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Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Page: 1427


Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (15:53): A disappointing aspect of this discussion so far is that the approach the opposition has taken has been so much focused on inputs and so little focused on outcomes. Secondly, they were in government for six years and generally you would think that in a 10-minute speech or a five-minute speech they could have given one minute to the record of the Rudd and Gillard governments in education. We heard no mention of that.

The topic of today's matter of public importance is the failure of the government to implement real education reform. It is not as if we have not had enough education reform in this country over the last six years. In fact, we have had education revolutions. There has been education revolution fatigue. Remember the Building the Education Revolution—$16½ billion? We never hear members opposite talking about that. Remember the Digital Education Revolution? There was going to be a laptop on the desk of every child. There was also the Productivity Places Program. Members opposite never talk about it. It was a disaster in the area of vocational education and training.

The OECD has a very interesting benchmarking publication entitled 'Strong performers and successful reformers in education.' I thought that we have had all these years of education revolution, so we should have a look at where Australia sits. In chapter 3 we had Ontario, Canada; chapter 4, Shanghai and Hong Kong; chapter 5, Finland; chapter 6, Japan; chapter 7, Singapore; chapter 8, Brazil; chapter 9, Germany. Australia did not get a mention. That is no surprise because, even more depressingly, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement found in its latest benchmarking in December 2012 that Australian year 4 students are ranked 18th in the world in maths, 25th in science and 27th in reading. They are a long way behind leading educational systems like those in Hong Kong, Russia, Finland, Singapore, Korea and Chinese Taipei. It is depressing that the opposition have focused so much on resources but they have no idea how to get a really good education system. It involves more than resources—it involves improving the curriculum, it is about better teachers, it is about having more local decision making and it is about having more parent engagement.

It seems the government is being criticised for finding an extra $1.2 billion for schools, and at the moment the only government in Australia pulling money out of education and out of schools is the government in my own state of South Australia. It is pulling $230 million out of its school system. One of the problems with the current argument is that under the previous government we saw increased funding not leading to improved effectiveness or student outcomes. I have not heard one member of the Labor Party talk about student outcomes under their reign. Their performance was abysmal. For the first time we saw Australia in some of the lowest international rankings, ranking 27th, 25th and 18th—well behind other countries that are spending less on their schools but have better education systems. We need to have a sophisticated debate about what sort of schools we want. As I said before, there is a lot more to this. We do want to see better teachers in our schools, we want to see parents more involved in the education of their children and we want to see local communities having responsibility rather than bureaucrats in a centralised education department.