Media release: Education Dean: Funding alone not enough to address disadvantage

 24 August 2012

Funding alone will not address the disadvantage experienced by Australia’s poorest students, according to University of Melbourne Dean of Education, Professor Field Rickards.

Speaking tomorrow (August 24) at the International Alliance of Leading Education Institutions (IALEI) annual conference at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Professor Rickards will tell the international audience that Australia is a high quality, low equity country, and that teachers have an important role to play in redressing the balance.

“While overall, Australia’s education performance is high, we have a higher than average performance gap between our top 25 per cent of 15 year olds, and our bottom 25 per cent,” he said. “Our poorest students are not doing well – we need to do more to help thi.”

According to Professor Rickards, the Gonski review has rightly focused on allocating resources according to need, so that schools working with disadvantaged students receive more funding. However, he points out that funding alone will not address Australia’s equity issues.

“Teacher education institutions, like my own, have a responsibility to prepare tomorrow’s teachers to meet the challenges of Australia’s heterogeneous school systi, and address its deep-rooted equity issues,” he said. “I firmly believe the best way of doing this is by preparing teachers to meet the individual needs of students.”

Professor Rickards explained that teachers will always be confronted with a wide variety of needs in any given class – whether they’re working in a government or an independent school. Their challenge is to meet each of these needs, and maximise all students’ learning.

“The simplistic view of teaching is that teachers are passionate information transmitters,” said Professor Rickards. “In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  Today’s best teachers know that questioning is more effective than telling; they use data to make decisions; they collaborate with colleagues in a structured manner and they are led by strong leaders with a focus on learning outcomes. In this way, they can truly meet every student’s needs.”

According to Professor Rickards, implienting Gonski’s recommendations will give teachers the resources they need to truly focus on teaching, and help eliminate many of the administrative distractions they currently face.

“We will really start to address disadvantage in our education systi when teachers are taught how focus on students’ individual needs, and given the resources to do so,” Professor Rickards said. “Every student has the right to an education that meets their individual needs – it’s time to focus on closing the opportunity gap, rather than the achievient gap.”