This paper argues that Australia is unlikely to reach its goal of becoming a top 5 nation in education by 2025 without a major change in education policies.
The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper has set the laudable goal that: “By 2025, Australia will be ranked as a top five country in the world for the performance of our students in reading, science and mathematics literacy and for providing our children with a high-quality and high-equity education system”. This is a challenging goal and it demands that every child receives a first class education; however, this paper argues that the policies currently on the agenda will not deliver the standard of education required.
The big picture for Australia’s education system is being held back by a confused and often incoherent debate. While discussion at the political level focuses on issues such as funding, public/private schooling, principal autonomy, performance pay, student and teacher tests and sector comparisons, policy makers risk oversimplifying teaching and missing the most important point.
When it comes to achieving the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper’s goal, these issues are relatively irrelevant and lacking a strong evidence base on how they make an impact on student learning. Moreover, they imply a simplistic view of teaching as nothing more than information transmission and behaviour management, with an underlying message that for Australia’s education system to improve, teachers just need to work harder.
This paper argues that teaching is far from simplistic but rather a complex, challenging, clinical practice profession that requires high calibre individuals. It outlines a way forward that has the potential to make a significant impact on the learning outcomes of all young Australians, focusing on the issues that matter: teachers and teaching.