ACER chief says Australia must unite to stop academic decline
May 13, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Plummeting academic standards in our schools require urgent action, the head of the Australian Council for Educational Research claims.
ACER chief executive Geoff Masters has made an impassioned plea for cooperation between all levels of governments to address “worrying trends” in performance.
His new report titled Five challenges in Australian school education looks to promote cooperation between governments through interconnected strategies.
“Australia’s productivity and our national ability to innovate and compete globally in the next 50 years will be largely in the hands of students currently in our schools,” said Professor Masters.
“But as recent public commentary has made clear, on a number of fronts our educational performance is in decline.
“The challenges we face are beyond the control of individual schools or classroom teachers, but they are not beyond the control of governments. They require changes in policy.
“We cannot keep doing what we have been doing and expect performances to improve.
“Among the current warning signs are a long-term decline in the reading, mathematics and science levels of Australian 15 year olds; growing disparities between Australia’s schools linked to differences in socioeconomic background; and a continuing decline in the attractiveness of teaching as a career among more able school leavers.”
He argues that Australia is not merely standing still on education in relation to other countries, but going backwards.
“We ignore these warning signs at our peril,” he said.
ACER is not-for-profit independent organisation which since the 1930s has generated its income through education research and development projects and through products and services that it develops.
Its latest report echoes Coalition arguments on schools funding that, while adequate funding is essential for improving outcomes, money alone is not the answer.
It says targeting resources on effective strategies is crucial to improving academic outcomes.
“This is a national challenge and it requires a national response,” said Professor Masters.
“The challenges we face in school education transcend state borders, school sectors and political parties.
“They require a national conversation that includes parents and the business community about what we now want from our schools, followed by a sustained commitment over decades.”
Despite his criticism, Professor Masters is optimistic that declining performances in schools can be turned around.
“A number of countries have implemented coordinated, sustained and interconnected strategies to improve student performances, including by making teaching more attractive to highly able school leavers and reducing disparities between schools,” he said.