New CIS research: What the Gonski 2 review got wrong

Jennifer Buckingham, Blaise Joseph

17 June 2018 | MEDIA RELEASE

The ‘Gonski 2.0 report’ recommendations are not supported by rigorous evidence and face significant implementation difficulties, according to a new paper by Centre for Independent Studies researchers Dr Jennifer Buckingham and Blaise Joseph.

The Turnbull government has accepted in principle all 23 of the recommendations of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, which was released at the end of April. But in What the Gonski 2 Review got Wrong, Dr Buckingham and Mr Joseph found that many of the Gonski review’s recommendations are not evidence-based.

“They are potentially expensive and disruptive to the work of teachers and the lives of students, and have little or no evidence basis — a recipe for educational disaster. The government should approach them with great caution.” Dr Buckingham said.

“A major recommendation — to develop learning progressions and implement an online assessment tool — was not based on any strong evidence or successful overseas examples. In theory it has merit, but there is no precedent to show that such an expensive and time-intensive reform would be worthwhile.”

Another significant recommendation for a national education evidence institute — which both the federal government and opposition have committed to — has many risks that aren’t adequately discussed by the Gonski 2.0 report, Mr Joseph said.

“There is a high risk it could become politicised and too reliant on pleasing stakeholders; for example, not publishing evidence that state governments or education unions disagree with.”

“If such an institute is to be established, it has to be operated without bias and with a high standard of evidence, similar to models from the field of medical research.”

Mr Joseph also said the Gonski 2.0 review, despite costing taxpayers $700,000, failed to fulfill its terms of reference.

“It was meant to advise how extra school funding should be spent to improve student achievement. But there is practically no discussion of the cost or cost-effectiveness of each of the recommendations. The Gonski review ended up being a general manifesto — almost useless in terms of practical policy utility.”

Dr Jennifer Buckingham is a senior research fellow in the education program at the Centre for Independent Studies, Director of the Five from Five literacy project, and author of numerous research papers on education policy. Blaise Joseph is a policy analyst in the education program at the Centre for Independent Studies, author of two research papers on the Gonski education reforms, and a former teacher.

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