Frontiers and opportunities in Australian education

My latest publication, a chapter on schooling policy in the newest edition of Social Policy in Australia: Understanding for Action has just been released.

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.

Policy innovation and leadership from below

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.

Are independent public schools are good idea? Marking the federal Coalition's education policy.

A quick expert comment piece I wrote for the Election Watch website, putting the Coalition's long-anticipated education policy - including the controversial Independent Public School proposal - under the microscope.

If you'd like to know more about Independent Public Schools you can listen to my interview on the topic on Radio National's Life Matters program where I'm joined by the author of a report into Western Australia's initiative.  I also strongly recommend the latest book by Brian Caldwell, an academic guru on the subject and former Dean of the University of Melbourne's Education Faculty. (Disclaimer: I just discovered that he devoted two pages to discussing and endorsing my research on Victoria's 'self managing school' reforms and the influence of federalism.) A lovely compliment. Mine is the only study of these reforms from an intergovernmental perspective and you can read it here

School autonomy - sorting myth from fact

More autonomy for schools is an education policy being championed by both Labor and the Coalition in the lead-up to the federal election. But does it result in a better education system?

In an extended election piece for The Age, education editor Jewel Topsfield takes a look at increased school autonomy. In doing so, she draws on an analytical piece I wrote on independent public schools published on Election Watch, in which I reassured folks on twitter that the Coalition is not planning to privatise public schools but rather grant them extra autonomy. I also explain that increased school autonomy, while controversial, has been on reform agenda since the Whitlam government days and all states have introduced elements of it to varying degrees. Topsfield's piece also refers to the Grattan Institute's recent and excellent report The myth of markets in school education. Interestingly, a fact she cites from this report - that the Kennett government devolved 93 per cent of Victoria's school education budget to individual public schools (on page 25 if you're interested) contains a footnote linking to my earlier research on these 'Schools of the Future' reforms and their ongoing relevance! (NB Once you click this link on Election Watch you'll need to scroll down a page or so to read my material education policies.)