The Gonski 2.0 report is a missed opportunity which doubles down on what has caused declining achievement standards in Australian education.
On Monday morning in Australia, the much-anticipated Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools was released to the public. More commonly referred to as Gonski 2.0, the second iteration of the report on education funding in Australia examined why, despite extra funding as a result of the first report, achievement standards had not improved.The Gonski report, named after businessman and education activist David Gonski, aimed to lay out a blueprint for improving achievement in Australia’s schools. Education Minister Simon Birmingham hailed the report as a ‘landmark’ for Australian education.
For all the report’s bold proclamations, there are some notable flaws among its proposals. Among the most pressing of its problems is that the document as a whole is rather vague. For a report that recommends spending billions of additional dollars, little detail on how such reform would be applied is given. There are many statements made within the document such as changing Australia’s “industrialised” model of delivering education. The industrialised model of education, the report argues, is an outdated model of teaching children, which does not cater for students as individuals or prepare them for the 21st century.
I have written previously for Conatus News on the issues with the form of education delivery which the new report proposes. Notions of a 21st-century education are misleading, and countries which have devoted themselves to going down this path have found their results declining as a result. Proven, successful methods for educating children, such as direct instruction and knowledge-rich curriculums which prioritise the content learned over general ‘skills’ are dismissed in this report, educator Michael Salter succinctly blogged. Instead, the report’s proposals would double down on the wrongheaded ideas which have resulted in Australian education declining in the first place.
While there are many issues with the report, among the most ill-conceived and concerning of these ideas is the possibility of individualised learning plans for each student. As anyone within the profession can tell you, the amount of paperwork associated with education is already excessive. Individualised learning plans for each student, particularly at the secondary level, could see teachers have to create more than 100 different learning plans. Then there is the quandary of actually implementing them in a classroom scenario. It is an idea which sounds good, but is firstly unworkable, but also not necessarily even desirable. John Hattie’s meta-analysis of education studies has found little correlation with individualised learning and achievement. Educator Greg Ashman has blogged at length on the issues with personalised learning, including this recent post in response to the Gonski 2.0 report. Lesson planning, marking and other out-of-classroom duties in teaching are a major part of Australia’s problem with retaining teachers in the profession. This proposal would exacerbate the issue and turn it into a full-blown crisis.
Such an overhaul is also an enormous undertaking. If this were to be implemented in full, it would take many years to achieve, even if federal and state education departments fully co-operated with one another, which is unlikely. It is claimed that the changes would be implemented within five years, but that is doubtful. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the current state of the report – more modest proposals and outcomes, which target the specific issues facing Australian education may emerge as a result. Given the many problems with the report’s recommendations, let’s hope the outcomes implemented, if any, are very different from the ones currently proposed.