It is sometimes hard to believe that the AEU, the Australian Education Union, has any commitment to improving educational outcomes at all.
There can be no doubt about their commitment to making life easier for teachers. The constant refrain is “more pay, smaller classes.” Australia has amongst the smallest average class sizes and best paid teachers anywhere in the world. This has not resulted in any improvement in standards of literacy or numeracy. Cultural literacy; an understanding of Western values, history, music, literature and art, has declined precipitously.
The entirely predictable recommendations of the Review of Funding for Schooling (the Gonski panel) were more money and smaller class sizes. But once class sizes get below about thirty-five, further decreases make little difference to student learning. Simply hurling money at education will not help, unless spending is based on real-world research into what works.
Responses from the Labor Party and the AEU to questions from the opposition about the Gonski recommendations were just as predictable as the recommendations themselves.
“I’m not sure that Christopher Pyne’s plan to sack teachers and increase class sizes is the answer to the challenge we face in education,” acting School Education Minister Chris Evans told ABC News Online.
Except that Christopher Pyne said nothing about sacking teachers and increasing class sizes. He said that research and experience in other countries shows that simply focussing on class size does not help students.
The chairman of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), Professor Barry McGaw, agrees the focus on class sizes has been misplaced.
“We have wasted a lot of money in Australian education by reducing class size,” Professor McGaw told ABC NewsRadio.
“It’s a very expensive thing to do and the range in which we’ve reduced it has almost no impact on student learning.”
The AEU has a website called I Give a Gonski. Presumably ‘giving a Gonski’ is meant to indicate concern about education.
Anyone who really does ‘give a gonski’ about education should vehemently oppose these ‘more of the same’ recommendations, and insist on educational policies and spending which will actually improve learning.