Presentation on theme: "The Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling: A Better Deal for Rural Education and Communities? VASSP Conference, August 2012 Professor John Halsey Sidney."— Presentation transcript:
The Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling: A Better Deal for Rural Education and Communities? VASSP Conference, August 2012 Professor John Halsey Sidney Chair of Rural Education and Communities Flinders University
The Sidney Myer Chair of Rural Education and Communities has been established through a 5 year, $1 million grant as part of the Myer Foundation 50 years and Sidney Myer Fund 75 years Commemorative Grants Program, in partnership with Flinders University.
What quantum of funding should be available for schooling, from what sources, how should it be distributed, and what should individuals, the wider public and governments reasonably expect from the expenditure?
5 Increasing funding for rural, regional and remote schools without addressing the availability of top level professionals to staff these schools will not close the gap between urban and rural opportunities and outcomes.
Policy pertaining to funding for schooling in Australia, and in most other countries, is highly contested. Like health, there are no right answers, just better approximations, better fits than others, when it comes to applying finite resources to infinite demands. Education as for health, knows no finite boundaries in terms of demand for services, so this inevitably leads to relentless demands for more!
In keeping with this ‘time honoured’ position, the Gonski Review argues that an extra $5 billion- recently reported as over $6.5 billion*- is needed in the funding for schools bucket. But and very importantly, the Review also argues that extra funding alone will not provide the opportunities required for the “development of creative, informed and resilient citizens who are able to participate fully in a dynamic and globalised world”.
Quoting from Gonski, “resources alone will not be sufficient to fully address Australia’s schooling challenges… new funding arrangements must be accompanied by continued and renewed efforts to strengthen and reform Australia’s schooling system”(emphasis added). Gonski reminds readers it is high quality teachers and leaders who have the most impact on student’s learning from the perspective of what schools can do. We have known this for a long time now.
The Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling Report provides a unique opportunity to change radically how teachers and school leaders are prepared for country schools and communities.
There is a very persistent focus on education for building an economically competitive Australia, but the report is virtually silent on education for a sustainable Australia. I find this particularly disturbing given the mountain of evidence we now have about growth, consumption patterns and their impact on survival. Sustainable rural communities matter because they are integral to the well being of our nation, and indeed the world. Whence was it ever different?
Attracting and retaining top educators to live and work in country locations, continues to be a major issue for education systems, irrespective of employment incentives. It is time- overtime really- to radically change the way teachers and educational leaders are prepared for working and living in rural schools and communities, and the Gonski Review provides both the basis and the resources for doing this.
Kotter, a Harvard expert on change has consistently found that “people change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings”. From Kotter’s research, location-place- matters and the present way teachers and school leaders are trained undervalues it, certainly with regard to rural places.
Re-directing very modest funding from the annual schooling allocation plus collaborating with philanthropy, final year pre-service teachers could have the choice of a fully funded semester length rural placement. Research I have done shows this would cost around $16,000 per student. For a similar cost, current and aspiring leaders could take a purpose designed post- graduate rural leadership study program with expert leadership coaching.
Medicine has led the way with extended rural placements for students through the Rural GP program to address major health service problems. There have been some very good results. Why not education? Gonski rightly argues, “Australia’s schools, government and non-government, should be staffed with the very best principals and teachers, those who feel empowered to lead and drive change, and create opportunities for students to learn in new ways to meet their individual needs ”.
For this to be the reality for rural families, children and communities, serious changes to how teachers and school leaders are prepared have to occur. Incorporate purpose-designed, well-funded and extended opportunities for teachers and leaders to experience living and learning in country locations, before they graduate.
More rigorous selection criteria for entry into teaching and school leadership programs, together with a range of other changes to current practices, may also improve student opportunities and results. The status and esteem of teachers and school leaders may rise as well which would have positive consequences for teaching as a career.
Just pouring more money into funding schooling and carving up the pie into different size pieces will not produce the improvements rural students and communities are entitled to. Improving the availability of top level professionals to staff rural, regional and remote schools is key to closing the gap between urban and country opportunities and outcomes.
Kotter, J. P. & Cohen, D.S. (2002). The Heart of Change; Harvard Business School Press. The Australian, July 23, 2012 ments/Review-of-Funding-for-Schooling-Final-Report-Dec pdf ments/Review-of-Funding-for-Schooling-Final-Report-Dec pdf in-on-what-the-government-should-do in-on-what-the-government-should-do-8947