Achieving our educational goals: a declaration for system transformation

Educational evaluation Educational achievement Education School curriculum Australia

The Melbourne Declaration sets out aspirational goals for educating young Australians a decade ago. Despite fine intent, children’s educational outcomes have not improved significantly since that time.

This paper, Achieving our Educational Goals: A Declaration for System Transformation, comes as the Melbourne Declaration is under review.


Australia’s future success depends on the ability of the education system to support every child and young person to realise their full learning potential, and to thrive in a competitive and innovative economy and a socially cohesive society.

The central tenets of “equity” and “excellence” in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Melbourne Declaration), coupled with a vision of students becoming “successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens”, are more crucial than ever (MCEETYA, 2008, p.8).

Australia is facing unprecedented social, economic and environmental challenges, driven by accelerating globalisation and technological advancements (OECD, 2018). For Australia to continue to maintain a prosperous society, and adapt and contribute to a changing world, our children and young people must be equipped with the right knowledge, skills and capabilities. If we continue on our current education trajectory, there is a risk that young people in Australia will not be adequately prepared for the future – and too many learners will miss out on the educational opportunities that they need.

Research by the Mitchell Institute identified that a concerning number of children and young people do not fulfil their potential and miss out on opportunities as they traverse the various stages of education (Lamb, Jackson, Walstab & Huo, 2015). Australian students’ academic performance on key international assessments reveal large social gaps which have not declined (Thomson, De Bortoli & Underwood, 2017). Results on national assessments show that the equity gaps between the most and least advantaged students continue to grow (Goss, Sonnemann, Chisholm & Nelson, 2016).

The vision and aspirations of the Melbourne Declaration, as important as they are, have not been realised. To date, efforts towards education system improvement have not delivered the desired results. And the opportunities offered and outcomes achieved by Australia’s education system are far from fairly or evenly distributed (Lamb & Huo, 2017; O’Connell, Fox & Cole, 2016). This is not a shortcoming of the Melbourne Declaration and its vision, but rather a failure by Australia’s education systems to take appropriate actions.

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