How to get the most out of Gonski 2.0

Blaise Joseph

20 October 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

BJ RR31 Gonski 2 1The focus of education policy must shift from ‘more money’ to instead investing in cost-effective, evidence-based practices. This is the purpose of the government’s ‘Gonski 2.0’ review, but what does the evidence suggest schools should be investing in?

  • Give teachers fewer classes and more time outside the classroom. Australian teachers typically spend an hour more teaching each day compared to the high-achieving countries. This means teachers have less time to plan, refine, and review their lessons, which have significant effects on teaching quality.
  • Early literacy and numeracy. Intervention to help underachieving students is most effective in early primary years. Teachers’ education degrees do not equip them with the language knowledge necessary to effectively teach reading, and phonics instruction is not consistently taught well. Therefore, primary school teachers would be helped by attending professional development to improve reading instruction.
  • Classroom management training for teachers. Australia has high levels of classroom misbehaviour compared to the top-performing countries. Teacher education degrees do not consistently provide evidence-based practices to prepare teachers to handle misbehaviour. Teachers would benefit from attending professional development to learn and foster evidence-based classroom management techniques.

These investments would not have to cost the taxpayer more. For example, professional development in reading instruction and managing the classroom could be prioritised over less important training, and giving teachers fewer classes could be offset by increasing class sizes.

While theoretically smaller classes should facilitate better teaching, many recent studies indicate reducing class sizes has limited — and inconsistent — positive effects. Australia’s class sizes are much smaller than several top-performing countries.

Technology is another common school investment not supported by evidence. Australian schools use technology significantly more than most of the OECD, but this hasn’t stopped the decline in our literacy and numeracy results.

We must bring evidence back to the forefront of school spending; otherwise, the extra $23.5 billion of Gonski 2.0 funding will fail to improve student outcomes, letting down both students and taxpayers.

Blaise Joseph is an Education Policy Analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies and a former teacher. He is author of Getting the most out of Gonski 2.0: The evidence base for school investments released this week.

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