The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its Education at a Glance 2018 report, which provides comparable national statistics measuring the state of education worldwide.
The report’s findings for Australian education have fueled growing concerns about funding equity in schools, student enrolments and teachers’ workloads.
Public expenditure on education in Australia, which is already well below the OECD average of 11%, plunged between 2005 and 2015.
However, over the same amount of time, the amount of public money going towards private schools soared significantly.
In 2015, at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary level, the share of private funding of institutions was higher than in all other OECD countries: 19% compared to the OECD average of 8%.
Dr David Zyngier, senior lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy in the faculty of education at Monash University, said that while successive governments claim to have drastically increased funding on school education, the money has mainly gone to private schools.
“As a result of this transfer of public money from public to private schools social, cultural and economic disadvantage remain significant factors impacting on student attainment and this has a negative incremental impact on student achievement the longer a student is in school,” Zyngier told The Educator.
“This has been termed Australia's ‘long tail of underachievement’ and is clearly responsible for our falling PISA rankings and reported a decline in year 9 NAPLAN results.”
The report also raised questions about the issue of burgeoning student enrolments teacher workloads in Australia.
In 2016, enrolment rates reached 97% for 17-year-olds; 81% for 18-year-olds and 77% for 19-year-olds; compared to 92%, 77% and 63% respectively on average across OECD countries.
Surging enrolment rates were also accompanied by longer teaching hours, with Australian primary teachers working 865 hours in 2017, compared to the OECD average of 778 hours.
Workloads were even greater for upper secondary teachers, who clocked up 797 teaching hours compared to the OECD average of 655.
Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, said Australia’s education system continued to rate strongly in terms of access, participation and educational attainment when compared to other OECD countries.
The Federal Government says its “record investment” of $24.5bn across all three schooling sectors in Australia will address concerns about resourcing, which has been a hot topic ahead of next year’s federal election.
“This week I will meet with the states and territories to discuss a new reform agreement to ensure this record funding is invested in a way that makes the biggest difference to student outcomes,” Tehan said.