Gonski More Just a Trendy; Report,COs Alarm Bells Spell out Issues of Concern for Australia,COs Education System in State of Crisis

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Byline: VANI NAIDOO

DO YOU give a Gonski? Well, according to the Prime Minister, New South Wales does, as well as South Australia and the ACT. Victoria and Tasmania are close to caring but not so Western Australia, the Northern Territory and definitely not Queensland.

The phrase has been bandied about for the past 12 months, gathering momentum since March as the Federal Government intensified its courting of the states in the hope they would sign on the dotted line.

Do you give a Gonski? Such is the popularity of those five words that in typical Australian fashion, it is only a matter of time before it becomes entrenched in our everyday language and perhaps even a fashionable way to express teenage angst or disinterest in some form or the other.

For now, though, C[pounds sterling]Do you give a Gonski?C[yen] is undeniably tied to our school education system and the efforts under way to supposedly improve the efficiency of function and the resources needed to get the job done.

In April, 2010, the Federal Government initiated a review of school funding arrangements to develop a system, it said, that was transparent, fair and financially sustainable. David Gonski, a successful lawyer and businessman, was chosen to chair the panel which visited 39 schools, received some 7000 submissions and consulted with 71 education groups across Australia.

In November, 2011, Gonski delivered the findings to the Government and when the report was released three months later, it was plain to see that AustraliaCOs school system was in trouble. The 317-page document was gravely concerning but hardly surprising.

While AustraliaCOs school system fared fairly well when it came to quality indicators such as the Program for International Student Assessment, our results in the past decade had suffered a definite slide, especially in the top ranges.

In 2000, only one country outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and only two outperformed Australia in mathematical literacy. By 2009, six countries outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and 12 outperformed Australia in mathematical literacy.

Perhaps most concerning was the fact that the gap between our highest and lowest-performing students had grown alarmingly with a noticeable link between low levels of achievement and discrepancies in the quality of education available, especially among students with low socio-economic and indigenous backgrounds. …