Coalition’s fancy footwork on Gonski leaves policy underbelly exposed Broken promises, outcry then capitulation – all could have been avoided if the Coalition had an alternative schools policyTony Abbott would not have had to defy logic to try to justify his pre-election statements on school funding, and he would not have had to then capitulate and find the previously unavailable $1.2bn, if he had only gone to the election with an actual policy on school funding.
The only long-term promise about funding his schools policy was this: “We will work co-operatively and constructively with all states and territories to negotiate a fair and sustainable national funding model.”
Apart from that, the Coalition said it would match Labor’s funding deals in 2014 and “match the Commonwealth funding for schools committed by Labor over the forward estimates”.
They actually had a vague school policy — that to go back to the chalk boards of 1956.
Christopher Pyne’s triple backflip, performed with a full sneer, signify an Education Minister who is not equal to his heavy responsibilities and a Government that’s floundering. Managing editorDavid Donovan comments.
WHAT A MANOEUVRE.
First, there was the abrupt backflip by the Abbott Opposition on its months of strident anti-Gonski rhetoric in the days before the Federal election, leading to a supposed “unity ticket” with Labor on Gonski reform. Then, last week came Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s agile backflip on this pre-election promise that all schools would keep their Gonski funding, along with the jaw-droppingdenial by Prime Minister Tony Abbottthat any such election promise had been made ‒ but that the Australian people were apparently suffering from some form of mass delusion. Then yesterday, seemingly because of the roasting being received on social media, came the third backflip, with the Government reverting back to committing to maintaining the Gonski funding after an agreement with the States.
Does anyone truly believe the word of Christopher Pyne ‒ a man who may argue black is white today, and then just a vigorously contend the exact opposite tomorrow ‒ or Tony Abbott (were yesterday’s remarks carefully scripted?) ‒ that the Gonski funding will be maintained? If I was the principal at a Government school, I wouldn’t be inking in my budget for the next few years — I’d be waiting for the now inevitable seeming fourth backflip, executed the moment the issue loses its electoral heat.
The Abbott government’s overhaul of the national curriculum appears to be a “brainwashing and propaganda mission”, the Tasmanian education minister, Nick McKim, has argued in one of the most strongly worded attacks on the review.
The federal education minister Christopher Pyne announced on Friday that conservative education advocates Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire would complete their review by mid-year with a view to implementing changes in 2015. Pyne, who will require the support of states and territories to implement changes, said he was confident the review would a “very objective process” that led to fair and balanced outcomes.
Pyne said he wanted the curriculum to be a “robust and worthwhile document” that celebrated Australia and did not downplay the role of western civilisation or the Anzac story. Donnelly, a former chief of staff to the Liberal minister Kevin Andrews, recently attacked the curriculum for “uncritically promoting diversity” and undervaluing western civilisation and “the significance of Judeo-Christian values to our institutions and way of life”.
McKim, the Tasmanian Greens leader who serves as education minister in the minority Labor government, said Pyne had “ominously made his intentions very clear by appointing several fiercely conservative critics of the current curriculum to conduct the review”.
He branded Pyne’s review as “a thinly-veiled attempt to turn educational content into political propaganda” and argued that curriculum development should be left to teachers and educational experts.
“This has all the hallmarks of a brainwashing and propaganda mission to let Mr Pyne impose his extreme right-wing views on Australian students,” McKim said in a statement.
Pyne’s announcement also met with a strong response from Tom Alegounarias, president of the Board of Studies New South Wales. He said the existing national curriculum-based English and maths syllabuses this year were being implemented this year, while history would be introduced next year.
It had been drawn up following “an extensive consultation process” and schools were “reasonably not expecting any changes in the foreseeable future”.
“The curriculum has to go through the Board of Studies. We’ve just gone through an extensive consultation process; it included community input. The curriculum is supported by the community through the consultation, including parent representatives, and it’s about to begin implementation,” he told Guardian Australia.
“Schools are about to begin that process. They’re reasonably not expecting any changes in the foreseeable future to the curriculum they’re about to implement.”
Alegounarias said the NSW syllabuses placed a “lower order status” on the national curriculum’s general capabilities and cross curriculum priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures; Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia; and sustainability.
NSW replicated the subjects in the national curriculum but outlined a more comprehensive list of issues and people to be studied. The national curriculum’s examples were “illustrative”.
Education minister Christopher Pyne has announced a sweeping review of Australia’s national curriculum to weed out a supposed “partisan bias” in what’s taught in Australia’s classrooms. Announcing the changes, Pyne said:
We don’t see the Australian Curriculum as a static document, but rather one that is gradually improved over time. All Australian students deserve access to a curriculum that encourages and fosters choice and diversity.
Last November, I speculated in a satirical fashion whether or not Pyne might appoint a national curriculum review panel that would include a team of such government-friendly luminaries as historian Geoffrey Blainey, Catholic cardinal George Pell and commentator Gerard Henderson.
Today, after much puffing and huffing from Pyne over the past two years, we hear that the much-anticipated panel will actually comprise two regular News Corp columnists, former teacher and education researcher Kevin Donnelly and University of Queensland academic Ken Wiltshire.
I wasn’t too far off in my November prediction then. My take is that nobody with serious professional credibility in the field could be recruited, so Pyne had to fall back on appointing hackneyed cultural warriors, neither of whom have recent experience in the classroom or in curriculum design. However, while they may not be the first team and probably aren’t even the A-team, they are in situ and they have a Pyne mandate to meddle with the curriculum.
see toon at top...
Why is Pyne so against Gonski?
It is because he understands that Gonski is more than a new approach to allocating recurrent funds to schools. It is a fundamental re-imagining of Australian education. It asks: ''What kind of country do we want Australia to be?'' And he does not like the answer to that question.
The correlation between poor student performance and aggregated social disadvantage is much stronger in Australia than in any other comparable western nation; indeed, stronger than the average for all 34 OECD countries. By consigning our disadvantaged children to the bin of under-achievement, we are failing to maximise our potential stock of human capital. It is primarily this, rather than any differences in curriculum and pedagogy, which puts us behind our international competitors. So long as aggregated social disadvantage continues to have such a significant impact on educational performance, our national decline will continue.
The essential thrust of Gonski is to target strategically our investment in schooling, from both commonwealth and state sources, in order to reduce the impact of aggregated social disadvantage on educational outcomes. As has been shown in NSW with the application of the Resource Allocation Model in government schools, the strategic targeting of resources on a school-by-school basis according to need is readily achievable, and cannot reasonably be opposed on the grounds that it is too complex to implement.
Pyne is shrewd enough to understand that strategic targeting of resources according to need will do much more than reduce the impact of disadvantage on educational outcomes. He knows that it will also reduce the impact of advantage and privilege. If school performance is neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by parental income, ethnic background, religion, school size and location, or whether a student attends an independent, Catholic or public school, success at school will be determined essentially by the student's ability, application and hard work.
In other words, Gonski will create a genuine meritocracy.
The opinions expressed in this site are those of the various authors and contributors and do not reflect those of the site, the site owners or hosting agencies.
Contributors please note that this site is archived in the National Library of Australia in perpetuity.