The results of the long awaited second iteration of DavidGonski’s review into Australians schools is finally here, bringing with itmixed reactions. A Sydney Morning Herald article panned it, labelling theGonski review “an abject failure and a wasted opportunity”, claiming that whileit contains some good ideas, the report won’t make a great deal of differencein the real world. Others were more complimentary, praising the review’s scopeand breadth.
The Good Schools Guidehas taken a look at Review to Achieve Educational Excellence inAustralian Schools and compiled a quick fact sheet on the majorfindings of the report.
Compared to other Organisation for Economic Co-operation andDevelopment (OECD) countries, Australia has experienced a decline in academicperformance since 2000 across all sectors, namely mathematics, reading andscience. The executive summary of the report outlines a few challengesAustralia faces in restoring its reputation as one of the best educationsystems on the planet, including:
- Equipping students with soft skills (problem-solving,critical thinking) to combat automation
- Altering the curriculum so students are prepared for lifeafter school
- Transitioning from an industrial style of mass education toone that allows “continuous diagnosis of a student’s learning needs andprogress”
- “A lack of research-based evidence on what works best ineducation”
What did the review yield?
In total, there were 23 recommendations and 16 findings, butwe’ve chosen to focus on the three priorities acknowledged in the report andhow these can be achieved.
Deliver at least one year’s growth in learning for everystudent every year
- There was strong support for transitioning from “ayear-based curriculum to a curriculum expressed as learning progressionsindependent of year or age.” Basically, students are measured based on what theyachieve and how they develop each year, rather than where they are meant to beon a generic scale. It was proposed that teachers must have an “online,formative assessment tool to help diagnose a student’s current level ofknowledge”, which would help track students’ progress.
Equip every child to be a creative, connected and engagedlearner in a rapidly changing world
- With an ever changing working landscape due to technologicaladvances, students must be studying a curriculum that adapts and responds tooccupational trends. There was also a push for additional emphasis on teachinggeneral capabilities in the current F-10 Australian Curriculum, plus arecommendation that secondary education is “contemporary, and adequatelyprepares students for post-school employment”.
Cultivate an adaptive, innovative and continuously improvingeducation system
- The centrepiece of the third priority is the recommendationfor a “national evidence institute to share best-practice and evidence-basedinnovations faster and more widely”, on the basis that all aspects of schools,from curriculum and community involvement to students and teachers, needs toimprove. Among the other ideas put forward was the Unique Student Identifier totrack learning outcomes and making teaching a more attractive career prospect.
Five key recommendations were made to address these issues,namely:
Laying the foundations for learning
- Based primarily on coordinating a seamless transition toschool from early education and supporting parents to be partners in theirchild’s learning
Equipping every student to grow and succeed in a changingworld
- Revising the Australian curriculum, with an emphasis onearly-year literacy, numeracy and general capabilities, and equipping studentswith skills for the future, using new reporting measures to track learninggain. Another area of focus is enhancing community engagement.
Creating, supporting and valuing a profession of experteducators
- The development of “an online and on demand student learningassessment tool” for tracking students’ progress is of paramount importance, asis encouraging more professional collaboration, improved career pathways andestablishing a national teacher workforce strategy
Empowering and supporting school leaders
- Goals include revising the Australian Professional Standardfor Principals to focus on leadership, ensuring principal autonomy, building apathway for school leaders and equipping them with professional development
Raising and achieving aspirations through innovation andcontinuous improvement
In order to effectively measure student progress, there mustbe better forms of self-review and external quality assurance, theimplementation of a Unique Student Identifier and the development of anindependent institution capable of delivering best-practice national researchto better student outcomes
The report ends with a call to action for the government to “sethigh expectations for schooling and translate those expectations into actions”,but it remains to be seen what influence Gonski 2.0 will have on the educationlandscape in Australia.