Gonski GosPlan Comeback

We need to address our education failures. Our government needs to recognise that money won’t do it. And to realise that GosPlan-like 15 year  targets  plastered over  a dysfunctional system will achieve nothing.

It is a iron law – perhaps Falk’s Second Iron Law – that public sector producers will always claim poor quality product is due to inadequate funding.

And thus in education. Despite the claims, the evidence of the past decade in the OECD,  Asia, US, UK and Australia has disproven the view that money will fix all education ills. To quote the OECD:

The bottom line: Money alone can’t buy a good education system. Strong  performers in PISA are those countries and economies that believe – and act on the belief – that all children can succeed in school. Among wealthier economies, those that prioritise the quality of teachers over smaller classes tend to show better performance. When it comes to money and education, the question isn’t  How Much? but rather For What?

Worth noting though that increases in average performance in some countries can come at the cost of performance at the top. How things are done matters.

But it is a measure of how disconnected  our political class is from reality that they believe that more spending and government planning can deliver anything in mass services. Whether it be education or anything else.

Both Coalition and ALP-Greens MPs proudly report to their electorates the amount of money they have squeezed out of the Treasury.  Both Coalition and ALP-Greens compete to see who can be seen to do more, who can pass a law or deliver cash, rather than building structures that deliver the best outcome regardless of method.

Both sides of politics are infected with the  be seen to feel your pain method of vote buying. On the ground all MPs play the same game while the two sides’ policy thinkers are diametrically opposed.

But at least in education spending, Christopher Pyne says the right things. It gives hope. When push comes to shove on education though, I’ll be holding my breath. Plan-and-spend is what our political class does.

Mr Pyne denied the need for extra funding for schools, one of the key findings of the Gonski report, and said money had been put into struggling public schools for 10 years.

“In the past 10 years, we have spent 44 per cent more on schools and we have gone backwards in terms of our school outcomes.

“What that proves to me is that the focus of our education policies should be on teacher quality, on the curriculum, and on principal autonomy.”

If the ALP is by some fluke re-elected, we can look forward to annual pronouncements of how the plan is on track, and how in just another 15 years all will be perfect. There will be massaged numbers to point to. It isn’t just school halls; now this government is building Potemkin Schools.


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