Media release: Implement Gonski now, expert urges

Professor Richard Teese from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education said the Gillard Government has a small window of opportunity to tackle a markedly unjust and increasingly segregated education system.

“The funding situation in Australia is entrenching disadvantage,” he said. “Our research shows that disadvantage is heavily concentrated in government schools.  Across Australia, almost all schools with the poorest social profile are in the public sector, but instead of raising the quality of student achievement in these schools, funding has been diverted into middle-class choice.

“The Gonski recommendations, while not perfect, enjoy wide support and will move things in the right direction.”

If the Liberal party is successful at the next Federal election, Professor Teese warned the opportunity to tackle division in Australian education will be lost.

“The Liberal party is on record as denying that we have an equity problem in Australia, and they have said they would not implement the Gonski recommendations,” he said. “This is profoundly backward looking, and it will weaken Australia’s schools irretrievably.

“Our schools create our nation. There should not be one system for the rich, and another for the poor. The Gillard Government must work energetically to implement the Gonski recommendations.”

Professor Teese explained that government schools, while performing as well or better than private schools after adjusting for intake, played an almost exclusive role in educating the poor. Over 30 years, there has been no change in the proportion of low-socio-economic-status children educated in government schools, while private schools have continued to expand into the middle-class market. Under-funding of Government schools has accelerated the drift to private schools, leading to increasing segregation and underpinning the two-year gap in achievement between rich and poor.

Professor Teese said achieving quality in Government schools must come before multiplying choice in the private sector.

“We have to shift from creating good opportunities to securing high-quality outcomes,” he said.
“Funding has already achieved this for middle-class families. Poorer communities are missing out at a time when success at school has never been more important.”