An international test that shows Australian primary school students are reading at levels worse than any other English-speaking country and are behind Slovenia and Lithuania is more evidence of the need to implement the Gonski reforms, member for New England Tony Windsor said.
Australian Year 4 students placed 27th out of 48 countries for reading in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, with about one in four students failing to meet the minimum standard for reading for their age.
Results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study also show that the maths and science skills of Australian students in Years 4 and 8 have shown little improvement, while students in some Asian countries are jumping towards the head of the class.
Mr Windsor says the school funding reforms recommended by the Gonski Review are needed now more than ever.
“If the question is ‘what are we going to do about our declining international school standards’, the answer is Gonski,” Mr Windsor said.
“If we are serious about education and its role in Australia’s future development, we must get serious about a schools funding package that actually delivers.
“The federal government must commit itself to delivering the boost in funding recommended by the Gonski Review in the new year.
“The states will also have to commit funding and prioritise teaching and learning, rather than using the education budget as a tool to rein in their budget deficits,” Mr Windsor said.
The Gonski Report outlined a new model of funding schools on the basis of a resource standard per student, with extra loadings to cover those with disabilities, in rural and remote areas and from indigenous or disadvantaged backgrounds.
It recommended a boost in funding of about $5 billion a year, with much of that money flowing to public schools to narrow the gap between the highest and lowest-achieving students.
“The Gonski package achieves two major things: it directs funding to the students who need it most, and it demolishes the political divide between the public, private and religious education systems that has stood in the way of reform for too long,” Mr Windsor said.
“Local schools have already benefited enormously from needs-based funding that has come in waves under the National Partnership Agreements; the Gonski reforms simply level out the peaks and troughs and make this needs-based funding permanent.
“Country schools have the most to gain, as most of the disadvantage is in country areas.
“In a global society, there is no greater investment in the long-term than education and skills, and we need to value those who teach our next generation more highly than we do.
“The challenge is whether governments – both state and federal – are more interested in their short-term political needs or on delivering a long-term platform for the future.
“The prime minister, the treasurer and the state premiers will be judged by their decisions on the implementation of the Gonski reforms.”