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Getting the most out of Gonski 2.0: The evidence base for school investments

14 Oct 2017

In this report, education policy analyst, Blaise Joseph, outlines the importance of school investments being evidence-based and cost-effective, and proposes three key investments with the potential to significantly improve Australia's lagging student literacy and numeracy results:

1. Early literacy and numeracy. Intervention to help students who are underachieving in literacy and numeracy is more effective in early primary years than in later schooling. In particular, primary schools should invest in training for teachers to improve teaching of reading and phonics instruction, which they do not receive from teacher education degrees.

2. Give teachers fewer classes and more time outside the classroom. Australian teachers spend more time each day teaching in class, relative to the OECD and the top-performing countries. Teachers should be given fewer classes each day so they can have more time outside the classroom to develop and improve their teaching.

3. Classroom management training for teachers. Australia has high levels of classroom misbehaviour, compared to the OECD and top-performing countries, which has negative effects on student achievement. Teachers could benefit from undergoing training to learn and foster evidence-based classroom management techniques, to make up for gaps in knowledge offered by teacher education degrees.

The research also critiqued two common school investments that are not adequately evidence-based or cost-effective:

1. Smaller class sizes. Reducing class sizes would be expensive, have the potential to reduce teacher quality, and have only minor positive effects on student achievement. Furthermore, relative to the OECD average and high-achieving countries, Australian class sizes are not especially large.
2. Technology. The extent of any positive effects for education technology is uncertain. Australia already invests in and uses significantly more school technology relative to the rest of the world, but this by itself has not helped to improve literacy and numeracy.

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