrent of public money spent on primary and secondary schooling over many decades appears only to have fanned the delusion that ever greater government spending is the solution to every problem.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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49 comments

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    • Bill says:

      06:47am | 30/08/12

      And yet children who attend independent schools are punished with lesser funding than children who go to state schools. How is that fair?

    • Billy says:

      07:44am | 30/08/12

      That’s called Labor/Green’s class war!

    • acotrel says:

      08:31am | 30/08/12

      Globalism is always about ‘user pays’.  The state system should be adequate, and is certainly there for all to use, - if you want Looxury, you shouldn’t expect the taxpayer to support your want.  Supporting elitism in a spoon fed group of suspect ability should not be what we are about.  If you want your kid to get a good secondary education, send him or her to Melbourne High, or Macrob - that’s if they can pass the entrance requirements.
      We are supposed to be living in a meritocracy, should not use taxpayer funds to educate the intellectually inept and lazy.  Most of us have to do some work at some time in our lives. But nice if you can slide out from under ?

    • tez says:

      09:03am | 30/08/12

      If you feel your children are beeing punished then send them to the local public school where they won’t be punished you never know they could enjoy it. Sorry no fancy trimming.

    • DocBud says:

      09:49am | 30/08/12

      Except, of course, Acotrel, as I’m sure you know, taxpayers funding independent schools saves the treasury money as the rate of funding is significantly less than for public schools. Without this funding, many who currently send their children to independent schools would not be able to and would have to put their children into the public sector, upping taxpayer costs, both capital and running. As a taxpayer, I think the independent school system (which educates 1 in 3 Australian children) is a bargain.

    • James1 says:

      09:55am | 30/08/12

      According to the article, that money makes no difference anyway.

    • Little Joe says:

      09:58am | 30/08/12

      @ acotrel

      Are you starting to see the light!!! Though MacRob and Melbourne High are elitist schools, it is nice that you are actually admitting that you can’t just walk into these schools and must apply.

      I would disagree with your statement “the state system should be adequate”, I pay a lot of taxpayer money to support these schools and I would hope that they could provide more than an adequate education. But the truth is, when you send your child to a state school there is a high probability that he/she will be surrounded by children who don’t give a damn about education who come from families that don’t give a damn about education.

      Casing point:

      “Almost 164,000 Australian students were suspended from state schools last year, while 2630 were deemed so disruptive they were told never to come back”

      The Courier Mail 27/08/2012

      And yes .... children get suspended and expelled from private schools. Four boys at my son’s school were suspended the other day ...... their hair was too long.

      This is the problem!!! Meanwhile we had a story published by The Punch last week about a school (Glenala HS) that received a massive amount of money from the Federal Government and improved their grades. In 2010, Glenala HS had a net recurrent income of $14,710/student of which approximately $14,000 came from the State and Federal Governments. Meanwhile my son’s small private school had a net recurrent income of approximately $12,000/student of which approximately $7,900 came from the State and Federal Governments. The difference in results and attendance is amazing!!! And my son’s school does it with significantly less money ..... and significantly less government money.

      The problem that faces most of the children who use the Public School system is not the education system, it is the environment which these children must survive every day.

    • Tom says:

      02:27pm | 30/08/12

      tez, why would you want to have your children taught by lazy, incompetent people in a bloated, under-performing government monopoly?

    • expat says:

      06:50am | 30/08/12

      Our mediocre academic results have less to do with the funding on offer and more to do with the underlying attitude of Australians towards education. In a society where being average is not only acceptable, it is celebrated, what do you expect?

      The quality of our educational facilities are considered world class and we have a continuous stream of international students who come here to learn to become anything from doctors to pilots.

    • Nathan says:

      07:22am | 30/08/12

      The quality of our education is hardly world class. Look at the rankings of our universities. Might be world class compared to India but they have been sliding compared to OECD nations.  The number of OS students has been well reported as being on the decline.

      “In a society where being average is not only acceptable, it is celebrated, what do you expect?” That is a myth and i don’t think that it is celebrated. Yes some people are that way but that is the same world over

    • acotrel says:

      07:47am | 30/08/12

      We should build on our strengths. Australia can only afford to compete in the globalised free market on the basis of quality, and our whole mindset should be focussed on achieving that.  Our education system is largely based on the ‘blind leading the blind’.  If you are a highly qualified professional with years of industrial experience in your field, it should be easy to get involved in sessional teaching, but it is not.  When you front for a job, especially at regional TAFEs the regular teachers get paranoid, and will always try to find ways to exclude you.  The system becomes intellect poor and self-sustaining in that form.

    • Coxinator says:

      06:58am | 30/08/12

      When I finished school 15 years ago when everyone was told you must go university or you’re a failure (apprenticeships were considered a failure, yet the few that did do them are now the most successful), all the smart kids did commerce or engineering and all the dumb kids did teaching because it was easy to get into.

    • expat says:

      07:37am | 30/08/12

      Everywhere else in the world a university degree equates to a higher salaries and generally a higher standard of living. Australia is the only exception to the above rule that I have come across in all of my travels, why do you think so many degree qualified Australians work overseas?

      As for teaching.. “those who cannot do, teach”. I am sure there is some truth to this thinking back to when I was at school.

    • Billy says:

      07:48am | 30/08/12

      At mine, it was joining the army!

    • acotrel says:

      08:19am | 30/08/12

      If you become a scientist and work in Australia, you will never be more than meagrely wealthy.  A better choice has always been the US, but who would want t o live there?  You makes your choices, and you takes your bumps.

    • Al says:

      08:22am | 30/08/12

      In does seem a little funny that so many of our University Graduates head overseas for carrers and at the same time we are encouraging the migration of skilled people (and by skilled people many are trades qualified or similar without the need for University level qualifications) to Australia.
      Sure there are exceptions to this generalisation, but it is a funny situation.

    • Loddlaen says:

      08:40am | 30/08/12

      And those who cannot teach whinge about those who do…

      Some teaching degrees are easier than others. However teachers in subjects like Science and Maths do many or exactly the same courses at university as Maths/Science/Engineering degrees.

      But thank you for highlighting one of problems with education in Australia. People have been constantly devaluing the role of teachers for many years. Is it any wonder that students don’t take school seriously when so many adults put down teachers constantly?

    • marley says:

      08:56am | 30/08/12

      @expat - I disagree with that comment.  University grads in quite a few countries, including Canada and the US, do not necessarily enjoy higher salaries or standards of living.  It depends on the degrees.  In countries like Germany where university grads do better than the average, it is perhaps because the universities are more selective and there are therefore fewer grads, per capita, than in Australia.  You can’t water down the product and expect the same results.

    • Little Joe says:

      09:02am | 30/08/12

      The dumb kids usually did arts first ..... then when they realised that they couldn’t get a job they Dip.Ed. or became a Journalist.

    • acotrel says:

      09:52am | 30/08/12

      @Al
      ‘In does seem a little funny that so many of our University Graduates head overseas for carrers and at the same time we are encouraging the migration of skilled people (and by skilled people many are trades qualified or similar without the need for University level qualifications) to Australia.’

      It is one of the adverse effects of globalism.  Australian employers do not need university graduates of high standard.  Their businesses are not ‘learning organisations’.  What they need is poorly skilled factory fodder who can do the minimum, yet still displace well trained tradesmen who rightly can command high wages, and who join unions to protect their corner
      . The whole Australian business mindset appears to be minimalist and compliance oriented, it is not directed towards continual improvement and excellence, and competing on the basis of quality.
      The way we are going we will end up with severe problems in trade quality areas. The gains emplotyers are making are essentially short term. In the long term, it will be disastrous - we will be another India back in the time of the Raj.

    • expat says:

      04:59pm | 30/08/12

      @ marley, what you say is actually very true, but not on the same scale as Australia, a university degree in Canada and the US is still highly valued, where as back in Australia it holds equal or in many cases less value than a trade qualification.
      You will also find plenty of US and Canadians living abroad as well, because the grass in some cases is much greener for degree holders in places like Singapore and Hong Kong.

      @loddlean, The attitude towards teachers is wrong, but somewhat fair. You have teachers who are teaching directly from the text book with no real life experience in the subjects that they are supposed to be specialists in.

    • Tubesteak says:

      08:01am | 30/08/12

      “But the link between extra spending and better outcomes is very tenuous.”

      Wouldn’t this be more because it’s near impossible to reliably measure outcomes in a public-funded sector. Just looking at test results doesn’t show much because you can’t measure the input from the student.

      What is really needed is an overhaul of the curriculum to make it reflect the modern and future economy. Produce people that are suited for that.

    • Bob the builder says:

      08:13am | 30/08/12

      Ive just had my kids in the german school system. They teach there kids for an industrial economy ours teaches more public servants. Kids finish school at lunch, at 16 most finish school and have been trained as a tradesman banker or insurance agent. Get a job in that trade and get on with life. Class sizes are large in year 4 thats right when they are 10 they do the equivalent if school leaving tests every week for everything at that determine what school you go to. Most gonto trade school as one german told me “why would you go to the top school we have lots of doctors and lawyers”. Its not money or class sizes its competition plus a vocational focus in senior school. Our current teachers cannit do this they are just public servants who can only teach kids to be public servants.

      One of my friends who ran a plastic factory used to take kids through his factory. Until he heard the teacher who had been taking them there for 8 years tell them. “and that is were you end up if you dont study hard” he never let them in again. We can do nothing until the current crop of teachers die off and try and replace them with vicationally focussed ones but we cant as those teachers are being paid to much by the mining industry

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:31am | 30/08/12

      We love to bash on about how crap our teachers are.  People similarly bash politicians.

      Those who should be leading our country - the visionary businesspeople and natural leaders of great quality - end up in business where they earn 10 times as much.  They don’t lead either our government or our children.

      If we’re going to talk “market forces” and “outcomes”, then we should start with paying teachers properly…which is a lot more than they get now.

      The balance to that is to hold them far more accountable and give them the authority to enforce that accountability.  That means removing disruptive children from classes, not just putting up with them as many are currently forced to do.

      It is not the teacher’s job to raise children, but to teach them.  We should make movements towards reintroducing parental authority and parental responsibility.  Too many parents these days are willing to blame everything but themselves for their situations.

    • Lomas scott says:

      10:29am | 30/08/12

      They - the visonary business people - then end up on the front page of The Age in an apron with rude bits on it, simulating s*x with a soft toy.

      Tell me again how schools should be run like businesses.

      :-(

    • Peter says:

      08:43am | 30/08/12

      “Between 2000 and 2009 Australian students dropped around ten places in international league tables.”

      Sheesh.  I think we need to take a step back for a minute.  I really think this is non-issue.  What league tables?  Which countries?  On what basis?  Has it occured to anyone that perhaps the “drop” is actually not a drop at all, but simply a reflection of the fact that developing Asian countries are becoming more wealthy and broadening their middle class?  They are becoming more influential in many ways (eg Olympics) and it necessarily follows that they will be climbing the “league tables” in many areas of comparison, as a result. 

      So the issue s not that Australian education has some horrific systemic problem - it is that Asian countries are starting to come on-stream and providing more competition to Western countries in general.  And I bet if you look at other Western countries you’ll see the same trend: they are “dropping”  places on the international league tables to make way for burgeoning Asian countries.  That makes perfectly logical sense and in no way is a reflection of some failure on the part of Western educational systems.

    • AdamC says:

      10:38am | 30/08/12

      “Has it occured to anyone that perhaps the “drop” is actually not a drop at all, but simply a reflection of the fact that developing Asian countries are becoming more wealthy and broadening their middle class?”

      I think that has probably occured to just about everyone, Peter. My question is, why be so fatalistic about the Chinese, etc, being better educated than us? After all, educated, highly-skilled workforces are supposed to be the advantage of operating in highly developed countries like ours.

    • Peter says:

      10:53am | 30/08/12

      @AdamC, because it is not, as I say, a matter of us “dropping” but the Chinese catching up as a result of their coming of age.  Big difference.

    • AdamC says:

      11:11am | 30/08/12

      @Peter, I do not understand your point. The Chinese and Koreans have not merely ‘caught up’, they have overtaken us. Hence our fall on the league tables. Just because you can provide an explanation for a relative decline does not mean that decline does not exist. Why make excuses when we can actually fix the problem instead?

    • simonfromlakemba says:

      01:41pm | 30/08/12

      We got lazy in this country and now the Asians are catching up. The fact we dropped 10 places isn’t great, I think we still do well at science and maths but English we dropped, from memory.

      But the school systems in some Asian countries include weekends, or finishing at 7pm etc.

      If you look at it we have 2 great Universities - ANU & Uni of Melbourne very high up in the top world rankings so the grads we do put out aren’t too bad.

    • AdamC says:

      09:55am | 30/08/12

      I am starting to quite enjoy Mr Creighton’s contrarian take on policy issues.

      This is one area where I agree with him wholeheartedly. Certainly, it appears that the much-vaunted benefits of both reduced class sizes and increased spending are based on faith more so than evidence. In Australia, money has been squandered on cutting class sizes rather than on other things which may have benefited society more. People forget that, just because spending money on education can be beneficial, that does not mean that it always or necessarily is.

      Realistically, we cannot have better teachers without also having fewer of them. However, education is a reactionary sector where the interests of producers (teachers, bureaucrats) are prioritised over consumers (students). I see no reason why, with the use of modern, interactive teaching aids, we cannot increase class sizes while improving outcomes. Meanwhile, aside from the use of electric lighting, classrooms today are little different to those of the eighteenth century. It is ridiculous!

    • Catherine Scott says:

      10:32am | 30/08/12

      Here’s somewhere to go to get the evidence, from Peter Dolton of the London School of Economics, of the wisdom of paying teachers properly. It shows the relationship between teachers’ pay and student outcomes. It’s an impressively strong correlation:

      http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cp352.pdf

    • jade (the other one) says:

      10:58am | 30/08/12

      A little thing called duty of care for one. For another, with the advent of mainstreaming, the larger the class the less individual attention can be given to students who have specific learning needs.

      Plus, if smaller class sizes are so irrelevant, why is it one of the key selling factors by private schools? I am sick and tired of hearing those who benefitted from having classes limited to 15 or 20 students telling those who were not so privileged that there’s no major benefit.

      I was fortunate enough in my high school to experience classrooms that had both 27-30 students, and classrooms that had 12-15, because of the subjects I chose in senior. Guess which classrooms I learnt best in? Not the ones with the teacher who had 30 kids in 6 classes, meaning that overall, they were teaching 180 students. Not the teachers who taught so many students that they could not possibly remember all of their names. Not the classrooms with teachers who were marking 180 300 word essays, with a 14 day turnaround. I didn’t get great feedback from these teachers, because for them to take the time to provide that feedback on a draft, would have required extension of the 14 day turnaround. Extension of that means that assignment due dates have to be extended. Which means reporting doesn’t get done. So I got a cursory grammar and spelling check, and a tick to indicate I was approaching the right track. Contrast that with the teachers who had time to really read what I had written, think about what conceptual understandings I had missed, and to consider each students’ work.

    • Hamish says:

      11:15am | 30/08/12

      AdamC, I’ve always thought the class sizes issue relates more to the Union wanting to increase membership rather than there being any real benefits to having smaller classes (within reason). Having gone to an independent school which had class sizes significantly higher than the average government school, but far better results, it always seemed to me there must have been some other agenda at work. I guess less students also means less marking so teachers don’t spend as much of their generous spare time actually doing work.

    • james says:

      01:09pm | 30/08/12

      @Hamish

      Here is a test, swap the roles of two teachers for a week.

      The goverment school teacher works in the independent school for a week, the independent school teacher works in the government school for a week.

      Something tells me what sort of response that would generate.

      Moral of the story, it is easy to teach motivated students who want to learn.

    • Hamish says:

      01:52pm | 30/08/12

      That’s exactly my point james. Reducing class sizes does nothing to ameliorate the real problems teachers, especially in the government system, face.

    • Philip Crooks says:

      07:19pm | 30/08/12

      I am a teacher and would really like you to tell me all about interactive teaching aids that I can use. And how to use them you seem to be an expert!
      If you cannot explain then please be quiet.
      Why can we not have more and better teachers. By the way define a good better and best teacher.

    • jade (the other one) says:

      10:10am | 30/08/12

      The problem with your argument that class sizes do not influence outcomes is a misunderstanding of the reasons that teachers are seeking smaller class sizes.

      State school teachers are dealing in most cases with multiple behavioural, and learning issues. They are dealing with significant impairments, and often have students requiring large amounts of focused attention. However, the availability of dedicated teacher aides, special education teachers, and other support such as speech pathologists, or therapists is declining. Meaning that teachers are left to deal with providing these students specialised care and attention, in addition to dealing with the other students in their class.

      Your claim that teachers would oppose pay based on merit, which you claim is par for the course for other workers is also erroneous. The issue for teachers’ unions regarding performance-based pay for state teachers has more to do with the actual systems being proposed for this initiative, and the very real disadvantage it would cause to teachers in socio-economically disadvantaged, high migrant, rural, remote, and indigenous communities. The government refuses to accept the complexity and reality of what truly assessing teacher performance would mean, because to do so would be extremely costly. Test scores tell one more about the socio-economic background and English capabilities of students, than their actual progress or development.

      To truly assess teacher performance, one needs to assess their planning, resources they have developed, review the assessments they deliver, consider the diversity and disadvantage of the students in their class and how they have accounted for that in assessment, planning, and resource development, and consider where their students started and where they have ended, at a holistic level. They need to enter their classrooms, look at the feedback provided to their students, look at the resources available to them and how they have used them to promote student learning, one needs to look at the composition of each individual classroom in terms of student ability, cultural and linguistic diversity, special needs, age, and socio-economic diversity.

      One also should not compare private school test scores with public ones without comparing the diversity of each school in terms of student cohort, resources, and specialist assistance.

    • AdamC says:

      10:40am | 30/08/12

      “State school teachers are dealing in most cases with multiple behavioural, and learning issues.”

      And they weren’t doing this forty years ago, Jade, when standards were better and classes were larger?

    • jade (the other one) says:

      11:09am | 30/08/12

      40 years ago, students with autism were either simply kicked out of classrooms, or sent to special schools. Now, they are being mainstreamed. 40 years ago, students who hit a teacher were expelled immediately. 40 years ago, students with learning difficulties were simply ignored by the system. 40 years ago, we didn’t know what ADHD was, let alone how to cater appropriately to it. 40 years ago, students who were intellectually impaired were forced into special schools, not mainstreamed. 40 years ago a student with visual or auditory processing impairments would have been treated as a naughty or disobedient student, and simply ignored.

      Now, we expect teachers to actually help these students to learn. We have an expectation that teachers will meet their learning needs, and not simply kick the Asperger’s student out of class. We expect that a teacher will develop alternative resources to provide a meaningful learning experience for the intellectually impaired student who cannot actually speak, but whose parents insist is mainstreamed. We expect that teachers will recognise the needs of children with visual processing problems, and provide appropriate resources to help them, even if that has to come out of their own pocket. We expect that teachers will meet the needs of children with auditory processing problems, and remember to deal with them appropriately. We ask teachers to develop Individual Education Plans for each special needs student. We expect teachers to deal with behaviours that 40 years ago would have seen children belted by both principals and parents. We expect primary school teachers to teach children to brush their teeth and tie their shoelaces, and toilet train them.

      Either remove the expectation that teachers will help EVERY child to learn, or recognise that teachers, especially in state schools have massively complex roles in teaching students with competing and urgent needs, with minimal or no support.

    • Loddlaen says:

      11:11am | 30/08/12

      @AdamC - And forty years ago, if you spoke to a parent regarding their child, chances are the child copped a flogging when they got home. Nowadays, you call a parent only to find out they would rather be a friend than a parent and either doesn’t enforce any discipline or makes every excuse under the sun for why their child is the victim.
      That change in parental attitude probably has more to do with the issues many teachers face.

      @Jade - Agreed wholeheartedly. I would probably benefit from these changes but I am in the minority of teachers in that regard.

    • Little Joe says:

      01:29pm | 30/08/12

      @ jade (the other one)

      Excellent piece .... my nephew has Asperger. This year he will finish Year 12 this year with a Cert III in IT and currently holds down two part time jobs.

      I do appreciate your last paragraph. A family friend was a teacher but left because of what she experienced in the public school system.

      Ps. There is a new diagnosis on the horizon .... it’s called Anti-authoritarian Behaviour Disorder. I do not know how society will cope with this one.

    • AdamC says:

      01:46pm | 30/08/12

      @jade, it seems from your comments that the problems in our schools are being driven by:

      a) bad attitudes towards education in the community; and

      b) a misguided approach to ‘mainstreaming’ children with learning or other disabilities.

      You present hiring more teachers as a solution to these ills. I would contest that. Having more (and, by extension, less high-quality) teachers does not eliminate bad parenting, nor does it magically enable disabled students to succeed in normal classes.

    • jade (the other one) says:

      02:30pm | 30/08/12

      @AdamC - there is nothing to prevent a student with visual processing problems, auditory processing problems, or other learning difficulties from being mainstreamed, provided the teacher has adequate resources and assistance to provide appropriate resources.

      It would be extremely detrimental to place students with many of these problems, who possess average, or above average intelligence in special education, or special schools. There is a vast chasm between students with learning difficulties or disabilities, and students with severe intellectual impairments who need special education.

      Your suggestion would see a significant proportion of students in the state sector end up in the much more costly special education sector, and severely limit their future contributions to society.

      I don’t have a problem with increasing class sizes, so long as you are similarly increasing the in class support to teachers in the form of teacher aides, administration support, and a reduction in their assessment and record-keeping requirements, as well as a significant reduction in their duty of care and liability for student injury, bullying or failure.

      Your attitudes also condemn a whole section of students on the basis of their parents. Luckily dedicated teachers in the state education system are willing to work, and to care for these students, and attempt to ameliorate the effects of their parenting.

      What would you like to see happen to these students, disadvantaged either through genetics, bad parenting, or a combination of the two? That they simply fall through the cracks as they did 40 years ago?

    • Guarantee says:

      10:34am | 30/08/12

      If this extra $5 Billion for Gonski doesn’t fix all of Australia’s Education problems, will we be getting a refund?

      Where’s the guarantee?

    • Ian from Melbourne says:

      11:15am | 30/08/12

      And what does an economist know about eduction? Oh wait that’s right a whole lot of nothing!

    • ace leo ace says:

      01:08pm | 30/08/12

      You are right, they are not a magic solution, they are a realistic solution.

    • colin says:

      01:50pm | 30/08/12

      @jade (the other one)  11:09am | 30/08/12

      “Either remove the expectation that teachers will help EVERY child to learn, or recognise that teachers, especially in state schools have massively complex roles in teaching students with competing and urgent needs, with minimal or no support.”

      Or - much more sensibly - bring in better foetus screening.

    • Philip Crooks says:

      07:11pm | 30/08/12

      Oh dear here we go again never let economics intrude into education. The writer of this article is well uninformed all he talks about is money.
      Here in WA the education department and the POLITICIANS implemented out comes based education it was a disaster. whop opposed yes the looney leftie teachers. Outcomes eventually faded away, mind you the academics still like it and it lurking in the Australian curriculum, but the damage has been done.
      May I suggest people read Larry Coban there you will read an American perspective but also a very well argued point of view .
      Merit pay has never worked and before anybody says it will I weant to know exactly how it will. If you have not worked out a proper plan then please shut up.
      Saying merit pay works in industry is not a plan.
      The level of ignorance is frightening.
      I’ll keep saying just because you went to school does not mean you know anything about schools or teaching.

 

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