Australia’s schools are not keeping up with the best in the world. There is a real problem, and governments must act. But the newly elected Coalition government must tread a fine line: good Commonwealth policy will not save Australia’s schools, but poor policy will damage them further.

A big challenge for any Commonwealth education minister is that state governments hold key responsibilities in the areas that will lift student outcomes. Many of the ideas in the Coalition’s education policy “Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes” will go nowhere without agreement from state and territory counterparts.

The best approach for the Commonwealth is to play a modest role, focusing its efforts in areas where national scale or consistency is a genuine advantage, or where current arrangements mean it must be involved. Overreach creates confusion, duplication and regulatory burden.

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