It looks at issues and opportunities in education policy.
As the chapter argues, education is the bedrock of a successful society. It benefits individuals, communities and the nation. Relative to other developed nations, Australia’s education system is relatively high performing but with sub par equity. Decades of reforms and increased spending by state and Commonwealth have had minimal impact reducing this inequality or improving excellence.
Contributing to these challenges is the uneasy relationship between choice and equity – competing principles that have been ever present in education policy in Australia. The book can be bought on Oxford University Press’ website and from university bookstores. To whet your appetite, you can read an edited extract discussing the choice and equity aspect on MI Brief, the Mitchell Institute’s blog.
The Prime Minister’s announcement of a White Paper into the Reform of the Federation has spurred a welcome increase in interest in Australia’s federal system. The effectiveness of the division of policy responsibilities, fiscal settings, intergovernmental relations and institutions will all go under the microscope. The first issues paper – A Federation for our Future – makes the case for our federal system, succinctly recounts its evolution since 1901 and sets out goals, principles and reform priorities. Four more issues papers will follow, with an education one canvassing early childhood, schooling and tertiary education expected later this year. (I can’t wait!)
Complementing this government process, the Australian National University’s Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at the Crawford School of Public Policy and the University of Melbourne’s School of Government organised Renewing Federalism – a series of articles in The Conversation and a public symposium on 2 October. I was honoured to participate in both components. My piece on schooling policy is here. Do check out the other articles too.
If you would like to attend the symposium, please see event details and RSVP here. A link to the recording of the symposium will soon be made available. (Photograph of one of Parliament House’s internal courtyards taken by myself in 2005).
We talk a lot about the importance of innovation in education – as we should. We talk less about how to foster, sustain and share successful innovations that enhance student learning and engagement. This is a pity. In this recent expert comment article for The Conversation, I discuss the astonishingly blunt and honest comments of Victoria’s education chief, outlining why the states rather than the Commonwealth government should drive education policy. It was encouraging to hear a very senior bureaucrat, who has worked at both state and federal levels, concur with my PhD findings on the opportunities our federal system of government offers for innovative and best-practice policy-making, tailored to the needs of their residents. Could this be the dawn of a new era in education federalism in Australia?
I also spoke recently on Radio National‘s Drive program on the controversial “IBM school” in Brooklyn, New York. I argue that such innovations, when developed carefully to meet the needs of students at a particular school, can work wonders. Dismissing them as “US-style corporate schools” is a missed opportunity to learn how new models of schooling can improve excellence and equity here in Australia.