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In the early 2000s, media mogul Rupert Murdoch brought New York City Chancellor Joel Klein to Australia to spread the word about the “New York City Miracle.” This alleged miracle was as phony as George W. Bush’s “Texas Miracle,” all hat and no cattle. Unfortunately, the Education Minister (who subsequently became Australia’s Prime Minister) bought the tale and imposed national standards and testing on the entire country.
Pasi Sahlberg, teacher, researcher, scholar, is currently based in Australia. As a chronicler of Finnish education (see his book Finnish Lessons), Sahlberg has achieved international renown. In Australia, he heads the Gorski Institute and is trying to change the course of Australian education.
Pasi Sahlberg writes here about Australia’s refusal to own up to the dire consequences of the wrong path that it has taken. It is not too late to change course.
He writes that Australia has done a great job in controlling the coronavirus, but it has been unwilling to bring the same focus to education.
Like the United States, Australia continues to fund failure.
Despite frequent school reforms, educational performance has not been improving. Indeed, it has been in decline compared to many other countries. International data makes that clear. Australian Council for Educational Research concluded it by saying that student performance in Australia has been in long-term decline. The OECD statistics reveal system-wide prevalence of inequity that is boosted by education resource gaps between Australian schools that are among the largest in the world. And UNICEF has ranked Australia’s education among the most unequal in rich countries.
Often the inspiration for the education reforms in Australia are imported from the US and Britain. Yet, the evidence base to support many of these grand policy changes here is weak or non-existent. For instance, research shows that market-based models of school choice, test-based accountability, and privatisation of public education have been wrong strategies for world-class education elsewhere. Yet, market models have been the cornerstone of Australian school policies since the early 2000s.
Australian education is failing because of reform, not in spite of it.