Jennifer Buckingham

Former Senior Research Fellow & Head of 'FIVE from FIVE' Literacy Project

Expertise: Schools policy, school funding, school choice, literacy, NAPLAN, the science of teaching and learning

While at the CIS Jennifer published papers on reading, school choice, school funding, literacy, international assessments (including PISA), NAPLAN and My School, religious schools, boys’ education, teacher training and employment, class size, and educational disadvantage.

She is the author of the numerous reports including What the Gonski Review Got Wrong (with Blaise Joseph, 2018), Focus on Phonics: Why Australia Should Adopt the Year 1 Phonics Check (2017), Free to Choose Charter Schools: How charter and for-profit schools can boost public education (2015),  School Funding on a Budget (2014),Why Jaydon Can’t Read (2014), Religious Schools in Australia (2010), among others.

Jennifer has also written about child care and female labour force participation. Jennifer’s doctoral research was on literacy and social disadvantage.

Jennifer has been at the forefront of debate on education matters for two decades, with hundreds of articles in major newspapers and regular radio and speaking appearances.


Featured Publication

  • Submission to NAPLAN Reporting Review 2019 18 March 2019
    NAPLAN is a key element of government transparency and accountability There is very little evidence of widespread misuse or misinterpretation of data on the MySchool website. NAPLAN and My School are valued by parents and the public, and should be…...
    NAPLAN is a key element of government transparency and accountability There is very little evidence of widespread misuse or misinterpretation of data on the MySchool website. NAPLAN and My School are valued by parents and the public, and should be…
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Media & Commentary

  • Misreading the data will not help the teachers 09 February 2019 | The Australian
    Outdated teaching methods based on disproved theories remain widespread despite the abundance of good and easily available information on effective, evidence-based instruction. The gap between research and practice is an enduring and critical challenge in education — nowhere more so…
    Outdated teaching methods based on disproved theories remain widespread despite the abundance of good and easily available information on effective, evidence-based instruction. The gap between research and practice is an enduring and critical challenge in education — nowhere more so…
    read more
  • The HSC is under threat but we need its data to ensure education standards don’t drop 18 December 2018 | The Daily Telegraph
    The Higher School Certificate has long been considered the jewel in the crown of the NSW education system. It is viewed internationally as a rigorous measure of student achievement, comprising both school-based cumulative assessment and externally-set exams. Every year, the…
    The Higher School Certificate has long been considered the jewel in the crown of the NSW education system. It is viewed internationally as a rigorous measure of student achievement, comprising both school-based cumulative assessment and externally-set exams. Every year, the…
    read more
  • What is a true education? 30 November 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre
    A university student reflecting on her education recently published a disparaging critique. She condemned an “antiquated” model of education for rewarding her for learning maths and science instead of things she considers more important, such as “how to do a…
    A university student reflecting on her education recently published a disparaging critique. She condemned an “antiquated” model of education for rewarding her for learning maths and science instead of things she considers more important, such as “how to do a…
    read more
  • Fact Check: "Victoria has the lowest funding rate for public schools for any state in Australia.” 23 November 2018 | THE CONVERSATION
    True Victoria has had the lowest per capita government funding for public schools in Australia for at least a decade, due to relatively low levels of state government funding compared with other states and territories. However, Victorian students’ performance on…
    True Victoria has had the lowest per capita government funding for public schools in Australia for at least a decade, due to relatively low levels of state government funding compared with other states and territories. However, Victorian students’ performance on…
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  • Curriculum a juggling act in the classroom 18 November 2018 | The Herald
    By far the educational issue that gets most public and political attention is funding for schools — which schools are getting more or less than other schools, whether we spend more or less than other countries, and so on. Unfortunately…
    By far the educational issue that gets most public and political attention is funding for schools — which schools are getting more or less than other schools, whether we spend more or less than other countries, and so on. Unfortunately…
    read more

Publications

  • Reading Recovery: A Failed Investment 07 February 2019 | PP15
    Reading Recovery is an early intervention program for students in Year 1 who are having difficulty learning to read. It is widely used in Australia, the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, France and Denmark. It is endorsed by many leading educators and teacher professional organisations. Yet numerous studies of Reading Recovery…...
    Reading Recovery is an early intervention program for students in Year 1 who are having difficulty learning to read. It is widely used in Australia, the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, France and Denmark. It is endorsed by many leading educators and teacher professional organisations. Yet numerous studies of Reading Recovery…
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  • What the Gonski 2 Review got wrong 17 June 2018 | PP6
    The Gonski 2 Review into Australian schools failed to fulfill its terms of reference to examine the evidence regarding the most effective teaching and learning strategies, and to provide advice on how the extra federal government funding for schools should be used to improve student achievement. Many of the Review’s…...
    The Gonski 2 Review into Australian schools failed to fulfill its terms of reference to examine the evidence regarding the most effective teaching and learning strategies, and to provide advice on how the extra federal government funding for schools should be used to improve student achievement. Many of the Review’s…
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  • Focus on Phonics: Why Australia should adopt the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check 24 November 2016 | RR22
    A simple, five-minute Phonics Screening Check could identify at an early stage all of Australia’s school children who are at serious risk of struggling with reading skills. Among English speaking countries, Australia has one of the largest proportions of children who do not achieve minimum standards in literacy by Year…...
    A simple, five-minute Phonics Screening Check could identify at an early stage all of Australia’s school children who are at serious risk of struggling with reading skills. Among English speaking countries, Australia has one of the largest proportions of children who do not achieve minimum standards in literacy by Year…
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  • Productivity Commission Inquiry into the National Education Evidence Base: Submission in response to the draft report 01 May 2016 | CIS Submission
    The Review of Education Evidence (Draft Report)—the ‘Draft Report’—provides a useful, up-to-date overview of the types of data collected about the educational progress and outcomes of Australian children and students. It makes salient points about the quality and accessibility of research and data....
    The Review of Education Evidence (Draft Report)—the ‘Draft Report’—provides a useful, up-to-date overview of the types of data collected about the educational progress and outcomes of Australian children and students. It makes salient points about the quality and accessibility of research and data.
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  • Read about it: Scientific evidence for effective teaching of reading 07 March 2016 | Research Report 11
    How children learn to read is one of the most studied aspects of education. There is a large and rigorous body of scientific evidence identifying the key elements of high quality reading instruction. The research literature also unequivocally shows that explicit instruction methods are the most effective way of teaching…...
    How children learn to read is one of the most studied aspects of education. There is a large and rigorous body of scientific evidence identifying the key elements of high quality reading instruction. The research literature also unequivocally shows that explicit instruction methods are the most effective way of teaching…
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  • One School Does Not Fit All 31 January 2016 | Research Report 9
    Australia has a relatively large degree of choice between schools, a product of historical private and non-profit sector involvement in the provision of schooling after British colonisation. Analysis of school funding data in this report shows that there are more similarities in how schools are funded than differences. This report…...
    Australia has a relatively large degree of choice between schools, a product of historical private and non-profit sector involvement in the provision of schooling after British colonisation. Analysis of school funding data in this report shows that there are more similarities in how schools are funded than differences. This report…
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  • Free to Choose Charter Schools: How charter and for-profit schools can boost public education 31 August 2015 | Research Report 6
    Charter schools and free schools – publicly-funded, privately-managed schools – have been introduced in several countries around the world as a way of extending school choice, particularly for low income families. This report examines the policies and research on charter schools and their equivalents in five countries –USA, Sweden, Chile,…...
    Charter schools and free schools – publicly-funded, privately-managed schools – have been introduced in several countries around the world as a way of extending school choice, particularly for low income families. This report examines the policies and research on charter schools and their equivalents in five countries –USA, Sweden, Chile,…
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  • Budget 2014-15: Fiscal responsibility or savage cuts? 16 May 2014 | SP13
    The CIS analyses the Abbott government’s crucial first budget, including significant changes in the key policy areas of health, tax measures, welfare and education.        
    The CIS analyses the Abbott government’s crucial first budget, including significant changes in the key policy areas of health, tax measures, welfare and education.        
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  • School Funding on a Budget 30 April 2014 | T30.09
    Government expenditure on schools has more than doubled in real terms in the last 25 years, while student numbers have only grown by 18%. Funding for school education was 3.1% of GDP in 2012–13, and is projected to reach 3.4% by 2025 under current predictions of economic growth. Large increases…...
    Government expenditure on schools has more than doubled in real terms in the last 25 years, while student numbers have only grown by 18%. Funding for school education was 3.1% of GDP in 2012–13, and is projected to reach 3.4% by 2025 under current predictions of economic growth. Large increases…
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  • Submission to the National Commission of Audit 01 April 2014 | T30.08
    The federal government’s Commission of Audit (CoA) was established in 2013 to review the performance and role of government. This publication is an edited version of the CIS submission to the CoA listing practical solutions aimed at cutting government expenditure. The government should adopt a dual approach to its review…...
    The federal government’s Commission of Audit (CoA) was established in 2013 to review the performance and role of government. This publication is an edited version of the CIS submission to the CoA listing practical solutions aimed at cutting government expenditure. The government should adopt a dual approach to its review…
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  • Why Jaydon Can’t Read: A Forum on Fixing Literacy 18 February 2014 | IA144
    Many thousands of Australian students have very low levels of literacy after spending four or more years at school. The Spring 2014 issue of the CIS journal Policy contained an article called ‘Why Jaydon Can’t Read: How Ideology Triumphed Over Evidence in Teaching Reading’, which concluded that students were not…...
    Many thousands of Australian students have very low levels of literacy after spending four or more years at school. The Spring 2014 issue of the CIS journal Policy contained an article called ‘Why Jaydon Can’t Read: How Ideology Triumphed Over Evidence in Teaching Reading’, which concluded that students were not…
    READ MORE
  • Emergency Budget Repair Kit 21 November 2013 | T30.05
    The new Abbott government should address its self-identified budget emergency by cutting wasteful spending now. Reducing government will also help prepare Australia for its future fiscal challenges. There are some simple steps that can move the budget back to surplus in the short term. The government should refocus its spending…...
    The new Abbott government should address its self-identified budget emergency by cutting wasteful spending now. Reducing government will also help prepare Australia for its future fiscal challenges. There are some simple steps that can move the budget back to surplus in the short term. The government should refocus its spending…
    READ MORE
  • The future of education — a structural perspective 22 August 2013
    AISNSW Executive Conference, Killcare NSW Thursday 22 August 2013 The Centre for Independent Studies For those of you who attended the AISQ State forum in Queensland in May, much of this presentation will be familiar. When I spoke at that meeting, I said that when I had been asked present…...
    AISNSW Executive Conference, Killcare NSW Thursday 22 August 2013 The Centre for Independent Studies For those of you who attended the AISQ State forum in Queensland in May, much of this presentation will be familiar. When I spoke at that meeting, I said that when I had been asked present…
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  • Keeping PISA in Perspective: Why Australian Education Policy Should Not Be Driven by International Test Results 18 December 2012 | IA136
    The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) are driving education policy in Australia. The implication of analyses of international assessments that compare school systems is that Australia could achieve equivalent performance levels if it adopted the policies of more successful…...
    The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) are driving education policy in Australia. The implication of analyses of international assessments that compare school systems is that Australia could achieve equivalent performance levels if it adopted the policies of more successful…
    READ MORE
  • School Funding, Choice and Equity 26 October 2011 | IA126
    School funding is plagued by inconsistencies and divisiveness. Its complexity has led to widespread misinformation and perceptions of inequity. Existing models of government school funding tend to have historical and political foundations rather than clear objectives or rationales. School funding ought to have three main objectives: equity, efficiency and excellence.…...
    School funding is plagued by inconsistencies and divisiveness. Its complexity has led to widespread misinformation and perceptions of inequity. Existing models of government school funding tend to have historical and political foundations rather than clear objectives or rationales. School funding ought to have three main objectives: equity, efficiency and excellence.…
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  • The Rise of Religious Schools in Australia 16 September 2010 | PM111
    More than 1.1 million students (out of a total student population of 3.4 million) attend non-government schools in Australia. More than 90% of these students are in religious schools. Although the Howard Coalition government (1996–2007) is commonly attributed with responsibility for the unprecedented growth in non-government schools, there were two…...
    More than 1.1 million students (out of a total student population of 3.4 million) attend non-government schools in Australia. More than 90% of these students are in religious schools. Although the Howard Coalition government (1996–2007) is commonly attributed with responsibility for the unprecedented growth in non-government schools, there were two…
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  • Educating The Disadvantaged 01 October 2009 | IA116
    Every child can succeed at school if education providers take the right approach. Educating the Disadvantaged, a collection of four essays, reveals the diverse stories of why some schools are failing to properly educate disadvantaged students. National testing has revealed that somewhere between one in five and one in six…...
    Every child can succeed at school if education providers take the right approach. Educating the Disadvantaged, a collection of four essays, reveals the diverse stories of why some schools are failing to properly educate disadvantaged students. National testing has revealed that somewhere between one in five and one in six…
    READ MORE
  • In Defence of Non-Government Schools 02 July 2009 | IA112
    The Rudd Labor government has so far taken a hands-off approach to the issue of non-government school funding. Rhetoric and policy from the prime minister and education minister have been supportive of school choice and of non-government schools. On the horizon, however, is a promised review of the major non-government…...
    The Rudd Labor government has so far taken a hands-off approach to the issue of non-government school funding. Rhetoric and policy from the prime minister and education minister have been supportive of school choice and of non-government schools. On the horizon, however, is a promised review of the major non-government…
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  • Schools of Thought: A Collection of Articles on Education 01 July 2009 | SP10
    Over the last decade, schools policy in Australia has undergone significant changes.  Jennifer Buckingham has been a significant contributor to the public debate surrounding these changes, drawing on research and reason to argue for reforms to improve quality and equity in education. This collection of opinion articles published in major…...
    Over the last decade, schools policy in Australia has undergone significant changes.  Jennifer Buckingham has been a significant contributor to the public debate surrounding these changes, drawing on research and reason to argue for reforms to improve quality and equity in education. This collection of opinion articles published in major…
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  • Making the Grade: School Report Cards and League Tables 20 November 2008 | IA103
    International research shows that students in schools that publish their results publicly perform better than students in schools that do not. It is time for Australian schools to be accountable too. The Australian government has announced its intention to make more information about schools available to the public. The education…...
    International research shows that students in schools that publish their results publicly perform better than students in schools that do not. It is time for Australian schools to be accountable too. The Australian government has announced its intention to make more information about schools available to the public. The education…
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  • Child Care and the Labour Supply 23 July 2008 | IA97
    Child care is said to be a public good because it supposedly has developmental and academic benefits for children, and increases female labour-force participation and therefore economic growth. Numerous reports state unequivocally—but often without providing supporting evidence—that more women would work if child care was cheaper and more easily available.…...
    Child care is said to be a public good because it supposedly has developmental and academic benefits for children, and increases female labour-force participation and therefore economic growth. Numerous reports state unequivocally—but often without providing supporting evidence—that more women would work if child care was cheaper and more easily available.…
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  • Child Care: Who Benefits? 24 October 2007 | IA89
    Arguments for the public funding of child care rest on the claim that it is a public good—that it provides benefits for the individual and for society, and that investment in child care will reap social and economic payoffs. Perhaps the most abiding and persuasive claim, and the focus of…...
    Arguments for the public funding of child care rest on the claim that it is a public good—that it provides benefits for the individual and for society, and that investment in child care will reap social and economic payoffs. Perhaps the most abiding and persuasive claim, and the focus of…
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  • Teachers and the Waiting Game: Why Decentralisation is Vital for Public Schools 05 February 2007 | IA80
    On the most important aspects of education policy, state governments are in the grip of teacher unions. Public school staffing systems work for the benefit of teacher unions rather than students or even the majority of teachers. With the exception of Victoria, public school principals and school communities have very…...
    On the most important aspects of education policy, state governments are in the grip of teacher unions. Public school staffing systems work for the benefit of teacher unions rather than students or even the majority of teachers. With the exception of Victoria, public school principals and school communities have very…
    READ MORE
  • Good Teachers Where They Are Needed 19 October 2005 | IA64
    Allowing qualified professionals to become teachers through school-based education has the potential to reduce Australia’s ever-increasing shortage of teachers. Australia has a shortage of suitably qualified maths and science teachers and a continuing problem with attracting good teachers to rural schools. Labour market analyses predict that these problems will become…...
    Allowing qualified professionals to become teachers through school-based education has the potential to reduce Australia’s ever-increasing shortage of teachers. Australia has a shortage of suitably qualified maths and science teachers and a continuing problem with attracting good teachers to rural schools. Labour market analyses predict that these problems will become…
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  • State of the Nation: An Agenda for Change 2004 05 May 2004 | SP06
    This book is now in its fourth edition.  It offers independent views on Australia’s progress across a range of indicators which show that government has become increasingly interventionist, with some undesirable consequences.              ...
    This book is now in its fourth edition.  It offers independent views on Australia’s progress across a range of indicators which show that government has become increasingly interventionist, with some undesirable consequences.              
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  • Valuing Education: A Response to the Australia Institute Report 'Buying an Education' 21 January 2004 | IA43
    The Australia Institute recently published a report called Buying An Education: Where Are The Returns Highest?. The author of the report, Richard Denniss, argues that parents would be wiser to save the money they might spend on non-government schooling, and use it to pay for a full-fee university place. This…...
    The Australia Institute recently published a report called Buying An Education: Where Are The Returns Highest?. The author of the report, Richard Denniss, argues that parents would be wiser to save the money they might spend on non-government schooling, and use it to pay for a full-fee university place. This…
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  • Boys' Education - Research & Rhetoric 01 January 2004 | OP89
    There is significant evidence that boys have been experiencing educational disadvantage. In this paper, Jennifer Buckingham puts forward recommendations for schools – in particular for teachers – which would help provide an environment conducive to learning and achievement for boys.            ...
    There is significant evidence that boys have been experiencing educational disadvantage. In this paper, Jennifer Buckingham puts forward recommendations for schools – in particular for teachers – which would help provide an environment conducive to learning and achievement for boys.            
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  • State of the Nation New Zealand 2003 05 April 2003 | SP05
    The report, State of the Nation New Zealand, traces and analyses the profound social and economic changes occurring over the past century, to paint a definitive picture of life on the island today, and show where opportunities for reform lie.          ...
    The report, State of the Nation New Zealand, traces and analyses the profound social and economic changes occurring over the past century, to paint a definitive picture of life on the island today, and show where opportunities for reform lie.          
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  • Reflections on Class Size and Teacher Quality 21 March 2003 | IA29a
    Teachers all over the world have long called for lower class sizes, and New Zealand is no exception. Research ostensibly demonstrating a link between smaller classes and greater student achievement has been cited so often that parents and other members of the community have joined the call. Governments, in many…...
    Teachers all over the world have long called for lower class sizes, and New Zealand is no exception. Research ostensibly demonstrating a link between smaller classes and greater student achievement has been cited so often that parents and other members of the community have joined the call. Governments, in many…
    READ MORE
  • The Missing Links: Class Size, Discipline, Inclusion and Teacher Quality 19 February 2003 | IA29
    The Vinson Report on Public Education in NSW contains a wealth of information, and makes important points about schools, teachers and education in public schools throughout the state. The Report’s recommendation on class sizes has attracted more attention than any other. This is unfortunate because it is on this issue…...
    The Vinson Report on Public Education in NSW contains a wealth of information, and makes important points about schools, teachers and education in public schools throughout the state. The Report’s recommendation on class sizes has attracted more attention than any other. This is unfortunate because it is on this issue…
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  • Getting it Right Some of the Time: An Appraisal of the Report on the Inquiry into the Education of Boys 14 November 2002 | IA27
    The statistical evidence showing that boys have lower literacy levels and lower average performance than girls in almost all school subjects is now overwhelming. Boys are also less likely than girls to finish school and enrol in higher education, with serious consequences for the students themselves and society in general.…...
    The statistical evidence showing that boys have lower literacy levels and lower average performance than girls in almost all school subjects is now overwhelming. Boys are also less likely than girls to finish school and enrol in higher education, with serious consequences for the students themselves and society in general.…
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  • Families Freedom and Education: Why School Choice Makes Sense 24 June 2002 | PM52
    Parents have been demonstrating their increasing lack of faith in the public education system for decades, as reflected in the steady drift in student enrolments away from the state school sector toward non-government schools.  
    Parents have been demonstrating their increasing lack of faith in the public education system for decades, as reflected in the steady drift in student enrolments away from the state school sector toward non-government schools.  
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  • State of the Nation 2001: A Century of Change 05 April 2001 | SP04
    This major 2001 report finds that Australia is in the midst of profound social and economic change sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.          
    This major 2001 report finds that Australia is in the midst of profound social and economic change sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.          
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  • State of the Nation 2001: A Century of Change (CD ROM) 05 April 2001 | SP04CD
    A CD version of a major report that finds Australia is in the midst of profound social and economic change sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse
    A CD version of a major report that finds Australia is in the midst of profound social and economic change sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse
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  • School Funding for All: Making Sense of the Debate over Dollars 12 October 2000 | IA17
    Public debate over school funding is characterised by misinformation and misunderstanding. Any sort of agreement or compromise seems unlikely when so many of the arguments are based on erroneous premises. The facts are: State and territory governments allocate the vast majority of their school education funding to public schools while…...
    Public debate over school funding is characterised by misinformation and misunderstanding. Any sort of agreement or compromise seems unlikely when so many of the arguments are based on erroneous premises. The facts are: State and territory governments allocate the vast majority of their school education funding to public schools while…
    READ MORE
  • The Truth about Private Schools in Australia 01 August 2000 | IA13
    Private schools in Australia consistently outperform public schools not due to better financial resources or more selective student acceptance procedures but because of the following reasons: Private schools do not drain money from public schools Private schools have spent less per student than public schools Private schools are not ‘elitist’…...
    Private schools in Australia consistently outperform public schools not due to better financial resources or more selective student acceptance procedures but because of the following reasons: Private schools do not drain money from public schools Private schools have spent less per student than public schools Private schools are not ‘elitist’…
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  • Boy Troubles: Understanding Rising Suicide, Rising Crime and Educational Failure 14 June 2000 | PM46
    Australian boys are at greater risk of doing badly at school, participating in juvenile crime, and committing suicide. The root of these problems are cultural and institutional,' says report author Jennifer Buckingham. 'They have conspired to build an environment for boys which is demoralising and defrauding for many, and fatal for…...
    Australian boys are at greater risk of doing badly at school, participating in juvenile crime, and committing suicide. The root of these problems are cultural and institutional,' says report author Jennifer Buckingham. 'They have conspired to build an environment for boys which is demoralising and defrauding for many, and fatal for…
    READ MORE
  • The Puzzle of Boys’ Educational Decline: A Review of the Evidence 18 November 1999 | IA9
    The declining standard of boys school performance in the last decade is great cause for concern. Although research has attempted to explain this trend, lack of empirical evidence has precluded conclusions to date, and tends to raise more questions than it answers. The decline is represented in a combination of…...
    The declining standard of boys school performance in the last decade is great cause for concern. Although research has attempted to explain this trend, lack of empirical evidence has precluded conclusions to date, and tends to raise more questions than it answers. The decline is represented in a combination of…
    READ MORE