Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi says the latest Gonski plan, recommending a vast bureaucracy and demanding more of teachers than they can possibly deliver is ridiculous.
"When schools are getting an “F” for education outcomes, how come we’re pumping more money into them than ever before? It just doesn’t make sense," he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is pushing for a radical overhaul of the Australian curriculum after endorsing a blueprint by businessman David Gonski to 'fix' the country's lagging school system.
The scheme will impose a whole new set of assessment and reporting regimes, placing further pressure on teachers and principals without - yet again - more federal funding. Mr Gonski's report concedes there would likely be "a need to reduce teaching contact time to enable this to occur".
Australian Conservatives' policy position is to get education back to basics, and that "Education is a state government responsibility and Australian Conservatives support limiting Federal funding to the provision of a universal student voucher system." In other words, empowering parents to control the federal funding attached to their child to enrol their child in a school they believe will deliver the best results.
Respected education expert Kevin Donnelly wrote in The Age newspaper last week:
“The reasons why Australian students underperform has little, if anything, to do with funding. Compared to other OECD countries Australia’s expenditure on education as a percentage of gross domestic product is above average.
But compared to stronger performing education systems, Australian classrooms have been forced to adopt a dumbed down, overcrowded curriculum that lacks academic rigour.
In addition to being superficial, the various curriculums across the states and territories fail to provide students with a firm grounding in the basics and the type of deep content knowledge associated with the subject disciplines.
In relation to history, for example, the curriculum is awash with references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and spiritual values with minimum reference to the benefits and value of Western civilisation and the importance of the Enlightenment and Judeo-Christianity.
As noted by education expert Brian Caldwell, another reason Australian students underperform is because our education system is highly centralised, bureaucratic and inflexible.
A definition of madness is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In many ways Australia’s education system epitomises such an approach, as the politicians, policy makers and educational bureaucrats in control keep repeating the same mistakes."
Mr Donnelly has today added that Gonski's report "condemn students to failure as it represents a continuation of Australia’s dumbed-down and substandard curriculum".
Dr Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre for Independent Studies writes in response to the Gonski report today in the Spectator Australia online that "the best thing the federal government could do with Gonski 2.0 is cut their losses, politely thank the committee for their time, and back away quietly."