Australian education is still paying the price of bad, expensive ideas from previous reviews. Let’s hope the NSW government’s recently-announced TAFE review to be headed by university chancellors David Gonski and Peter Shergold isn’t another dud.
But the track record of Gonski education reviews isn’t promising.
The 2011 Gonski review of school funding simply assumed that significantly more school funding was required, came up with a funding model that was almost impossible to implement in the real world — and resulted in a massive increase in spending that has demonstrably failed to lift student achievement.
And while the Gonski model presumes enormous school funding increases are still necessary, when it comes to a case of The People v Gonski, most parents think their child’s school has enough resources.
The ‘Gonski 2.0’ review of schooling in 2018 wasn’t much better. One of the major recommendations was to move towards a curriculum based on ‘learning progressions’ — a hugely disruptive and expensive proposal, with little evidence to support it. And to this day, proponents have been unable to answer a basic question: is there even one high-achieving school system anywhere in the world that uses learning progressions?
You would think that if a review panel suggests a gargantuan reform, they might first investigate if it has actually worked anywhere before. But evidently the panel couldn’t be bothered to shoulder the burden of proof for their grand plans.
For the sake of taxpayers and TAFE students, hopefully the ‘Gonski 3.0’ panel will get third-time lucky and come up with evidence-based proposals that don’t cost the world.
In Australia we have an endless, uncoordinated, overlapping barrage of education reviews — the NSW review of TAFE is at the same time as the NSW curriculum review, and the national review of senior secondary pathways, and follows on from a national review of VET last year. This proves the absence of any real vision at a national and state level.
Governments should simply ignore review panels when they propose bad ideas. And governments can’t absolve themselves of blame for poor policy by claiming they just did what a review told them to do.
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