Interview Lyndal Curtis ABC News 24. PISA tests; Gillard Government investments in education; Gonski
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
ALI MOORE: Meanwhile the Government's concentrating on the implementation of the recommendations to come out of the Gonski review. The review recommended a $5 billion injection into the education system. The Government is yet to respond formally to the review. Our political editor Lyndal Curtis joins us now with the Education Minister Peter Garrett.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Peter Garrett, welcome to News 24.
PETER GARRETT: Thanks Lyndal.
LYNDAL CURTIS: The international testing which shows where Australia's schooling ranks internationally begins today. The last round showed Australia had an above average schooling system but the gap between the highest performing and lowest performing students had widened and Australia was outperformed by many countries in the region. Will this round of testing show things have improved?
PETER GARRETT: Well, I hope so Lyndal, I mean we've really put a lot of effort, a lot of investment, a lot of policy reform into education and I really hope and expect that we'll see it bearing some fruit. It will take a bit of time but yes, I think we can expect to see some signs of improvement.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Australia's in the Asia Pacific, there's a lot of emphasis on Australia making the opportunities of what's being called the Asian Century. Your Government's doing a white paper on it. If our students aren't performing as well as those in our neighbouring countries does that significantly limit the opportunities they will have and Australia's economic opportunities?
PETER GARRETT: The answer to that question is yes. Our economic future, and particularly the future of young Australians, the sort of jobs they'll have, their capacity to succeed in a global economic environment can only be made greater if their education is satisfactory to the task.
LYNDAL CURTIS: So should we be measuring Australian students against those from our region rather than those more generally, globally?
PETER GARRETT: Well, I think the thing about the PISA tests that we'll see Australians doing today, young kids who are 15 years of age, is that it shows how they can apply the knowledge they have as well. So it's a very useful standard for us to understand how we're traveling.
Of course, you know different countries have different education systems and different cultures, but all countries want to make sure that they're educating their kids so that they've got the skills to have the jobs of the future and that's what the focus for us needs to be.
LYNDAL CURTIS: And should it be as much a judgment of what the Government has done as what the students are doing?
PETER GARRETT: Well, I think it's a test for all of us. It's a test for the nation, it's a test for the states who run their state education systems, it's a test to see whether the reforms that we've applied are going to make a difference and it's a test for kids and for teacher too, to get the best out of them.
Here's the thing that we must be very mindful of – PISA testing shows us that kids may be as much as a year behind equivalent kids in say a country like Korea or Singapore or Hong Kong. Now that's too far and additionally, because we can see this gap between kids from better off areas and kids from less well-off areas.
We don't want those kids from less well-off areas not to be able to come into the workforce, not be able to deliver their potential. That's an issue for us as well. Of course it's something which we've identified as important in terms of education reform, but this testing gives us a good idea about what we need to do.
LYNDAL CURTIS: David Gonski targeted – looked at the PISA results in his report. He said Australia must improve, must focus on raising performance across the board if it wants to improve productivity and competitiveness as a nation. Can those aims be achieved without the funding reforms David Gonski recommended?
PETER GARRETT: No, I don't think they can. I think we do need to have substantial funding reform and we're finalising our response to Mr Gonski's very important report which people are hearing a lot about.
LYNDAL CURTIS: That's taking some time though isn't it? Is it actually –
PETER GARRETT: Well, it has to be done properly. That's the thing that I would say to everybody is it must be done properly, thoroughly, in such a way that we can make sure we take what Mr Gonski and his panel delivered to us as a government, make the very best of it and then work with other Governments, particularly the State Governments who run the state school systems on what might be a model of funding schools in the future.
LYNDAL CURTIS: When are we likely to see that?
PETER GARRETT: Well, we're finalising our response to Gonski as we speak, and I expect that you'll have a response from the Government in coming weeks.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Will we have legislation into parliament this year?
PETER GARRETT: And my ambition remains, as I've said before Lyndal, to introduce legislation into the parliament this year.
LYNDAL CURTIS: There's a problem though, because you don't really have the money for it, do you? This is a funding system for 2014 onwards. In 2014 your budget surplus will only be on the projections between about $2-5 billion. If you don't have the money to pay for it how can you do it?
PETER GARRETT: Well, look it's premature for us to be discussing money but one point I'd make really strongly is this. Mr Gonski's panel said two really important things about education funding. One is that it is a shared responsibility and secondly it's not only about money.
If we want to improve our education system – and incidentally, the OECD has given us a tick, has given this Labor Government, the Gillard Government a tick on things like transparency, the My School website, the NAPLAN testing greater emphasis on teacher quality, all of these things go together to make sure you lift educational attainment for kids wherever they live, however much money their parents earn.
LYNDAL CURTIS: But you will also have to put extra money into the system. You will be asking the states to put extra money into the system, on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, an area where both the state and Federal Government and the Coalition agreed the Federal Government had trouble getting some money out of the biggest states, on Gonski where the Federal Coalition is opposed and yet you haven't yet got the states to say yes completely to it, aren't you going to run into trouble?
PETER GARRETT: Well, I think getting our education funding right in this country is an absolutely priority one issue for everybody, and I'm sure that it's an issue that the states recognise of being of paramount importance. I don't expect that we should have a political game match series about education funding.
I think what we need to do is look at the response that the Government makes to Mr Gonski, recognise that we do have a shared responsibility to make sure that every school in the country is a great school and serving kids best as it can and should, so kids have got the opportunity for jobs in the future, and then settle down, look at and agree how we can take that forward.
We're committed to doing that work, we've been committed from the start, we want to do it thoroughly, properly, prudently and carefully but we will do it.
LYNDAL CURTIS: You said it's your ambition to get legislation into parliament this year. If you don't manage to do it this year, next year is an election year, does it become more difficult.
PETER GARRETT: Well, Lyndal the commitment is to bring the legislation into the parliament this year. In fact the only voice against education reform and reform of education funding is Christopher Pyne. He dismissed Mr Gonski's report twenty minutes after it was released and now he's said that the Coalition won't support it at all.
Now that's a tragedy because that work that was done by David Gonski and his panel shows us that we have got significant education issues of disadvantage, of falling performance and of the need to make sure that any funding system that we apply is one that's fair, effective and provides certainty that kids are getting the best education that we can provide for them. That's what we want to do. It's a pity that the Coalition are nowhere to be seen on this issue.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Peter Garrett, thank you very much for your time.
PETER GARRETT: Thanks Lyndal.